Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Butter Vanilla Frosting and Sugared Brown Butter Popcorn

Being a ballerina, every summer I participate in a summer intensive. This year I am spending 6 weeks training with Ellison Ballet. I am living in a dorm room with 2 other girl and the only appliances available to me are a mini-fridge that we all share, a microwave and a small “stove” down the hall.I put stove in quotations because the biggest burner on its highest setting looks like a normal burner turned to low, its pathetic. As you can imagine baking is a difficult task when you have no kitchen. I have been yearning to just make cupcakes, looking at foodgawker every night, drooling over the amazing creations. (If you haven’t heard of foodgawker you should fix that.)

I would like to take a moment and express my love for my mother. As a parent it is your job to be supportive of your children no matter the direction they choose to go. Therefore when my brother decided that our home ballet studio was too small and he wasn’t getting good training, my mother whole heartedly made the commitment to come live in NYC with him and support his dreams. At the beginning of the summer she went apartment hunting and found a newly remodeled beautiful apt on the upper west side. Although she returned to vermont she trusted me with the keys so that if I wanted I could go bake in the beautiful new kitchen. And so thats exactly what I did.


Because I was baking in an all new kitchen I had to buy every ingredient.I decided to make a day of it since I also needed things like muffin tins and measuring cups. I did a quick internet search of places in the city where I could buy those things and the New York Cake looked to be my best bet. I dragged my boyfriend down there since I am not allowed to go anywhere by myself due to the dorm requirements. It was beautiful. It had everything from all of the hugely elaborate things needed for concocting professional grade cakes to simple little things for your basic cookie. After making my next stop to whole foods I was finally ready to go back to the apartment and begin the process!


I was incredibly happy with the way these came out. I love the combination of salty and sweet. Any one who does should most definitely try these out.

Original recipe courtesy of


    • 1 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, hot
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Whisk to combine. In a small bowl add the milk, egg, canola oil and vanilla extract. Stir lightly and then add to the flour mixture. Beat until the ingredients are well combined and then add the warm coffee. Beat well, until the mixture is very smooth. Line a muffin tin with liners and using a 1/4 cup measure, add batter to each cup. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.
Brown Butter Vanilla Frosting
    • 1/2 cup (stick) butter, softened
    • 1/3 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/2 of a vanilla bean, beans scraped out ( I didn’t have this and it tasted just fine…)
    • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. While the cupcakes bake make the frosting. Add 4 tablespoons butter to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Whisk constantly until brown bits appear on the bottom, about 5-6 minutes, then immediately remove from the heat and add the cream and brown sugar. Return to the heat and bring to a boil, boil for one minute. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Once cooled beat in the remaining softened butter. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar to the bowl and beat together until well combined.
  2. This stuff is dangerously good. Beware you dont eat it all before yuo
    • 3 cups air popped popcorn
    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1/3 cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted
  1. To make the popcorn. Preheat oven to 250°
  2. Pour popped popcorn onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Add butter to a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Whisk constantly until brown bits appear on the bottom, about 5-6 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the popped popcorn. Stir until evenly distributed. Sprinkle salt and brown sugar over the popcorn. Bake for 10 minutes. Baking helps the brown sugar and butter stick to the popcorn a litte better. Allow to cool before topping the cupcakes.
  4. To assemble the cupcakes: Frost the cupcakes using a knife and a good amount of frosting. (if it is a bit drippy dont worry about it, just as long as the popcorn stays in place it’s fine) Add a handful popcorn to each cupcake and use your hands to mold it together into a mound, making sure to push the popcorn into the frosting. Some will fall off, just do your best to keep most of the popcorn on the cupcakes. Drizzle the melted chocolate overtop the popcorn and place the cupcakes in the freezer for 5 minutes or let sit on the counter for 30 minutes so the chocolate can harden.