These brownie cupcakes are moist, rich, chocolatey, and can be dressed up or down for any occasion! Each cupcake is topped with dark chocolate buttercream and homemade chocolate shortbread cookies, decorated for each phase of the moon cycle. They’re the perfect treat for Halloween and are so easy to decorate.
How to make homemade chocolate shortbread cookies
The very first step in this recipe is to make the shortbread cookie dough. It’s very simple and requires minimal ingredients, but tastes just like an Oreo cookie!
You start by combine the butter, sugar, and salt until it’s light and fluffy. It’s best to use an electric mixer here. Then, mix in one egg.
The tricky part is when it comes to the dry ingredients. You don’t want to use too much or too little, otherwise the cookies will melt in the oven or turn out tough and dry.
The key is to know exactly what to look for. After adding in the flour and cocoa powder, mix until the dough comes together. It will seem like it’s way too much flour, as the dough will look somewhat dry. But just keep mixing and it should come together.
To know if it’s ready, take a chunk and press it between your fingers. If it holds together and doesn’t stick to you, then it’s ready. To ensure this goes as planned, follow this one rule:
- Measuring – When measuring both the flour and cocoa powder, never scoop directly into the bag or container. Always spoon it into your measuring cup and then level it off. Measuring these two ingredients any other way can compact it down into your measuring cup, leaving you with way too much. This is the difference between soft and moldable dough and dry and crumbly dough.
The dough is then pressed into a disk, wrapped, and chilled for about 30 minutes. Chilling makes it easier to roll the dough out later.
Once chilled, roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. If the dough is sticking to your rolling pin, use a veeerrrry tiny amount of flour and lightly dust it on top of the dough. If you use too much, the flour will show up on the cookies as they bake.
Roll to about 1/8 of an inch thick and use a 2 inch round cookie cutter to stamp out your cookies. Discard the excess, as it’s now too saturated in flour, and place the cookies onto a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. If they’re sticking, use a small offset spatula to wiggle them loose.
These then chill in the refrigerator while you prep the cupcake batter.
What’s the difference between chocolate cupcakes and brownie cupcakes?
The best way to explain the difference is that a chocolate cupcake is light and fluffy while a brownie cupcake hits right between a dense and fudgy brownie and a moist and fluffy chocolate cake. You get the best of both textures in one delicious cupcake.
The batter is also made very similarly to a regular brownie batter with a few exceptions.
- Brownie cupcake batter is baked with leaveners like baking powder or baking soda in order to mimic a more cake-like texture. Brownies are typically made without in order to achieve a really dense texture.
- A bit more flour is added to brownie cupcake batter vs regular brownie batter. This goes back to that dense and fudgy consistency brownies have, as they have more wet ingredients than dry ingredients. For brownie cupcakes, they’re a bit lighter than brownies, so more flour is needed to absorb the wet ingredients.
Do I have to use dark cocoa powder?
Dark cocoa powder is used in this recipe to achieve a really deep color and flavor. I specifically used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder which can be found at just about any conventional grocery store. If you can’t find it, you can also use regular cocoa powder or dutch processed cocoa powder.
How to prevent the brownies from sticking to the pan
For best results, use a nonstick cupcake tin. But nonstick or not, still follow all of these instructions to ensure the brownies pop right out:
- Coat the pan with nonstick spray, make sure to get it into every single cup.
- Place tiny strips of parchment paper in a criss cross formation in each cup. Allowing the strips to hang over the edges makes it much easier to lift the brownies out once they’ve baked.
- Resist the urge to use cupcake liners. I found that the brownies stuck terribly to cupcake liners. The only ones that could be safe to use are fully parchment paper liners.
- If you pop out the first one and it looks like it’s sticking a bit, run a small knife around the edges of each brownie before releasing the rest.
Tips for decorating
If you choose to do the phases of the moon as shown here, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The icing must be the right consistency, otherwise things can get very messy very fast. To know what to look for, the icing should be a smidge thicker than glue but thinner than paste. It should be easy to pipe but not run all over the place.
- Work with one cookie at a time, as you want the icing to be wet when you dunk it in sprinkles. Otherwise, the sprinkles won’t stick.
- When you lift the cookie out of the sprinkles, use a knife to gently nudge in some of the sprinkles around the edges to get a cleaner outline of the moon shape.
- Work somewhat fast, as in don’t let the icing sit out for an hour before decorating. The icing will start to firm up the longer it sits, so just keep that in mind as you decorate.
How to store the cupcakes
Place the cupcakes in an air tight container to store in the refrigerator, then bring up to room temperature when you’re ready to eat. Otherwise, the cupcakes will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can I make these gluten free?
I haven’t tested it, but if you need to have a gluten free option, replace the flour with Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten free baking flour and use gluten free chocolate sandwich cookies for the topping. Simply split them apart, scrape off the filling, and use the flat underside to decorate.
For more halloween dessert ideas, check out my:
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and comment below if you make these Brownie Cupcakes. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print