baking cake chocolate dessert

chocolate olive oil cupcakes with goat cheese frosting and pistachios

Sunday, February 12, 2012
I’ve been trying to come up with words for a Valentine’s post, and while I believe in the goodness of candied hearts and long-stemmed roses, I don’t feel that my experience of life and love can be wrapped up in a roses-are-red monologue of sorts. Bittersweet is my word of choice these last few years: watching the day and night work things out together. They are fierce companions.
But I do celebrate. I am loved, and loved well. This heart has some broken and torn pieces, but we have learned to mend, and protect the delicate. We have watched the sun cast shadows, and we have walked through them, hand in hand.
‘In this terrible ocean, in this terrible sea, we are pearls.’
– Lee Bozeman
Chocolate Olive Oil Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting and Pistachios


This recipe is adapted from Orangette, who adapted from Epicurious. The batter does need to be chilled for 30 minutes, so plan accordingly. This makes a lot of cupcakes – almost 32.

3 oz fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee [or cold press, heated]
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder [not Dutch process]
3 cups sugar
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp salt
3 large eggs
¾ cup olive oil
1 ½ cups well-shaken buttermilk
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line pans with paper liners.

Finely chop chocolate and place in a bowl with the cocoa powder. Pour the hot coffee over the chocolate and cover. Let sit for five minutes, and then whisk until smooth.
Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thickened slightly and lemon-colored [about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer]. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed, until just combined. Chill batter for 30 minutes.*
Divide batter between pans, filling about 3/4 full. Bake 10 to 14 minutes, until a tester inserted in center comes out with the tiniest bit of crumbs.
Cool cupcakes completely in pans on racks. Remove and frost.


goat cheese frosting with vanilla bean and pistachios
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

This frosting only has a tiny bit of goat cheese in it, but the flavor goes a long way. I found it to even out the sweetness and add just the right amount of tang. It can be omitted. If you decide to add more, be careful! If it’s too soft it can mess with the texture of the frosting.

3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups powdered sugar
pistachios, chopped

Beat the butter, goat cheese, milk, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, and salt together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to medium low, slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until incorporated and smooth, 4-6 minutes.  Increase the mixer speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, 5-10 minutes. Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.

  • Reply
    Lauren Knight
    Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Oh how wonderful! I love the presentation! And the colors. And, well, everything. I am a big fan of sweet and savory, and I think goat cheese frosting is an excellent way to achieve this. Will try!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      Thank you Lauren! I am really crazy about the frosting. Tangy and creamy. And the pistachios add just enough saltiness. 🙂 Let me know if you make them!

  • Reply
    london bakes
    Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I just love your styling in these pictures, so beautiful. Not to mention the fact that the cupcakes themselves sound so wonderfully delicious!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      Thank you Kathryn! I had fun with this post – trying to branch out on my ‘food styling’ a bit. 🙂

  • Reply
    Elaina @ Flavour
    Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Very lovely words for Valentine’s Day! Cuuuute little cupcakes, sounds like a wonderful recipe. And the photos are adorable, just lov’em!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm

      Thank you so much Elaina. Did you end up making your sexy dessert? 😉

    • Reply
      Elaina @ Flavour
      Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 11:53 pm

      Well, things got a little hectic and decided to simplify the dessert….so I picked up some ‘homemade’ italian gelati from this mediterranean market near mine…covered it with fresh raspberries and threw on a few cinnamon hearts for fun! 🙂

  • Reply
    Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    These cupcakes are incredible!!! Great recipe and pictures!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 7:04 pm

      Thank you Julia! They were fun to make. And I just checked out your blog – love!

  • Reply
    my little celebration
    Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I LOVE the bozeman quote. It’s fantastic. And I love how refined and elegant this recipe is. Yet it looks so approachable and insanely decadent. I must try these sometime. Must.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 3:12 am

      Thanks Dana. The quote is actually from a song [I walked down the aisle to it, ahh] by the band Luxury – Lee Bozeman is the singer. He’s real good. Are you feeling better?

  • Reply
    Monday, February 13, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Awesome…will have to try, I love your addition of pitaschios!

  • Reply
    Sarah@The Flying Onion
    Monday, February 13, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    These are so pretty!

    And I just had to let you know how much I’m enjoying your blog! I feel as if I could pin everything, there’s just no stop. Keep up the great cooking, writing, photography! =)

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Thank you Sarah! That’s a nice thing to hear. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply
    Ladies Holiday
    Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 2:31 am

    Your photography- impeccable. Your interpretation of bittersweet – gives me something to ponder. Your recipe – outstanding.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Thank you so much! Your comments have been so encouraging. I appreciate it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Melissa // thefauxmartha
    Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Love the colors of these cupcakes! And the honesty about love. Hope you feel extra loved today!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 3:16 am

      Thanks Melissa. We had a nice, chill V-day. I hope yours was lovely, too.

  • Reply
    Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 7:23 am

    What gorgeous photos and styling – I’m in love with your pictures 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:15 am

      Thank you. It was lovely. I hope yours was, too!

  • Reply
    Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen
    Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 6:00 am

    You get me all jealous with the goats cheese frosting! gotta try that out! I love how you wrote. “I am loved and loved well” 🙂 Bittersweet indeed.

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Friday, February 17, 2012 at 3:14 am

      Thanks Jesica. And I highly recommend the goat cheese frosting!

  • Reply
    Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 4:19 am

    This blog is definitely a “pearl”.. I’ve just stumbled across this post and love everything about it, the photography, the cupcakes, the poignant thoughts.. very pretty!

    • Reply
      vanilla bean blog
      Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 3:40 am

      Thank you so much! I appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment. Have a lovely day!

  • Reply
    Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 10:29 am

    This looks delightful! I’m trying to make these for Easter.

    Can you halve the recipe??

    • Reply
      Thursday, April 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

      I haven’t ever halved the recipe, so I’m not sure. There are 3 eggs in it, which can make it difficult to cut in half. Also, I don’t know if you peeked at the notes for the goat cheese frosting, but I’ve had mixed results with it. The first few times it turned out amazing, and then about every other it would be way too runny. I’m not sure if it was the goat cheese I was using, but I mostly buy the same brand.It’s on my to-do list of recipes to perfect. 🙂 Anyway, I just wanted to warn you! I did see this recipe for almost the same thing, but it made less cupcakes, if you want to try: I hope that helps!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 6:54 am

    I made theirs as cake last year and loved it! Soon I will make it into cupcakes. Should I prepare the liners at all? I don’t make cupcakes very often… Thanks!

    • Reply
      Sunday, June 1, 2014 at 8:33 pm

      I would suggest liners with these cupcakes – they are tender, and the liner will help them bake nicely. So glad you liked the cake!

  • Reply
    Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    I made these today for a work function and wanted to comment on how wonderful they were. I am not experienced with cupcakes, but followed the recipe exactly. The cupcakes were moist and the goat cheese frosting paired excellently with the salty pistachios. I was able to make 31 cupcakes and the amount of frosting was just right. I did need to add about twice as much powdered sugar as the recipe called for to get the frosting to firm up. This recipe has been saved in my recipe box. Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

    • Reply
      Thursday, August 7, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Melinda, Thank you so much for letting me know! I’m so glad they worked for you, and you enjoyed them. 🙂 Have a lovely evening.

  • Reply
    Friday, May 22, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I love the Luxury quote as well. You know there is a new record??

    • Reply
      Saturday, May 23, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      Amy Bozeman! How did you even find this space?! Yes, I have the new album on vinyl. 🙂 It’s a family favorite. xx

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