For our 10 Best Birthday Cakes (& Cupcakes), click here.
If you haven’t spent a lot of time eating ice cream in Maine, I’m not 100% sure that you’ll know what moosetracks even means. Besides, of course, the obvious, but that ostensibly has little to do with dessert.
“Moosetracks” is actually an ice cream flavor that’s prevalent across New England and especially in Maine. It consists of vanilla ice cream swirled with chocolate fudge and dotted with broken peanut butter cups. I have to admit I rarely order it–I’m too busy with Heath Bar Crunch, Cookie Dough, and other of my favorite flavors. But it seems to be beloved by nearly everyone else, including Elyssa, for whom I made these cupcakes as a birthday dessert for her brunch party, which Phoebe and I catered. Like the ice cream that inspired it, the icing on these cupcakes is sweet, flavored with chocolate swirls, and punctuated with rich, homey peanut butter cups.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 18 cupcakes
The trick here is to make sure that the chocolate stays swirled and doesn’t simply mix in with the vanilla icing. I did this by making a chilled chocolate ganache and layering it with the peanut butter cups and vanilla icing. When you go to spread the icing, these layers will become swirls.
For the cupcakes
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
For the frosting
1/2 cup cream
3 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, cup into sixths
Make the cupcakes: preheat the oven to 350°F and fit cupcake liners into 18 cups in two nonstick muffin tins.
Combine the sugar, salt, flour, and baking powder in a mixing bowl and use a handheld mixer to beat for a moment to distribute the ingredients. Add the softened butter, the eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and milk, and beat slowly to combine the ingredients. Then beat fast for 2-3 minutes until the batter is fluffy and creamy.
Distribute among the cupcakes cups, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove to a rack or a plate and let cool completely.
For the icing: put the choclate in a mixing bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small pan over medium heat, or in the microwave. Pour it over the chocolate and let it rest for 30 seconds to a minute. Then stir gently but thoroughly, helping to melt the chocolate and incorporating it into the cream until you have a thick, homogenous chocolate ganache.
Spread the ganache on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, until firm.
When ready to make the icing, put the butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. With a handheld mixer, beat at high speed for several minutes, until creamy.
Take the ganache out of the fridge and cut it into small squares. Transfer about 1/4h of the icing to a small bowl or Tupperware. Scatter with about 1/4 of the chocolate ganache and 1/4 of the chopped peanut butter cups. Cover with another 1/4 of the icing, ganache, and peanut butter cups. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Use the icing at room temperature. Reach your knife or offset spatula into the container to make sure you get all the goodies. Spread each cooled cupcake with 2-3 tablespoons of icing.