1) Frosting: A cupcake without frosting is just wrong. Muffins, while sometimes glazed, are never served with a tall swirl of sugary icing. But cupcakes with a coating of soft glaze are beautiful as well.
2) Add-ins: Many muffins have some textural contrast, whether it’s chunks of fruit or bran or poppy seeds. Most cupcakes are smooth-textured; fruit is pureed, chocolate is melted. But what about pumpkin muffins? Or carrot cake?
3) Mixing method and texture: The classic cake mixing method starts with sugar beaten into softened butter, which is smoothed with egg, then thickened with flour and leaveners. It results in an even-textured, fluffy cake. Muffins, by contrast, are usually made by whisking together the dry ingredients, separately whisking together the wet ingredients, and then folding the two together. The resultant texture is coarse with large air pockets. But not all cakes are mixed with the cake method, and not all muffins are mixed with the muffin method.
4) Course: Cupcakes are dessert. Muffins are breakfast.
So while, by this set of guidelines, these chocolate chocolate chunk muffins do seem to be muffins, they could certainly pass for dessert. Or, if you can’t get enough of their sweet, tender, moist crumb and rich bites of solid chocolate, enjoy them for both breakfast and dessert. I know I did.
Makes 12 muffins
Two ounces of chocolate chunks mixed into the dough is a restrained amount that reflects the breakfast intentions of these muffins. For more richness, feel free to increase that up to as much as 6 ounces. I mixed in some white chocolate as well.
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups (9.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
⅔ cup (4.67 ounces) sugar
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter and half the chopped chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough — a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.