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Ground black pepper (Recipe: chocolate double ginger cupcakes)


On my list of 23 pantry items you absolutely, positively, have to have, black pepper sits at #3.

Now that I think about it, pepper should be #1. Tied with salt.

Because salt and pepper are an item.

Whoever first paired salt and pepper was a genius, like the person who cast Ginger Rogers with Fred Astaire, or Doris Day with Rock Hudson. Or the person who discovered that chocolate always tastes better with a tiny bit of vanilla.

Ground black pepper

Pepper is, in volume and value, the most important spice in the world; the best varieties grow in India and Malaysia, but there's not a cuisine that doesn't use pepper, either in spice blends (likebaharat, ras el hanout or adobo seasoning), or paired with salt, or on its own.

For years I bought into the "fresh ground" way of life. I tried one pepper mill after another -- the pretty ones that don't grind, the ugly ones that do, and the French ones that, like all things French, manage to look impossibly beautiful while getting the job done. 

Black pepper

More than any other spice in my kitchen, black pepper gets a workout every time I cook, and I go through it at an alarming rate. So, for the past five years, I've been using Penzeys coarse-ground Tellicherry pepper. I buy 8-ounce bags for less than $7.00, and keep a working supply in my recycled lemon curd jar on the spice rack, with the rest in the freezer. I go through what's in the jar every month, so the pepper stays fresh. It comes in several different grinds, and I often have the super-coarse on hand, too.

Can you imagine black pepper and lime oven fries, black pepper crab, farinata with rosemary and pepper, maple and black pepper chicken, urad dal patties with black pepper, or milk chocolate and black pepper ice cream without pepper?

Neither can I. So, I really need to move pepper to the top of my can't-live-without-it list. Right next to salt.


Chocolate double ginger cupcakes

The first time I made these cupcakes, I felt something was missing. The next time, I added pepper, to help bring out the flavor of the ginger. Bingo! The black pepper did the trick. Adapted from Joy of Baking. Makes 16.


1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup boiling hot water
1-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp water, or a few drops more, as needed


Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

In a small bowl, stir the cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Let cool to room temperature.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and powdered ginger.

Then in the bowl of a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat only until incorporated. Then add the crystallized ginger and the cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.

Fill each muffin cup two-thirds full with batter and bake for 16-20 minutes or until risen, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, remove the cupcakes from the pan, and let them sit on the wire rack until completely cool.

When the cupcakes are cool, combine confectioners sugar and water in a small glass measuring cup, and whisk together until it forms an icing. If the icing is not a pourable consistency, add water, a drop at a time, and continue to whisk until you can pour the icing. Drizzle over each cupcake.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Chocolate spice cookies
Bittersweet chocolate truffles
Chocolate refrigerator cake
Roasted pepper chicken

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I love chocolate covered ginger, so the combination of those two flavors in cupcakes sounds great. Too bad I'm on leave from baking (no flour in my temporary kitchen, not going to be any, either).

It's amazing how only 1/2 teaspoon of an ingredient can have such a big impact on these cupcakes' flavor!

My favorite chocolate cupcakes have beer in them--Stout cupcakes!

My fav cupcakes are made from Laurie Colwins buttermilk chocolate cake recipe - baked in mini muffin tins. Fantastic.

My favorite chocolate cupcakes have raspberry jam inside. The two flavors together are heavenly!

I love cupcakes with a pitch of cardamom. It gives them a really special taste.

Chocolate cupcakes with creamcheese inside are my favorite!!

wow Lydia, the addition of black pepper just blew my mind! I must try that! and just because I'd love to win something for once in my life (I must be the luckiest ever in love because I never win anything) I have to tell you that my favorite cupcake is filled with Nutella. I am not a fan of nutella but I love to find it in a cupcake!

Those look delicious. Although I could never be mistaken for a vegan, a friend of mine introduced me to the best chocolate cupcakes that have neither eggs, butter nor milk. Of course she didn't tell me until after I had (honestly) raved they were the best I had ever eaten!

I love your tip about Pensey's pepper! I seem to be forever grinding away. I'm due for a trip to their Arlington, MA store. The course ground will be at the top of my list.

I never would have thought of adding pepper to cupcakes. I love hearing about innovative uses for basic ingredients!

