If a churro swallowed a cupcake, you’d get this almost unbelievable dessert. Each churro cupcake consists of a crisp, cinnamon sugar-coated “jacket” that’s made of choux pastry, which is also the base of fried churros. Here we bake the pastry and then fill it with a tender, cinnamon-swirled cake batter. Once the cake has baked and filled out its little choux cup, it’s flooded with a rich chocolate ganache, an ode to the chocolate sauce served alongside traditional churros for dipping. This recipe is a worthy, and delicious, project.
To make the choux pastry: In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt. Heat over medium-high heat to melt the butter and bring the mixture to a boil.
Turn heat to low, add the flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or dough whisk. Stir until the mixture comes together into a ball and no spots of flour remain; this should take less than 1 minute.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and transfer the batter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment. Cover with a piece of parchment or plastic wrap and let sit for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.
Once cool, mix in the eggs one at a time with the mixer running on medium speed, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. After the last egg is incorporated, beat for 1 minute, until smooth, thick, and shiny.
Using a piping bag, a heaping tablespoon cookie scoop, or two spoons, evenly divide the choux between 12 wells of the muffin pan (about 34g to 36g per portion). Use a damp finger to smooth the tops of the scooped pastry, then invert the second standard muffin pan and place on top of the other to create little domed covers for each of the wells. Make sure the pans are aligned.
Bake for 25 minutes at 450°F then carefully remove the top pan, reduce the heat to 350°F, and bake for 5 to 8 more minutes, until the choux are golden brown. Remove the choux from the oven (leave it at 350°F) and set them aside to cool in the pan for at least 8 to 10 minutes. (At this point, you can let the choux cups cool completely, and store them in an airtight container for 24 hours.) While the choux bakes, make the ganache and the cake batter.
To make the ganache: Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan or in the microwave until it begins to steam. Add the chopped chocolate and let it sit undisturbed for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated. Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the top.
To make the cake batter: In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cinnamon sweet bits. Set aside.
In a separate small bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment or working with an electric hand mixer in a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar on low speed until smooth and lighter in color (no need to fully cream and aerate). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then add the egg and mix until fully combined.
In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the batter, beating gently to combine. Gently beat in half the buttermilk and vanilla. Mix in about half of the remaining flour, then the remaining buttermilk. Stir in the last of the flour and mix until combined.
Using a flexible spatula, fold the cinnamon sweet bit mixture into the cake batter. No need to fully incorporate — a few swirls are fine.
Once the choux cups are cool, use a serrated knife to gently cut off the top of each one. The goal is for each choux to rise about 1" above the rim of the pan, so only cut off the top-most portion.
Using your finger, a paring knife, or a wooden skewer, break up the eggy centers of the choux cups, removing any large pieces. You want to create a hollow area for the cake batter.
Using a piping bag or a tablespoon scoop, evenly distribute the cake batter so that each choux cup is half full. It should be about 40g to 45g of batter per cup (one heaping tablespoon scoop). Put the cupcakes back in the 350°F oven and bake for 25 to 28 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched or a digital thermometer reads 205°F in the center.
Remove the cupcakes from oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes. While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the coating.
To add the coating: In a small bowl, mix together the granulated sugar and cinnamon.
When cool enough to handle, brush the outside of each choux with the melted butter and roll in the cinnamon sugar so the exterior is fully coated. Place the coated cupcakes on a serving plate or baking sheet to cool completely.
Once the churro cupcakes are completely cool, pour the room temperature ganache over the center of each cupcake just until the ganache is flush with the top of the choux cup.
Let the churro cupcakes sit at room temperature until the ganache is set, or chill for 5 minutes in the refrigerator to make the ganache set faster. Once the ganache settles, pour a second layer of ganache on top to create a smooth, even surface.
Let the churro cupcakes sit uncovered at room temperature until ready to serve.
Storage information: Churro cupcakes are best served the day they’re made or the day after. Don’t cover or store in an airtight container (the choux cups will get soggy). Reheat leftover churro cupcakes in a 325°F oven until the choux has re-crisped, then serve immediately.
Tips from our Bakers
The choux tops are a great baker’s snack. Toss them in cinnamon sugar or dip them in ganache and enjoy while you’re waiting for the cupcakes to cool.
To work ahead, stop after baking the cupcakes (step 17). Cover and store overnight at room temperature. The next day, rewarm the cupcakes in a 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, then proceed with the recipe (coating the cupcakes in melted butter and cinnamon sugar and filling with ganache). The un-coated cupcakes can also be frozen at this stage for up to 1 month before proceeding with re-warming the cupcakes, adding the coating, and filling with ganache.
To make these gluten-free, replace the all-purpose flour in the choux pastry with 1 cup (120g) Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour. Use 1 cup (227g) water and 4 large eggs. For the cake, replace the cake flour with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (135g) Measure for Measure Gluten-Free Flour. No other adjustments are necessary.