There’s no better combination than chocolate and peanut butter. These vegan chocolate peanut butter cupcakes are the perfect way to showcase it! They’re like a peanut butter cup in cupcake form—delicious and salty sweet.
It took me a while to perfect these cupcakes. They were so, so worth the time it took to get them just right.
What’s better than the combination of chocolate and peanut butter? Very few things, if you ask me. When I was a kid, Halloween meant one thing and one thing only: chocolate peanut butter cups. Mini or full sized, they were my favorite treat, the candy I longed for and was always hoping to accumulate in my trick-or-treating bag.
I haven’t lost my love of chocolate and peanut butter, but I have developed more of a taste for cake, less taste for candy. That love of cake, as well as cupcakes (mini cake!) are what inspired these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.
It’s really the peanut butter frosting that makes these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes shine. Without it, they’re regular chocolate cupcakes—a wonderful thing, but no different from many birthday treats I’ve made over the years.
The peanut butter frosting is what creates all of the sweet and salty goodness that peanut butter cups are famous for. And it’s a fun, different alternative to regular buttercream.
This frosting went through maybe five rounds of testing. I had to find the right texture. This is a challenge when you’re working with peanut butter, which tends to be dense and heavy. But I got there (more on the best peanut butter for the job below).
The frosting also took a few rounds of piping practice. Luckily, the piping process itself was easy, thanks to a little baking guidance from the folks at Nielsen-Massey Vanillas and their fun, inspiring “Better Your Bake” campaign.
If you love to bake, then you know that the process isn’t only worthwhile for the finished treats. There’s a soothing quality to baking, a way of getting lost in stirring and pouring and measuring flour.
I know better than anyone, though, that there’s nothing less soothing than a cake that never rises, cookies that get scorched in the oven, or pie that ends up with the dreaded soggy bottom.
The idea behind “Better Your Bake” is that, in order to make baking the soothing activity it truly can be, we have to master certain basic techniques. This idea resonates strongly with my experience as a baker. Once I took the time to teach myself about the fundamentals of baking, I started to have better results and a lot more fun.
The “Better Your Bake” website features short, digestible, easy-to-follow videos on baking basics, including how to temper chocolate, how to roll cookie dough and how to fill a homemade pastry bag for piping at home. I really love to pipe with a specialized piping bag. But for new bakers who are just getting used to frosting and decorating, using a plastic bag can be a good starter technique. This video explains it perfectly.
Speaking of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, this recipe benefits from two vanilla extracts! Each has different flavor notes. The Ugandan Pure Vanilla Extract is bold with notes of chocolate, so I used it in the cupcake batter. The Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract has a creamy-sweet flavor and is a perfect “all-purpose” baking option. I used that in the icing.
As counterintuitive as it might seem, vanilla actually accentuates and brings out the flavors of chocolate baked goods.
Nielsen-Massey Vanillas is a third-generation family business that has been crafting premium vanillas and flavors for more than a century. Their products are all-natural, allergen-free, Non-GMO Project Verified, and certified Kosher and Gluten-Free. I love how each vanilla origin has its own distinct flavor profile, and it was a treat to experience two of them in this recipe!
Always my go-to for baking! I use King Arthur’s unbleached, all-purpose. See below for a gluten-free option.
It has taken me years and years to understand which cocoa powder is best for baking. But the upshot is that Dutch process—or a blend that includes Dutch process—is appropriate for baked goods like this one, which are predominantly leavened with baking powder. (If you use only or predominantly baking soda, natural cocoa is better.)
I really like King Arthur’s triple cocoa blend, which has some Dutch process and some natural cocoa.
My baking sweetener of choice. You can substitute coconut sugar if you prefer it.
You can use your favorite vegan butter in the frosting. I like to use a less expensive brand when the butter is getting whipped up into frosting. Earth Balance is my go-to.
It’s really important to use the right type of peanut butter in the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes’ frosting! A nice, smooth texture is essential. If you use peanut butter that’s overly grainy, the frosting won’t be luxurious and easy to pipe. I use this one, but any smooth variety that doesn’t separate easily will work.
Most definitely! Just use your favorite gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend. I love this one.
It can be helpful to make the actual cupcakes ahead of time when preparing this recipe. That way, you’ll need only to whip up the frosting and decorate when you’re about ready to enjoy the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. I usually prepare them over two days.
Once the cupcakes are ready, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days. The cupcakes—frosting and all—can also be frozen for up to a week.
What can I say about these cupcakes? I’m always debating vanilla vs. chocolate for birthday cake, because I love both flavors. But this combination might really be the dream. I can imagine making this recipe for many birthdays to come.
Added bonus? If you love the recipe, you can also bake it as a 9″ round or square cake, and you can frost it with an icing spatula instead.
In the spirit of adoring baking and its capacity to elevate happiness, I’m wishing you a wonderful rest of the week. Happy piping!
This post is generously sponsored by Nielsen-Massey Vanilla and their Better Your Bake campaign. All opinions are my own, and I love these flavor-forward vanillas. Thanks for your support!