I never realized how much I use pepper until I ran out of peppercorns a few weeks ago and was too busy to get to the store for a few days. It was like I was trying to cook with one hand tied behind my back... nothing felt right. Now I make sure to keep a plentiful supply :)

That's a great idea to buy the coarsely ground black pepper. I am constantly refilling my pepper grinder.

I think the pepper/ginger combo is an interesting flavor blend and then combined with the chocolate, even better.

I have to pepper everything, never thought of cupcakes though! Thanks for the tip.

Oooo . . . These sound wonderful. Black pepper is one of my favorite foods! :)

What a great giveaway--such a wonderful idea! Would love any cookbook!

I remember making a chocolate-pepper loaf from one of Maida Heatter's cookbooks years ago, and it became a staple for a very long time in our house. These cupcakes with ginger AND pepper sound like a step up from those!

I love Penzey's! My favorite blend of theirs is the Galena Street Rub, which I use on roasted nuts. But, back to cupcakes, ginger are my favorite! I'll be trying this recipe very soon, probably today :)

What delicious-looking muffins. I think I have all the ingredients in my own pantry--will have to try these out! :)

Gorgeous photos! I agree, black pepper is such an essential. I was amazed when I found it was the "secret" ingredient I couldn't quite identify in Rubio's pinto beans. Not sure I have a favorite cupcake (and definitely no cupcake cookbooks!) but anything with lemon or lime would always be my favorite when it comes to desserts.

What a great idea - with the cookbooks, I would love any one of them. I like the idea of these cupcakes. I'm a big fan of putting (usually) savory items with (usually) sweet items, it ends up making for a tasty, can't-get-enough kind of treat!

The only chocolate cupcakes I baked successfully were ones I made using a Devil's food cake recipe from a cookbook given by my then 12-year-old daughter two Christmases ago. They were so darn good they were all gone before I could take photos for my blog.

I use so much pepper, I feel it's the perfect ingredient to liven up so many things. Good call with the cupcakes too.

I never realized how many different kinds of pepper are actually available. Now I find I must try them all and your idea of freezing pepper would never have crossed my mind. Thanks for a great way to keep pepper fresh.

Now you've got me stuck on thinking black pepper and lime on sweet potato fries! Stuck in an airport & flying for the next 5 hours before we can possibly get home. . .
Love that Penzy's Tellicherry pepper, that's what's in my grinder always now.

This is my first sighting of muffins with black pepper...interesting as chilli flakes also can appear with chocolate.

I love black pepper (fresh) so I'm in for a dozen.

Love any kind of chocolate cupcakes. And, absolutely love pepper.

I can completely relate about the pepper. I *love* using it and after reading this recipe I can't wait to give 'em a try. I've never used pepper in baking so this will be a great new experience for me!

I could not live without pepper. No, really.
I also order pepper from Penzeys, but go with the whole peppercorns.

Thanks for running another giveaway.

when i was younger i dint like pepper, what was i thinking?!

pepper with chocolate? sounds good! :)

These look extra yummy! Chocolate & Ginger are two of my favorite flavors. Thanks for the recipe.

I haven´t been making so many cupcakes, that I can pick a favorite, I´ll just say that chocolate cupcakes taste great!

Oooh, I never considered adding black pepper to something sweet, but I'm going to have to try that now. I'm always looking for good cupcake recipes. :D

I have a feeling that these are about to become my favorite chocolate cupcakes ever. Love the idea of black pepper and ginger and something sweet- can't wait to make them!

Thanks for the recipe it now makes sense to how to add pepper with a sweet. So now I feel braver about a cookie recipe that has pepper as a main ingredient.

My favorite will always be the old standby yellow cake with chocolate frosting in any variation.

Great to know about the ginger/pepper combination. Will definitely be putting that to use in this recipe and others. Thanks!

YEAY! Please enter me. My favvvvvvorite chocolate cupcakes are from an old Mississippi junior league cookbook. I SWEAR by them. They are made by hand, with a wooden spoon, and hardly have any flour. The batter is a soupy concoction of melted chocolate, strong coffee, and a bit of Jack Daniel's. Eggs, sugar, melted butter, and a bit of flour are whisked in. The final product is dense, deeeeeep, and fudgy, and frosted in velveteen ganache.

My favorite ginger teas have black pepper in them. How about using the tea as a liquid in baking? Or drink it with these cupcakes?

I love ginger in anything. I can't keep crystallized ginger in my house because I eat it straight out of the jar.

