Vail Daily baking column: Cupcakes with a surprise inside |

Vail Daily baking column: Cupcakes with a surprise inside

Vera Dawson
Life is Sweet
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Vera Dawson

Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.

Like puppies and small children, cupcakes seem to have a universal appeal. Pretty, tiny, and just so darn cute … Who doesn’t like ’em? No one I know. These “Surprise-Inside Cupcakes” are particularly pleasing because they have a gooey center of sweetened cream cheese hiding within their chocolate exterior. Once it’s discovered, a smile is sure to follow. No, they’re not gourmet, but they’re fun to make and even more fun to eat.

I top these little gems with a mixture of dark chocolate and heavy cream … a rich, velvety topping that’s a good match for the sweet, soft filling. But, use whatever frosting you like with chocolate; almost any flavor, from vanilla to peanut butter, would probably work well.

These baby cakes are best the day they’re made. But, they’re still good up to two days later, if stored airtight in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Surprise-Inside Cupcakes

Makes 12 standard-sized cupcakes

Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet



6 ounces of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 scant* tablespoon of sour cream (not no-fat)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar

* scant means slightly less than


2 1/2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of bleached all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder

1/4 teaspoon of salt

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

3 tablespoons of sour cream (not no-fat)

1 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

Chocolate Ganache Frosting, optional

6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup plus 1/3 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the center position. Line a 12-cup muffin/cupcake pan with paper liners.

Make the filling: Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer on a medium-high speed until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the sour cream and sugar and beat just until combined. Set the filling aside while you make the cupcakes.

Make the cupcakes: Chop the chocolate into fine pieces, place them in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at a low temperature (I use #4 in a series of 1-10), one minute at a time, until almost melted. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir the chocolate until it’s completely melted and smooth. Set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and whisk until they are well combined. Set the mixture aside. Beat the room-temperature butter and sugar until light in color and creamy in texture. Add the room-temperature eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is completely incorporated. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Fold in the flour mixture and, then, the melted chocolate.

Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each about half full. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of the filling onto the center of each, dividing it evenly among the cakes. Bake in the preheated oven until the cakes are firm and a toothpick inserted into the cake (not the filling) comes out clean (about 15-20 minutes). Remove the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. After about 6-8 minutes, (when they’re cool enough to handle), remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely on the rack before frosting.

(Optional) Make the frosting: Place the pieces of chocolate in a food processor and process until very fine. Heat the cream until it is steaming and showing bubbles around the edges (almost boiling). With the processor running, pour the hot cream through the feed tube in a steady stream and process until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Scrape the frosting into a bowl and set in a cool place to thicken (This can take from one to several hours, depending on the temperature). When the frosting has thickened to a good consistency for spreading, smooth some over the top of each cupcake, covering the cake and filling completely. Add any decorations that suit your fancy. The cakes can be served right away and/or can be stored for up to two days, airtight, in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.

The filling recipe is a variation of one in “Cupcakes.”

The cake recipe is a variation of one in “Cupcake Heaven.”

Vera Dawson, a chef instructor with CMC’s Culinary Institute, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at

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