Grief Recipe Stories: Max's Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Grief Recipe Stories / Grief Recipe Stories : Eleanor Haley

by Julia Haigh
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

My friend, Max, was amazing for so many reasons. His outgoing personality and the way he was able to make you feel included is unmatched by anyone I've known. His ability to get caught up in the excitement of the moment and the way he wanted everyone to feel that way too was contagious. His laugh and smile are unforgettable. Max passed away on March 18, 2017 due to complications of Marfan Syndrome, yet his ability to bring people together continues to be inspiring.

For the past few years, I had spent the day that I have off at the beginning of spring break with Max. We'd go to see a movie, then have drinks and a bite to eat. It was also perfect because this day was always right around his birthday (March 15), so I would also make him chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting—our favorite kind.

max's cupcakes

The last time I saw Max was on a day just like that, only two days before his birthday. I made him cupcakes just like the ones pictured. While I was visiting him, he had to eat one of them and insisted I have one, too. I declined since I still had a few at home. He mentioned several times how they were his absolute favorite and thanked me again and again.

Very shortly after, Max passed away. Three days after his birthday, his mom reached out to thank me for making the cupcakes. Although his dad couldn't eat them, she said Max was kind enough to share them with her. It's hard to describe how much something so simple meant.

It's incredible how closely food can be tied to memories. Although making cupcakes is very often a bittersweet experience for me now, I realize how lucky I was to be able to spend the day with Max the last time I saw him—and for all the memories I have with him and the things he taught me. I am also constantly grateful for the amazing support system I now have that includes Max's family and friends.

The first picture I have included, featuring three cupcakes and a blue plate, is a picture that I took as part of What's Your Grief's Exploring Grief Through Photography course that I took during the summer of 2017, which was a very helpful and wonderful experience. The second picture of the cupcakes I made last year, when a small group of Max's family and friends got together for his birthday.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Recipe by Julia Haigh




  • Cupcakes
  • 1 1/3 cup all purpose flour

  • 1/4 tsp baking soda

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/8 tsp salt

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar

  • 2 eggs

  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 cup milk

  • Frosting
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter

  • 3 cups powdered sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 tbsp milk

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted

  • mini peanut butter cups


  • Cupcakes
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Line muffin pans with liners. Makes about 15 cupcakes
  • Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, and salt. Set aside.
  • In large bowl, mix together sugar and butter until fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla
  • Add flour mixture and milk alternately. Beat well.
  • Fill tins 3/4 full
  • Bake 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean
  • Frosting
  • Combine butter and peanut butter until creamy
  • Slowly mix in powdered sugar until completely combined
  • Stir in vanilla and salt
  • Add milk, mixing until combined
  • Frost cupcakes after they are completely cooled
  • Melt chocolate chips and drizzle over cupcakes
  • Place one mini peanut butter cup in the center of each cupcake
  • Enjoy!


  • These are pretty basic recipes, but the results are delicious. 🙂

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