Black Bottom Cupcakes


for the filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
6 oz. mini  semisweet chocolate chips

for the batter:

1 1/2 cups flour
1  cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1  teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon vinegar


Preheat oven to 350. Line mini muffin pans (this year I bought this mini muffin tin that bakes 4 dozen at a time, normally I use this tin) and set them aside.

For the filling:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until well creamed. Beat in egg. Fold in chocolate chips. Set aside.

For the batter:

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, and baking soda together. Add water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat VERY thoroughly.

Fill pans about halfway with chocolate batter. I use a gravy ladle to do this similar to this one (you can see it in this post on Instagram).  Drop approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the filling on top.

Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center of the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool briefly in the pans on a wire rack. Remove from pan to fully cool.

Repeat with the remaining batter. These freeze very well and keep at room temperature for about four days.

Yield: about 5 dozen (it sounds like a lot but they are tiny!) I actually made two batches in one morning this year. For best results, I don’t recommend doubling the recipe, just make the recipe twice.

My Thoughts:

This is what my family traditionally made (in addition to sugar cookies) at Christmastime. We’ve been using the same recipe at least since the early eighties. I actually posted it way back in January 2005 but when I looked at the recipe recently, I realized one, I had tweaked it and had no idea why and that it was so long ago, I hadn’t included any thoughts or info about the recipe at all! That truly was the early days of food blogging and I really was just keeping track of my recipes with easy links for sharing.

So, many years later, it seemed time to brush off the recipe and make it again*. My parents normally make them but my mom had a cancerous brain tumor removed in June and while she seems like herself, has her remarkable memory intact and is mobile, making these black bottoms is pretty time consuming and requires a lot of energy. I’d rather she save her energy for doctor’s appointments, brain cancer treatment, and physical therapy so I made a double batch of these so I can give some to friends and a bunch to my parents to freeze. These cupcakes freeze really well! Normally I do not freeze baked goods because I feel like something is never quite right after they defrost but I truly can’t tell the difference between fresh and previously frozen.

Black bottoms are another thing that I took for granted growing up (like train gardens at Christmas) and thought were popular everywhere but now I think are regional. I did see a flurry of black bottom recipes when David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate came out in 2007 but as I said, we’ve been making them since at least the early 1980s and I posted this recipe for them on this blog back in 2005(!) so they are definitely not something new(ish)!  It was one of the recipes my mom wrote down for me when I moved out (you can see the recipe card here). They are found in bakeries and some delis all over Baltimore but are curiously absent when I’ve gone to bakeries outside of the area. In exploring the origin story over the years I’ve never gotten a straight answer as to the source but many references getting the recipe from a family member in the Baltimore or Maryland area. If you know more, let me know!

We always call them black bottoms in my family but that is a bit of an awkward name to say out loud, especially to people who haven’t had them before (which in my experience is a ton of people) so black bottom cupcakes it is! They are basically super moist, light (actually vegan!) chocolate cakes topped with a cheesecake-like filling instead of icing. Seriously one of my all-time favorite combinations. I like to make mini cupcakes, I’ve seen larger ones (mostly in sandwich shops) but the filling-chocolate ratio is best when they are in miniature. It’s a little tedious if you only have one pan but totally doable and how I did it for decades growing up. They cool quickly and you can use a fork to help pop them out of the pan (without dumping them and possibly squishing the filling) and use the pan right away again. This year I splashed out and got this mini muffin tin that bakes 4 dozen at a time, normally I use this tin and it works just fine. I also recommend lining the pans with paper liners as the cake is very moist and will stick to the pan. Please use mini chips! The larger ones are just too big. They are way easier to find in 2019 than ever before.

*I have made a couple black bottom variations over the years: pumpkin black bottoms and Nutella black bottoms and black bottom brownies.

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  1. Why would ‘black bottoms’ be awkward to call out? That’s what they are called!