Earth-Shaking Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

tray of almond chocolate cupcakesLife has been a bit of a whirlwind the last few days.

I had surprise minor surgery on my foot, so we picked up some new video games and settled in for a quiet weekend, but it was not to be.  We walked in the door to our house and realized that thanks to good shocks on my car, we had missed what most people in town were already panicking about- a 7.7 earthquake just over the Canadian border off Haida Gwaii.

Now, when you live across the street from the ocean with a straight line view of the epicenter of the largest earthquake to hit the Northwest US in 60 years- there’s one thing on your mind. Of course, it was the same thing on the mind of everyone else- from NOAA who immediately issued Tsunami warnings spanning the entire west coast of the US to the village on the next island over, which ordered a mandatory evacuation. Rumors have it they even got helicopters to help the elderly flee more efficiently. The kindly voice on the radio insisted that we remain calm and that city emergency response was not calling any evacuations at this time, but it was easy for them to say- the entire city except one two mile stretch of highway is sheltered by surrounding islands. Guess where we live?

So we packed our bags and our precious items, put the gecko in her travel carrier, and waited. And waited. And waited. Through four hours of “we’ll know more soon”, pacing the floor, picking over the maps, facebook rumors of road closures and evacuations, and distracted video game playing, we simply waited.

In the thick of this, I had some chocolate in a saucepan that I had melted down the night before for dipping cookies into and then left to use later. I melted it back down and, looking for a distraction, started dipping anything I thought might taste good, including a few dozen almonds. Lee had a death in the family and a gathering was scheduled for the next day, should we not be wiped off the map, so I started planning my contribution. I always bring something to these get-togethers and it’s always sweet because that’s what people expect from me.

chocolate almond cupcake

Around midnight, the tsunami warning was cancelled after the waves started showing up and were only about 6″ (according to Lee, indistinguishable from an overweight kayaker paddling by) and the focus shifted to Hawaii, where the tsunami might actually do some damage, having built in size as it traveled across the Pacific. We got some much needed rest, and the next morning I used the chocolate covered almonds as inspiration for these quite photogenic chocolate almond cupcakes which to me will always be tied to our fraught brush with plate tectonics.


Earth-Shaking Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

(Adapted from Elizabeth Barbone’s “Classic Chocolate Cake”)

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup corn/potato/tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp each baking powder and soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (for extra almondyness, replace this with almond extract)


  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp almond extract

Whisk together all dry ingredients for cake and then add eggs, milk, oil and extract. This is a super easy cake- you could even put all the dry ingredients in a jar or bag and it would be like a box mix (but better, of course)!

Fill the cups of a lined or very well greased cupcake tin to half full each (these rise quite a bit) and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. When they are done, they will be tacky on the surface and the centers will be a bit sunk in- I like this little crater for a filling or as room for extra frosting!

Once the cupcakes have cooled, prepare the frosting. Whip the butter on high speed until fluffy then add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time while mixing on a low speed. Add too much at a time or mix it too quickly and the sugar will come flying out at you, so be patient. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the almond extract and milk and whip a bit more to get it nice and fluffy.

Frost the cupcakes and garnish as you like- if you really want Earthquake Cupcakes, try filling the little craters with chocolate sauce before frosting for a delicious tsunami all your own.


5 responses

  1. Hi, thanks for the recipe. Was just wondering if i could substitute xanthan gum with say, vegetable shortening? Or is there any other substitute for the gum?

    • Hi Loraein!
      Xanthan gum is a binder that acts as a gluten replacement- it makes the dough stickier. You could not use vegetable shortening to replace it.
      Xanthan gum is pretty easy to find at the grocery store and though it seems expensive at the outset, it’s probably the cheapest thing in your kitchen since you use so little at a time. I bought my bag over a year ago and I’m only about halfway through it- and I bake several times a week.
      If you can’t eat xanthan gum though, you could try leaving it out, maybe add a little bit more egg or use chia or flaxseed as described here: Chia Seeds and Flaxseeds. I am not entirely in agreement with Shauna about xanthan gum though- I bake with it constantly and I find the texture is fine though I often half the amounts. It’s personal preference and you’ll have to experiment.

      • i hardly see xanthan gum in grocery stores here so was worried it will be hard to find but i will keep your suggestions in mind. Thanks for replying =)

      • I can only say that when it’s easy to find in rural podunk Alaska, I figure it’s easy to find everywhere else too! It’s a small package and might be overlooked- check the natural foods aisle. Here, thanks to the ubiquity of Bob’s Red Mill it’s pretty easy to find the grains and they usually keep the xanthan right next to them.
        Best of luck-

  2. Pingback: November Round Up | Sweet As Sucrose

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