Ooh, ginger. I LOVE ginger.

My most favorite cupcakes have cayenne pepper in them. Something about the cayenne just lifts the flavor of the chocolate to a new level. Thanks for all the info you share with everyone, keep up the good work.

I have a box of crystallized ginger in the pantry, leftover from Christmas. I'll give these a try!
Thanks for the great giveaway!

What a fabulous idea to add pepper to the ginger and chocolate! Very creative.
I like pepper on strawberries - thanks to Dorie Greenspan.
My favourite chocolate cupcake is mocha with a cappuccino cream cheese icing.
My fave cupcake cookbook (or design book) is Hello, Cupcake!

Anything that has chocolate in it, is always mouth-watering to a woman (or anyone) for that matter! Thanks for the great recipe and site!

Very interesting. Never had chocolate cupcake with ginger and pepper though ...but I've had chocolate with chili and I loved it.

You always have a twist somewhere in the list of ingredients that sets the recipe apart. I like this one very much.

Wow do those look good, ginger is so good for you. will give them a try.

Also like the idea for mixing pepper, here in Mexico everything is has lime in it, makes food so much better , so why not with pepper? Thanks for sharing. Sherry

That is so interesting how pepper did the trick! I love the perfectly domed tops.. my chocolate cupcakes are coming out flat.

hmm, honestly, I am not a big cake fan. For me they would have to be moist and dense carrot cupcakes or perhaps gingerbread cupcakes ... but really I am all about the frosting :)

heard of 30 day friendship cake? you ferment fruit & brandy for a month, each week adding a different canned fruit and sugar. Then you mix up yellow cake mix using fermented juice & fruit. I don't like cake mix, so I use a simple cake recipe. Last time the fruit was ready, I used Mayo Cake in muffin size. So delish! and cupcakes are great fun. I love ginger and I'm going to try this recipe next weekend. thanks!

I also enjoy black pepper & chocolate cup cakes...but seldom at the same time.

Never thought of adding ginger or black pepper to chocolate. An intriguing idea I'll have to try. I'm also checking out your Lime & Black Pepper fries and Maple & Black Pepper Chicken recipes.

And thank you for mentioning about Penzeys pre-ground pepper. My carpal tunnel greatly appreciates it! :-)

I love black bottom cupcakes - cream cheese and chocolate deliciousness! YUM! These with pepper sound interesting - have to try them. Thanks for the recipe.

I will definitely be trying those cupcakes! I love ginger and black pepper in baking!

Always an enjoyable read.

I must admit my father is a bigger pepper fan than I am. Then again, his taste buds are a bit, shall we say, jaded (or burnt out), and *lots* of pepper he can notice. Last year we discovered there's a brick-and-mortar Penzey's not too far from his house, and he's in heaven. All those sorts of peppers, and lots of coarse grinds!

I grew up watching my dad take the tops off the pepper shakers at restaurants because he could never get enough just by shaking it. I have caught myself doing this more then once as of late. "like father like daughter"

I love chocolate cupcakes but I never take the time to make them anymore since my nest is empty :-(

Thanks for the tip about Penzey's spices - I found a retail store near by house! Yeah!

Black pepper. Wow. I so have to try this. Fortunately for me (with a busted stove) I have friends who are willing to let me experiment with their ovens.

Love your website, especially being able to peak into other peoples pantries. Gives me great shopping ideas.

These look great. Very interesting about the black pepper. I can't wait to try this recipe.

My favorite chocolate cupcakes are flavored with good cocoa powder, vanilla, coffee, a touch of cayenne and a bit of cinnamon. Left to "age" for a day (as hard as it is to wait- they smell great out of the oven!) but the flavors really develop and meld with a little time.....

These are such perfect looking cupcakes. Salt and pepper, sure, but I'm a huge advocate of chocolate and ginger! I'm trying this recipe for sure!

I'll have to try these out - my latest favorite cupcake is Guiness cupcakes with Baily's Irish Creme frosting...num...

i haven't really had/made chocolate cupcakes recently but those ones that a previous commenter mentioned w/ cream cheese in the middle, sound fantastic.

Since I am not a frosting fan, I love muffins. My favorite is a coffee cake muffin with lots of crumb topping.

Favorite chocolate cupcakes? well, I made a chocolate buttermilk cupcake with irish cream frosting for st. pattys that I cannot get out of my mind. does that count?

