This recipe comes from the 1979 Hamlyn All-Color Cookbook, an English cookbook given to my mother from my father. The ornately decorated chocolate cupcakes topped with "butterfly wings" have always appealed to me, as evidenced by the red check mark that I added to the recipe as a child. They're simple—just cocoa-infused batter topped with a buttercream icing—but very enticing. The dated language and U.K. measurements and ingredients have been adapted to a more modern, American style. —Leah Bhabha
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with 10 cupcake liners.
Using a hand mixer and a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), cream butter until smooth, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add egg and 1 tablespoon flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture and mix to combine. Then, add milk, vanilla essence, and half of remaining flour.
Add cocoa powder to batter along with remaining flour, and stir until combined. Fill 10 of the cupcake liners about halfway. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly, then turn out onto a baking rack to cool completely.
While the cupcakes are cooling, cream the 2 1/4 tablespoons butter in a large bowl at medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low, then add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until just combined. Return the speed to medium and beat until smooth, then add the hot milk and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, cut a round off the center of each cupcake to make a flat top. Cut the tops in half and set aside. Spoon and spread the frosting over each cupcake, then place the halved tops on the filling, rounded edges outward to make "wings".