Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes

The weather outside is still early spring. The trees are just beginning to bud, the grass is a spectrum of muddy browns and dull greens, and temperatures are consistently less than 50 degrees. I am tired of cold weather and cloudy afternoons. I feel like I live in the land of perpetual winter. It feels strange that school ends in two weeks, that summer will finally arrive (though I imagine it will be more in name than spirit for now).

Despite Mother Nature's mixed signals, I could use a little summer in my life right now.

Each spring, when the snow melts and the comfort food cravings disappear, I fill my grocery basket with berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries... whatever happens to be on sale for the week. I pick through half a dozen containers before I find the least damaged ones. I know these berries pale in comparison to their in season counterparts, both in taste and appearance, but I cannot help but fill my refrigerator with them.

They remind me of sunshine, warm afternoons, and good books. Those feelings have been sorely missed.

After a particularly fruitful grocery run, I had a tower of blackberries on the counter ready to be used. Though blackberry and vanilla go together well, I like to believe that blackberry and chocolate go together better. I boiled down the berries to release their juices, used the juice to make a fruity chocolate ganache, and dumped the rest of the berries into the cupcake batter. I infused these cupcakes with berries in as many ways as I knew how.

The finished cupcakes are light, the chocolate is rich, and they are wonderful, no matter the weather.

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes combine cocoa and berries in more ways than one. The delicate cupcake and the ganache contrast against one another, bringing out their difference in texture, but emphasizing the similarity in flavor. These cupcakes are lovely when served cold or at room temperature. The cupcakes can be made easily vegan by using dairy-free chocolate and milk.

One Year Ago: Blackberry Fool, Lime Curd Tart with Coconut Whipped Cream, and Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Two Years Ago: Hot Cross Buns, Grapefruit Soda, and Irene's Orange Rolls
Three Years Ago: Honey Rolls, Thin Mint Brownies, and Strawberry Pancakes

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Yield 1 dozen

10 ounces (285 grams) fresh blackberries
1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar, divided
1/3 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (78 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (237 ml) milk of choice
6 ounces (170 grams) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
Fresh blackberries, for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the blackberries with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and are swimming in their juices. Remove from heat.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain out the liquid and save it for later use; you should have about 1/2 cup. Place the solid fruit back into the saucepan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the vanilla extract, oil, and milk. Using a spatula, mix the batter until smooth. Fold in the blackberry solids.

Divide batter evenly between 12 baking cups (about 3/4 full). Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from baking pan and allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the chocolate ganache frosting, place chopped chocolate into a mixing bowl. Warm the blackberry juice back up to boiling and pour over the chocolate, allowing it to set for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth. Allow frosting to rest on the counter, stirring occasionally, until it cools down and thickens (anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes).

Beat the chocolate ganache for several minutes until it incorporates air and feels lighter. Place frosting in a pastry bag (or plastic bag with the corner cut out) and pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with fresh blackberries.