Black Bottom Cupcakes

Four chocolate cupcakes with sour cream topping; one is sliced in half to reveal a cheesecake center

Kitra: It feels like a shower outside, so if I’m turning on my oven it’s going to be for a short time and for something I really want to eat.

Jordan: This is the first cake we’ve made in a while that was just an easy decision. Kitra wanted black bottom cupcakes, and so we made black bottom cupcakes.

If you, like me, really want to eat cheesecake most of the time but don’t have cheesecake-making energy, may I suggest black bottom cupcakes?

These are a mild chocolate cake (think devil’s food cake) with a beautiful center of cheesecake. The name is a little misleading; the chocolate will fully surround the cheesecake center.

Like it’s cheesecake wearing a chocolate skin suit.

Creepy, but I was going to use the word “swaddling,” which is not necessarily better.

[Here we had a long conversation about whether or not one can use a skin suit to swaddle something, which we will mercifully spare you from.]

And because I wanted them to feel even more like cheesecake, we added a sour cream topping which also makes them less sweet.

These are delicious at room temperature, but even better cold. A dessert you can keep in the fridge when it’s a million degrees outside? Perfect!

It’s too hot to eat room-temperature foods.

And keep in mind that because these are cupcakes, they bake quickly and cool quickly. You can go from start to finish in under an hour if you’re efficient.

And you can eat them with your hands. Peak cheesecake efficiency.

Swaddle away, friends.

Four chocolate cupcakes with sour cream topping; one is sliced in half to reveal a cheesecake center, and a hand is reaching to grab one.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen


This recipe makes the right amount of filling but a little more cake batter than you will need. If you try to use it all, your cupcakes will overflow; instead, bake the remainder off in a small pan and embrace the fact that you now have a tiny bonus cake.

Make sure your cream cheese is truly at room temperature or even a little warmer, or you’ll end up with tiny lumps in your filling. (Not the end of the world, but better to avoid them if possible.) The original recipe included ½ cup of chocolate chips in the cheesecake filling; if you want those, just mix them in after the rest of the cheesecake mixture is done.


For cheesecake filling

  • 8 ounces (1 block, 225g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup (65g) sugar
  • 1 egg

For the cake

  • 1½ cups (180g) flour
  • 5 tablespoons (25g) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping

  • 1 cup (240g or about 8 ounces) sour cream
  • ¼ cup (30g) powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla


Preheat your oven to 350° and line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sugar, and egg until very smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl or a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.

Add two heaping/overflowing tablespoons of batter to each cupcake liner. Scoop two heaping tablespoons of cheesecake filling into the center of each cupcake. (At this point your liners/tins should be about 80-90% full.) Drizzle a small amount of chocolate batter over the top of each cupcake, just to cover the top. If you have extra chocolate batter, pour it into a separate pan to bake.

While the cupcakes bake, combine the sour cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth and store in the fridge until needed.

Bake cupcakes for 25 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when you press them gently. Let cool to room temperature before topping with a layer of the sour cream mixture and eating. Store cupcakes in the fridge; you can top them either before storing or right before eating.

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