When a baked good uses coffee in the name, it often means that the dish will pair well with coffee, not necessarily that it will contain coffee. As much as I enjoy pairing baked goods with coffee, as a coffee-lover, I always appreciate it when I find coffee flavors in desserts. And these Mocha Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream are a great choice for a coffee lover. They were inspired by the ever-popular mocha latte, and prominently feature the flavors of both chocolate and coffee in each bite.
I find that chocolate tends to dominate the flavor of coffee unless the coffee is on the strong side, as it is in a mocha latte with strong, flavorful espresso. In the cupcakes themselves, you’re going to get a little bit more chocolate than coffee, though there is definitely a coffee note that will set them apart from your average chocolate cupcake. The cupcakes are soft and moist, with a dark color that shows you how much chocolate flavor is inside even before you take a bite. That chocolate flavor comes from unsweetened cocoa powder, and the coffee element in these cupcakes comes from instant coffee power.
I wanted to make sure the coffee popped in this dessert, so I topped the finished cupcakes with a coffee buttercream. It’s an American-style buttercream frosting, which tends to be quite sweet. That sweetness really works perfectly here to balance the strong coffee flavor and give you a good coffee frosting without any bitter notes. If you want to emphasize the chocolate more, just pair these cupcakes with a chocolate frosting instead. I dusted the cupcakes with a little cocoa powder just to finish off the mocha theme, but it is completely optional since it is more for looks than for additional flavor.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cococa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee powder
3/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and instant coffee power until completely combined. Whisk in one third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the water. Whisk in an additional third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining water. Stir in all of the remaining flour, mixing until no streaks of dry ingredients remain and batter is uniform.
Divide evenly into prepared muffin pan.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
When cupcakes are cool, top them with coffee buttercream. Dust with cocoa powder for a “mocha” look, if desired. Store in an airtight container.
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tbsp milk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 – 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a small bowl, dissolve the instant coffee powder in milk and vanilla extract.
In a large bowl, beat together butter, instant coffee mixture and 2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Gradually blend in more confectioners’ sugar until frosting is smooth, thick and fluffy.
Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.