Do you need an electric mixer to make cupcakes?
Of course not.
And yet, once you own a KitchenAid or its equivalent, beating a cake batter by hand seems positively silly. It's like starting a fire with a magnifying glass when there's a box of matches in the drawer.
So this vacation has been a throwback for me. In a good way. Without all my appliances and crazy tools, I've learned the art of simplifying. Of beating a batter with a wooden spoon, and some muscle. Of spreading icing with a table knife, in imperfect swirls. Of buying 79 cent candles in the town's one general store.
A few lumps in the frosting, it turns out, offend no one.
And a birthday's just as sweet -- sweeter, maybe -- when some elbow grease slips its way into the cupcakes.
Recipe for Simplest One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
This recipe is old school. In other words, you don't need an electric mixer. In fact, I used the same bowl for the batter as I did for the icing; I just gave it a quick wash in between. Be aware that this recipe yields 12 relatively small cupcakes. If this concerns you, fill only 9 or 10 of the cupcake liners and make them a touch larger. (You'll need to increase the bake time by 2 or 3 minutes.)
Makes 12 small cupcakes
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3-1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
Scant 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Scant 3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
Fit a 12-cup cupcake- or muffin tin with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Whisk the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the soft butter and beat with a wooden spoon until combined. Pour in 1/4 cup of the milk, egg, and vanilla, and continue beating vigorously with the wooden spoon until a consistent batter forms. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk and beat to combine. Scrape into cupcake liners. Bake cupcakes 16 to 20 minutes, or until they feel springy and a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely. Wash and dry bowl and wooden spoon.
To make icing, beat the confectioners' sugar, soft butter, and cocoa powder in the same bowl with the wooden spoon. Add the milk slowly and continue to beat until a smooth icing forms. A few lumps won't kill anyone. Dollop frosting on cupcakes, shower with sprinkles, and serve.