Noshin' Recipe: Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

Although not specifically Jewish, the West Side’s (as in the west side of St. Paul) Cinco de Mayo celebration is coming up. Three reasons why you should care: it’s a bigger party than your little brother’s bar mitzvah (they totally know how to throw down), it’s a Twin Cities tradition, and it’s a great excuse to make this flabbergastingly fantastic (and easy!) cake for all your pals.
I’m not going to say I’m the first to “invent” this recipe, but I was in a midst of a fit of baking in preparation for our housewarming/birthday party over the weekend, when I realized I was halfway through making my third chocolate dessert. Now, I love chocolate, but three on one table is pushing it.
To up the ante a little and make it just different enough, I added cinnamon and cayenne pepper to a bowl of chocolate cake mix (a delicious and typical flavor combo from south of the border) and voila! Mexican chocolate cake! Even better, I topped the finished cupcakes with super light and slightly tangy cream cheese frosting. The cake isn’t too spicy — just enough heat to tickle your taste buds — and the cream cheese frosting balances that little bit of heat nicely.  I must have done something right because it was the first thing gone and people were asking for more. Plus, because it’s made using boxed cake mix, you really don’t have an excuse not to make this treat.
Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes: 12-16 regular cupcakes
Cake Ingredients:
1 box chocolate cake mix, mixed according to directions
1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (to taste)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Cake Directions:

  1. Assemble cake ingredients according to directions on box; add cayenne pepper and cinnamon before mixing thoroughly.
  2. Fill cupcake cups about halfway (about one ice cream scoop’s worth) and bake according to box directions, about 25 minutes.
  3. Let cool completely before frosting, about 15-20 minutes out of the oven.

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
1 package (8oz) cream cheese or neufchatel, softened
1 stick (8 Tbsp or 1/2 C) butter, slightly softened (but not melted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (about 2-4 cups)
Cream Cheese Frosting Directions

  1. With an electric mixer on medium speed, whip together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla.
  2. Add one to two spoons of powdered sugar at a time, mixing until fully incorporated before adding more.
  3. Frosting is ready to use when the consistency is smooth to your liking (will depend on room temperature and other variables, but somewhere between two and four cups of powdered sugar) and a spreadable consistency.
  4. Top each cupcake with a dollop (about 2-3 Tbsp) frosting.
  5. Refrigerate cupcakes if not serving immediately.

Photo: by Cherry and Eric