Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes, Sea-Level Style

"We use a devil's food cake for our chocolate base. The cocoa powder gives the cake a dark color and a chocolatey kick. The cake should be light and moist, with all the ingredients well incorporated. But don't overbeat the batter, as the cake will be too heavy."
- The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Hummingbird Chocolate Cupcakes, as done by the pros
(from the Hummingbird Bakery's
website)

I'm back to my regular beat, which, for those of you not in the know, is adapting The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's recipes to work at the high-altitude environment of Denver. The next recipe in the book is none other than a classic: chocolate cupcakes.

It pains me to admit this, but despite having such a sweet tooth, I am not actually a fan of chocolate cake. Most of the time, I find chocolate cake to be way too intense, too sweet, and too rich. Chocolate cupcakes also seem to be the worst offender, especially when topped with some heavy, sticky chocolate frosting. Blasphemy, I know.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Hummingbird Bakery's chocolate cupcakes were the exception to my rule. I was a little wary when I read the cookbook's initial description of the cakes, where it was explained that the bakery used a devil's food cake base for their chocolate cupcakes. Devil's food cake is normally the worst offender of chocolate cakes, with its sticky and dense texture. However, the Hummingbird recipe produces a chocolate cake sponge that is light and airy, with a subtle chocolate flavor that isn't too sweet.

Similar to the recipe for vanilla cupcakes, the ingredients list for Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcakes is simple and unfussy, with most items on the list easily attainable at your regular run-of-the-mill supermarket:
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • a scant 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
The recipe, with its simple and straightforward steps, is almost identical to its vanilla counterpart with the exception of additional cocoa powder:

The Hummingbird Bakery's Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe
from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
(yields 12)
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 (F).

  2. Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

  3. Whisk the milk, egg, and vanilla together in a pitcher, then slowly pour half into the flour mixture. Beat to combine, and turn the mixer up to high speed to get rid of any lumps.

  4. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the batter is smooth, but do not overmix.

  5. Spoon the batter into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out into a wire rack to cool separately.

Hummingbird Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes, as done by me
(iPhone Camera)

Above is a picture of some Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, as baked by me in the sea-level city of San Francisco, CA (elevation: approximately 52 ft above sea level). I made these beauties by following the recipe exactly as posted above.

But how will this recipe fare in the high-altitude environment of Denver, CO (elevation: approcimately 5,280 ft above sea level)? Especially in light of the things I know now about how altitude affects the baking process? Will they be as disastrous as my initial attempt with the vanilla cupcakes recipe?

Stay tuned and find out, folks!

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