Let’s not kid ourselves– there is very little in these Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins (from the Chocolate chapter of Baked Elements) that is actually related to a “muffin”, except the shape; they are like a slightly-less-sweet twin of black-bottom cupcakes. And when I say all this, please don’t mistake my intent– I am 100% in favor of this sort of dessert-masquerading-as-breakfast! I’m merely saying, let’s call a spade a spade. 😉 (But if we say just for a second that it was a muffin– I think this is the first BAKED muffin recipe I’ve ever made, which is hard to believe, given that I’ve been a member of Baked Sunday Mornings for two years!) Now that we’ve cleared up any sort of semantic misunderstandings, I’d like to embark on a journey of delicious chocolate muffin-cake filled with creamy cheesecake that just peeks out of the tops.
So why are these muffins so rich, you ask? There’s ½ cup cocoa powder and 8 ounces of chocolate in the batter, both melted and in chunk form– they’re doing it right over at BAKED. There’s also a tablespoon of espresso powder and 1 cup of black coffee, which help to deepen the chocolate’s flavor. I thought for sure that these would be like mocha muffins, but there is no trace of coffee flavor, just a nice depth of chocolate. And there are white chocolate chunks in the cheesecake batter… because chocolate. 😀
Despite how tasty these muffins are, I should mention that they are a lot more work than your typical muffin. Again, I use that name loosely, as they require much more time and dishwashing than most muffins, which are often a one-bowl endeavor. You’ll make the cheesecake filling in the bowl of a stand mixer (though a hand mixer would be perfectly fine here), plus two bowls for the chocolate batter, plus all the requisite measuring cups and spoons, plus chopping chocolate, plus making coffee, plus layering the batter in the muffin cups! I’m not telling you this to dissuade you; when this chocolaty, cheesecaky concoction is melting in your mouth, you will likely forget about all the dishes you just had to clean. It’s more of a public service announcement, in case you planned to whip these up in 30 minutes or less.
You’ll begin by making the cheesecake filling, consisting of cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt. Once everything is creamy and homogenized in your mixer, fold in the white chocolate chunks. I chopped mine fairly small for maximum chocolate distribution. (Try not to eat it before the muffin batter is ready… It’s HARD.) It will be a very thick, chunky mixture, something vaguely resembling tapioca pudding.
You will not need the mixer for the chocolate batter… but you will need those bowls and measuring tools that I mentioned. Whisk the flour, white and brown sugars, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt in a large bowl, as you will later add the wet ingredients in here, so you need some room to move around. This mixture smelled heavenly with that espresso aroma wafting up– I knew these would be good!
Meanwhile, get your coffee brewing. I don’t brew much coffee at home, so I just used a Starbucks “Via” instant coffee pouch mixed with hot water. I’m not sure how much difference it would make in this recipe to use good-quality coffee, but it seemed to work fine. You will pour said hot coffee, along with extra hot water, into a bowl containing butter, chopped chocolate, and cocoa powder. Let this sit for a minute to melt, then whisk everything into a smooth mixture. It will be very thin at this point.
Next, you’ll add to this bowl canola oil, white vinegar, and 3 eggs and whisk until everything is combined; make sure those eggs get broken up and don’t hang out at the bottom. The mixture will be much thicker at this point, and you will pour it into the flour/espresso mixture. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet stuff just until combined. Finally, fold the remaining 6 ounces of chopped chocolate into the batter.
In the wells of your greased muffin pan, layer some chocolate batter, then a small dollop of cheesecake, then cover it with more of the chocolate. You can sprinkle the tops with sanding sugar if you so choose, which I did with half of the muffins. The recipe says to fill the wells flush with the rim of the pan; however, in light of a couple of recent overfilling incidents, I erred a little on the conservative side, filling them about a centimeter below. I ended up with 24 muffins, instead of the expected 12! (Not that I was complaining, mind you…)
The recommended baking time is 30-32 minutes, but my slightly smaller ones were done in about 28 minutes, and I probably could’ve even pulled them a minute earlier. One of the things I especially love about this recipe is that the tops rise in a dome shape in the oven, rather than a “muffin top” shape that flattens out once the muffins cool. In light of this, I needn’t have under-filled the muffin cups– next time I will fill them all the way to the tops for sure.
It’s best to wait until these are (mostly) cooled to eat them, although I assure you that I realize how difficult this is. They are quite handsome with their white interiors poking out of the tops, and all muffins kept their shape– no sinking in the middle (beyond the fact that there’s a crater of cheesecake in there). The muffins were in fact rather cakey, though not in a crumbly way or anything. I loved the tang of the cream cheese filling against the chocolate– one of my favorite combinations! The only thing I might adjust next time is the addition of a bit of vanilla extract to the chocolate batter, which always boosts flavor. I wouldn’t bother sprinkling them with sugar, as I couldn’t taste a difference; however, the muffin tops had a less attractive mottled appearance because the sugar crystals sunk just a bit below the batter surface instead of sitting on top. But really, not a big deal.
All in all, despite the extra time, long list of ingredients, and excessive kitchen tools to wash, these muffins were a hit! They definitely skirt the line between breakfast and dessert; I would probably split the difference and call them a wonderful afternoon snack. You can find the recipe for Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins at Baked Sunday Mornings, and please check out my baking friends’ muffins too! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.