Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the Sagas found here!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

+ Happy 1st Birthday to The Sagas!


Today, I am so so excited. Because today, my little blog turns 1 year old!

Exactly one year ago today, on January 19th, I stopped hoping and dreaming and researching and planning about having my own blog with gorgeous photos and flowing words and a wonderful community--and decided to make it a reality instead. I (metaphorically) put pen to paper and (literally) clicked publish on my first post, and with it, The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas was born. 

Since that day, we've cooked our way through breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between together. We've made cakes and pastas, cookies and quinoa, smoothies and trifles. And I can't thank you all enough for the support you have shown The Sagas in its first year of life; the emails, comments, and conversations I've had with this community mean so much to me. While I don't tend to post about extremely hard-hitting material, it's still incredibly vulnerable to press "publish" and send my words out into this judgmental world. As someone who is wildly hard on herself, there is sometimes a crippling fear that goes along with the idea of blogging--a fear that I won't live up to some undefined standard of perfection, that what I have to say isn't worthwhile, that my photography will never match up, that my recipes aren't good enough. 

And yet, I have pressed publish anyway. All we can really have is faith, and it is with faith in myself that I have shared my recipes and stories with you all for the past year. It has made my heart sing to see this beautiful little community take off, and I hope that you have enjoyed the first year of The Sagas as much as I have enjoyed creating it for you. 


Since we're celebrating a birthday today, I have an existential question to pose to you. What is a birthday without birthday cake, I ask you? In the immortal words of Julia Child: "A party without cake is just a meeting."

Let's not have a meeting. Let's have a party. Deal?

As one is with birthdays, in celebration of The Sagas' first birthday, I was immediately drawn to the idea of making a cake. However, I have little (read: absolutely no) self control when it comes to cake and cake portion slices. I worked as a wedding caterer for a couple summers during college, and it BLEW MY MIND how often people throw away half-eaten or barely-nibbled-upon slices of cake. As long as that cake doesn't taste like cough syrup or have eggshells in it (the only two situations where I have refrained from eating a cake in my life), how does one not eat the entire slice and head back for seconds?

But as I scraped slice after slice of partially eaten wedding cake into the trash, I came to the following conclusion: obviously, my cake heart must be three sizes too big in comparison to the average person's cake heart. And since I'm right in the middle of barre3 All In, where we're supposed to be limiting our intake of refined sugar or cutting it out completely, I figured that the least that I could do would be figuring out a way to manage my lack of cake control while still celebrating the monumental first birthday of my blog.

My solution? Cupcakes. 


I created a classic chocolate cupcake with chocolate buttercream recipe that feels nothing short of miraculous. I did some research, threw some ingredients in my mixer, and plopped the resulting concoction into the oven. I turned the oven light on and hovered next to the door, peering through the glass as the cupcakes rose in their little liners. They rose and rose and I held my breath and prayed that they wouldn't fall again or sink in the middle as soon as I took them out of the oven. But lo and behold, they remained nothing short of perfect from start to finish. How often does that happen when creating a baking recipe from scratch?! Hence, my use of the word miraculous. I rest my case.

I was initially going to do vanilla buttercream as a sort of white-and-black contrast thing. But then I got these bright pink birthday candles and rainbow sprinkles, which I realized would look great on a chocolate frosting, and I decided to remain true to my inner nature and go chocolate on chocolate. 

The goal of these cupcakes was to make them more moist, thus the use of brown sugar instead of only granulated white sugar. The addition of molasses and higher moisture content found in brown sugar not only adds a richer tone of flavor, but also added moistness for that perfect sink-your-teeth-in cupcake texture. The chocolate buttercream does have a strong vanilla flavor, so if you're not a huge fan of that I would suggest cutting down to 2 tsp. vanilla instead of the full 1 Tbsp. 


All right all right, enough chitchat. Let's get this cupcake party started! Let me know if you make this recipe; I'd love to see pictures or hear from you! And once again, thank you for reading and cooking along with me. I've had so much fun and learned so much in this first year of blogging, and I can't wait to see where we go and what we make together in this next year. 

Happy 1st Birthday to The Sagas!

xoxo Alexa


Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Makes: 18 cupcakes

Takes: 1 hour

The Characters:

For the chocolate cupcakes:

  • 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup heated water
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

For the chocolate buttercream:

  • 1 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 4 & 1/3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. milk


  • Sprinkles
  • Candles

The Saga:

For the chocolate cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350Β°. 
  2. Line cupcake pan(s) with cupcake liners.
  3. Cream butter and both sugars together in a stand mixer, or in a bowl with a hand mixer.
  4. Add cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, vegetable oil, milk, salt, and flour, mixing until each new ingredient is completely incorporated.
  5. Heat 1/2 cup of water in the microwave for 1 minute + 30 seconds at 50% power. 
  6. Add heated water, baking powder, and baking soda to the mixing bowl.
  7. Mix until the batter is smooth.
  8. Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop the batter into prepared cupcake pans (1/4 cup of batter per cupcake).
  9. Bake for 16 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. 
  10. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then cool completely before frosting. 

For the chocolate buttercream:

  1. Add butter, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and milk to a stand mixer.
  2. Mix slowly, gradually increasing speed until all ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Increase to a high speed and mix for 5 minutes.

To decorate:

  1. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes using a 1M Wilton tip, starting at the edges and moving inward and upward in a circle. Or, spread frosting directly onto the cupcakes using a spatula. 
  2. Decorate with sprinkles.
  3. Top with a candle. 


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