Peanut butter-cream cheese filling
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (4 ½ ounces) Nestle swirled milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels, Reese’s pieces or peanut butter chips
Chocolate cupcake batter
3 cups bleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened non-alkalized cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
2 cups lukewarm water
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
About 36 small (1” diameter) Reese’s or other peanut butter cup candies, cut in half
1. Make peanut butter-cream cheese filling: Place cream cheese and peanut butter in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating another 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mix in flour until just incorporated. Add egg, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat until egg is uniformly incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside.
2. Prepare chocolate cupcake batter: Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350˚F. Line twenty-four 2 ½” diameter muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Sift flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl. Stir in brown sugar, breaking it apart with fork or whisk to evenly distribute it. Make well in center of dry ingredients and add lukewarm water, oil, vinegar and vanilla extract. Stir gently until batter is creamy and smooth, pressing out any lumps with fork or back of spatula.
3. Spoon or pour about 3 tablespoons batter into each lined muffin cup to fill it no more than two-thirds full. Then top each cupcake with 1 generous tablespoon peanut butter filling. Bake about 25-27 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake portion comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool about 15 minutes in pan. (Note: the cream cheese centers will sink slightly as cupcakes cool. But, no worries; these little wells are perfect nesting spots for Reese’s cups that will go on top.) Carefully remove cupcakes from pans and transfer to racks to cool completely. While cupcakes are still slightly warm, but not hot, place 2-3 peanut butter cup halves on top of each for garnish. The residual heat from cupcakes should melt peanut butter cups even so slightly, causing them to adhere to cupcake tops.