Happy Halloween! Here in Italy, Halloween is not really celebrated at all, which is very sad for those of us who view Halloween as an excuse to consume a horrific amount of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the name of “celebrating a holiday.” To make matters worse, my extensive searches all over this city have yielded exactly zero peanut butter cups, so I can’t even sit in my room and eat them by myself while watching Halloweeny movies (read: Harry Potter movies).

There is really only one solution to a problem like this. Step 1: get together with American friends here in Rome. Step 2: Order pizza, eat popcorn, watch movies, and have your own Halloween, Italian indifference be damned. Step 3: find something to replace the peanut butter cups.

Enter chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. It’s not quite the same as the Reese’s cups from home, but since I definitely consumed all the ones I brought back with me within about 72 hours, it was the best I could do.

The chocolate cake part of these cupcakes was amazing. Since there were no cupcake liners to be found here, I had to bake the cupcakes in little tin foil cups, but then remove them before frosting them. Because the cake was so moist, this resulted in a little bit of stickiness when handling the cakes, but again, cupcake liners would solve that problem. The cake itself was chocolatey without being overly sweet, and was even *marginally* healthier than the Contessa intended, because I substituted Greek yogurt for the buttermilk.

The frosting recipe is one that I’ve used a couple of times before, and so far I haven’t had any complaints. It starts like a cream cheese frosting, with peanut butter being the final addition. Because peanut butter can get so dense and rich (and delicious!), I think the cream cheese is the perfect way to introduce a little lightness and tang into the flavor, while still letting it stay plenty peanutbuttery.

This time (as the pictures show), the frosting didn’t come out perfectly smooth and creamy when I piped it, probably due to the fact that I had to mix it by hand, and I was doing so while simultaneously watching the Friends halloween party episode. Despite appearances, I didn’t notice much of a difference in the texture, so it all worked out! Overall, the cupcakes were a success, and I succeeded in eating too many of them. The Halloween tradition lives on.

Chocolate Cake recipe (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa)

  • 1 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup good cocoa powder (I used Lindt)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease cupcake pan/prepare cupcake liners.

Sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine yogurt, oil, eggs and vanilla.

While mixing (or while using an electric mixer), slowly add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Once combined, slowly add the coffee and stir to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan/liners. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Note: because this cake is very moist even when fully cooked, the toothpick may have some crumbs on it, but as long as there is no uncooked batter on it, the cake should be done). Cool cupcakes completely (I cooled them overnight, but this is not necessary) before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • 10 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (preferably a commercial brand, so that the oil doesn’t separate out)
  • 1 – 1.5 cups powdered sugar (according to taste)

Combine cream cheese and butter and mix until light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Add peanut butter and continue to mix until combined. Spread/pipe onto fully-cooled cupcakes and enjoy!