Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

I don’t need much coffee each day, but I am serious about the coffee that I do drink each morning.  My husband and I consider ourselves coffee connoisseurs (but we’re not).  Years ago we thought we had reached coffee perfection when we got a Bunn coffee maker.  They hold the water hot in the tank, so it makes a pot of coffee in about 60 seconds.  Years later we realized that the coffee it made was really weak and that we never drank all you had to make.  Enter the Keurig.  We LOVE the Keurig.  For someone who just wants one single perfect cup of coffee a day, it fits the bill perfectly.  I love all the options – brew temp, brew size, brew strength.  This was what I needed in a coffee maker.  I still have my Keurig and I still love it.

But, last year on Thanksgiving we decided to pack up our two children into the car and drive to NYC to stay with my brothers for Thanksgiving.  Obviously, we survived the trip because I write this today, but (mark my words) I will never drive to NYC on Thanksgiving again.  It took us 10 1/2 hours to get there and 18 to get home.  18.  Eight.  Teen.  With a four year old and a four month old.  In addition to all the wonderful memories that were made on that trip, we also discovered our love for french press coffee made with freshly ground coffee beans.  The taste of this coffee is a full step up from all other coffee.  On our first morning there, we walked a few blocks to an amazing coffee shop in the Financial District – RBC NYC.  My brother paid some crazy amount for a small bag of beans and bought some incredible pastries.  Back at the apartment, he tossed some in the grinder, dumped what seemed like half a cup into a french pressed and poured boiling water on top.  He pressed down the screen and poured us a cup. What we tasted was the texture of hot chocolate, but tasted like the most AMAZING fresh coffee ever.  I was forever hooked on what I call “coffee with texture”, or french press coffee.

I was given the task of making some birthday cupcakes for a client of my husband’s who happens to like coffee.  When I found this recipe that included coffee in both the cupcake and the frosting, I knew I had a winner.  You see the powder on top?  Freshly ground coffee.  You see that little dot in the middle?  Dark chocolate covered espresso bean.  Are you with me yet?

Mocha Cupcakes (from The Brown-Eyed Baker)

Printable recipe

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 15 minutes Baking Time: 17-20 minutes


1-1/3 all-purpose flour
1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder (such as Vahlrona, pictured above)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
½ cup strong brewed coffee
1½ teaspoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature


1. Mix the espresso powder into the brewed coffee until dissolved; set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard-size muffin tin with paper liners.

3. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

4. Beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, brewed coffee mixture and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture, alternating with the coffee mixture, ending with the flour mixture.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the 12 liners. Baking for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting cupcakes.

Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons espresso powder


1. Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved; set aside.

2. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy, about a minute or two. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix at medium-high until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary.

Optional: top with ground coffee beans or espresso powder and a chocolate-covered espresso bean

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