These treats are a many bowl, multi-step endeavor, but they are worth it. I adapted this recipe in both ingredients and process from one I originally saw on another blog called Cooking Classy, using vanilla extract instead of scraped seeds from a vanilla bean and a different recipe for the strawberry frosting altogether.
The two batters have very different textures, and you’ll want to make sure you use the “spread with a toothpick” method to get the vanilla layer to fully cover the chocolate layer as I’ve outlined in the instructions below. While I did have some specs of chocolate pop through the top of my vanilla layer, it’s easy to cover those with frosting.
I’ve also included plenty of tips that saved me time (and dishes, being a baker without a dishwasher) throughout the process. I recommend reading through the recipe a few times to get familiar with it, as well as with your ingredients, before you start. You’ll end up with a few extra egg yolks from this, but you can reserve those for another use (mine are destined for lemon curd).
Vanilla Cupcake Layer
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 7 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup milk (any kind but skim)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 egg whites (reserve one of your yolks for the yolk in the chocolate layer)
Chocolate Cupcake Layer
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup flour
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
- 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup strawberry puree
- About 3 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup cupcake tins with paper liners. Good news: this recipe makes exactly 24 cupcakes.
To make the cupcakes, begin by making the chocolate base for your chocolate batter first, then as it is cooling, make your vanilla batter and finish your chocolate batter once your base is cool. This will save time, believe me!
In a small mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder and baking soda. Add boiling water and whisk until smooth; allow to cool while you prepare the vanilla batter.
Prepare the vanilla batter:
In a small bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a glass measuring cup, combine milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract and whisk together until well-combined.
In a mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy.
Add the flour mixture and milk mixture alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. You want to scrape your bowl very, very well and frequently throughout the process. Your vanilla batter will be light and fluffy when it is finished; almost mousse-like. Set vanilla batter aside while you make the chocolate batter.
Prepare the chocolate batter:
In a mixing bowl, combine melted butter, vegetable oil, sugar, and mix until well-combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla; mix until combined. Add chocolate base, then heavy cream, mixing after each addition. Add flour, beating on low speed until combined.
Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop chocolate batter into each cupcake well. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, you can use 2 tablespoons of batter in each well.
Using the 2-inch cookie scoop again, scoop vanilla batter and carefully layer over the chocolate batter. Use a toothpick to gently spread the vanilla batter, which is much lighter and fluffier than the chocolate batter, over the chocolate layer completely. Your wells should be about three-quarters full.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven, and remove cupcakes from the pans onto wire racks to cool completely.
Prepare the strawberry buttercream:
If you’ve never made strawberry puree, it is very easy. Place strawberries in a food processor (or blender) and puree until smooth. You can pass the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds if you like, but I leave mine in.
In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the first 2 cups of powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing until very well-combined.
Add strawberry puree in small batches, mixing well between each addition, then add enough additional powdered sugar – mine took about 1 cup – to make a stable buttercream.
Frost cupcakes using a small offset spatula. You can pipe them if you prefer, but I like the old-fashioned look of a hand-frosted cupcake.