Cupcakes are not always my favorite, but I might have to try this recipe. If it's chocolate I like chocolate chips mixed in, the more chocolate the better right?

I'm not a huge cupcake person but I LOVE pepper. I'd almost move pepper above salt on my list of must have items. I reach for pepper more often than I do salt these days...

Would love to win the cookbook!!

Those cupcakes look really good! I like pepper in cookies, so I'd probably enjoy it in these cupcakes.

What a unique recipe. Very cool. Nice giveaway too.

I love the Joy of Baking website and have pulled so many great recipes from there. I must say that I love a deep, moist devil's food cupcake with a simple chocolate buttercream frosting (like the one I posted on my blog at the beginning). Yummy, simple pleasure! And what a great give-away! Who doesn't love receiving a new (or slightly used) cookbook, especially a cookbook with thoughts and notes scribbled in the margins?

wow......these are the perfect cupcakes to maek for the bake sale we are having this sunday

The Chocolate Ginger Cupcakes sound great. I can't say I have a favorite. If it's chocolate I love it.

I love my grandma's Bessie's Best Chocolate Cup Cakes!

mmm...I'm just imagining the taste of this cupcake - sounds heavenly. Chocolate and ginger - what a combination. :)

I love the combination of your glazing muffin with ginger. I want to try it soon. I dont know different kinds of pepper. Thanks lot for sharing it with us.

I would never think that pepper and ginger will work in baking. Very interesting recipe that I have to give it a try as I used these 2 ingridients in my daily cooking.

I'm with you on the pepper. We go through it like crazy. I am assuming it's natural pairing with salt is a yin/yang attraction, don't you think?

I'm thinking a pinch of Cayenne would be an interesting twist on this - kind of like a Mexican Chocolate cupcake with a kick.

I can't wait to make these! I love ginger, in fact, I have ginger tea everyday.

Ooh...I love cookbooks! Thanks for the giveaway!

My favorite chocolate cupcakes are the ones that are so fluffy and yet so moist at the same time as if you're eating chocolate flavored cloud! :)
Did this by using the meringue method.

I made these last night and they are delicious. I can never get icings to come out like that do on the internet, I used less than a tablespoon of water to my 1/4 c. sugar but it was super runny and clear so I added another 1/4c sugar and just didn't use it all. It was still thin but it did make a nice glaze for the cupcakes.

Cupcakes aren't my forte but I love vanilla cupcakes with a really flavourful frosting (like chocolate!). Vanilla is so light and tastes good with anything.

Love chocolate with ginger... never thought of including black pepper in the mix... have to give it a try!

Hi Lydia,

I have been using coarse-ground pepper ever since you wrote about it here a year or so ago. If I only need a little, I use my grinder - but I checked once, and it took EIGHTY twists of my grinder to get a full teaspoon of pepper. The coarse-ground also came in handy when I sprained my wrist a few weeks ago, and had to cook one-handed!

I'm simple. Just plain chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing and I'm a happy girl.

My favorite chocolate cake makes an excellent cupcake, too: German Chocolate with, naturlich, home-made, *not* canned, coconut/pecan icing. Can't be beat with a stick.
PS I love the physical action of grinding pepper, but am still in search of a grinder that will grind without breaking for more than six months or so. Anybody got a grinder they've had for, say, 3 years? What is it and where can I get one?

I recently made Curtis Stone's Brownie Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and they're at the tops of my list of favourites right now, but probably because they're also what I've had most recently...

Chocolate and ginger together is just heaven. The black pepper sounds like it will totally take this to a delicious level I'd never thought of. Awesome!

I make a vegan chocolate cupcake--it tastes like a Tastycake..if you're from Philly you know how good that is!

I love a good chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting. YUM!!

these cupcakes look divine...and i like how you have drizzled the icing, perfect finish!

I would have never thought about adding pepper...it has me curious now.

Everyone, thanks so much for your great cupcake ideas. The giveaway is now over, and winners of this month's five cookbooks will be announced tomorrow.

If you ever buy back into the fresh-ground way again, a Turkish coffee grinder is the way to go. I have one that was given to me when I first left home. It's also sturdy enough, I could probably clobber an intruder over the head with it.

And my favorite chocolate cupcakes are ones someone else makes. A baker I ain't.

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