Magnolia Chocolate Cupcakes, High-Altitude

by Dec 31, 2012

I’ve made Magnolia’s chocolate cupcakes for second birthdays, third birthdays, fourth birthdays, 40th birthdays…it was my go-to recipe, but when I tried to make them in Montana, they just didn’t work. Seems that even at only 4800 ft., you’re in the world of high-altitude baking.
In general, things just bake faster up here and your sea level cake recipes will probably end up dried out and over-expanded. What to do? Use a bit less leavening, a little more flour, and up the temperature of your oven to get cakes to set when they poof up. The speedy evaporation behind the early “poof” also concentrates sugar, so don’t use as much. There are many factors, the interplay of which I’m just beginning to understand. But, thanks to King Arthur flour and some trial and error, I have successfully baked Jane’s 10th birthday cupcakes in Montana!  Hooray!  🙂
Recipe adapted from Magnolia’s Chocolate Cupcakes, More from Magnolia by Allysa Torey.
Chocolate Cupcakes, Bozeman Style
makes 12 cupcakes 
1/2 cup organic, unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated cane sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown cane sugar
3 large eggs
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup organic buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose wheat flour
7/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1.  Preheat oven to 365° F.  Line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake papers.
2.  Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly after each. Mix in the cooled, melted chocolate.

3.  Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Add the vanilla to the buttermilk. Add the flour to the butter-sugar-egg mixture in thirds, alternating with the buttermilk-vanilla. Mix just to combine.

4.  Portion batter into pans and bake for 13–15 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes in pan, then remove cupcakes to wire rack to completely cool before icing.
Amy’s Kitchen Coach Tips
  • It seems like a pain, but your cakes will turn out better if you start with the butter, eggs and milk at room temperature.
  • To melt the chocolate:  coarsely chop, or snap a thin bar, into pieces and put in a small metal bowl. Set a larger frying pan with about an inch of water in it, over medium heat on the stovetop and float the small metal bowl in this water bath. Bring the water to a low simmer to gently melt the chocolate in the inner bowl. Stir the chocolate when it starts to turn glossy and when completely melted, remove chocolate bowl from water bath and set aside to cool.
  • For a sea level chocolate cupcake recipe, see the original in More from Magnolia (pp. 96-97). The changes I made were to use less sugar (1 cup total in original), use more buttermilk (1/2 cup in original), use more baking soda (ironically enough, up from 1/2 teaspoon in original), and one more egg (2 in original). Bake at 350° F, 15–20 minutes.
  • For a quick, albeit very sweet icing, use the powdered sugar buttercream in More from Magnolia. For 12 cupcakes:  cream 1 stick unsalted, organic butter, with 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 cup milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat for 3–5 minutes, then add an additional 1–2 cups powdered sugar, ust enough to give you the spreading consistency you desire.


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