Sweet coffee cupcakes to accompany your morning coffee. Could it be better? These cupcakes are full of delicious, real coffee flavor, topped with silky french buttercream that pleasantly tickles the palate. Coffee flavor is paired with vanilla and the combination reminds coffee candy. These cupcakes are simply decadent.
The coffee flavor in cupcakes
The journey to the delicious result and final perfected recipe was quite challenging this time. Because adding a coffee flavor to a cupcake is not as easy as it may sound.
Instant or freshly brewed coffee
Read anywhere on the Internet, and you will know that instant coffee or coffee powder yields a lot more taste in cakes than real, freshly brewed coffee. Obviously, I have trust issues, so I believe things only if I have tested them myself. And my experiments proved that it’s true. Even a small amount of instant coffee adds intense color and intense flavor. And there’s no need to add a lot of liquid, which is a plus in most cases. It sounds like here is an easy choice, right? But did you notice, that I wrote intense flavor instead of intense COFFEE flavor? Because the huge problem with instant coffee is that it does not taste like coffee, it tastes simply bitter and bad. At least to my spoiled receptors. And intense, but the bad taste outweighs everything else for me.
Of course, I did not try every instant coffee brand in the world. I tried a few in different price ranges, but I did not like any of them. Also, the flavor is a matter of taste, so if you prefer instant coffee flavor over real coffee flavor, feel free to use it and enjoy it in these cupcakes too.
How to add coffee flavor to cupcakes using real coffee
More coffee means more taste, but more coffee also means more liquid. Some liquid is great because it adds moistness, but too much of it compromises cupcake texture. So the biggest challenge for me was to find a way to add more coffee taste by adding as little water as possible. After A LOT of batches that were not good enough, I came up with two simple ideas: concentrated coffee brewed for quite a long time and some extra ground coffee, that goes straight to the batter. The combination of both, finally, worked pretty nicely.
But let me remind you, that real coffee also varies a lot and different coffee beans will yield different flavors in cupcakes. Choose coffee you would also enjoy drinking, but keep in mind that darker espresso roasts, which are slightly more bitter and more intense work better here. Save light, fruity, flowery coffee to enjoy in liquid form, it will not be noticeable enough through other batter ingredients.
How to make french buttercream
Even before starting to develop this recipe, I already knew these cupcakes will be frosted with french buttercream. For me, it’s the tastiest buttercream of all buttercreams, and when it’s enhanced with coffee, it becomes oh-so decadent and sinfully delicious.
If things are french, in most cases it means they are fancy and require to work slightly harder. Basic french buttercream is made of sugar syrup, egg yolks, and butter. Sugar syrup means that a candy thermometer is a must. Also, whipping takes quite a long time, because eggs with sugar syrup have to cool down before adding butter. But don’t be alarmed, the final result is truly worth that little extra effort.
There are a few common problems you could face while making French buttercream, but no worries, they are easily solvable.
How to fix soupy buttercream
If your buttercream looks fin and soupy instead of light and creamy, most likely the yolk mixture was still too warm when you added the butter. Put the bowl with the buttercream in the fridge until it sets a bit, then re-whip it.
How to fix curdled buttercream
If your buttercream gets curdled, the problem is quite the opposite – the butter was too cold. Place the bowl with the curdled buttercream on top of the saucepan with steaming water, and warm the buttercream stirring, until it starts melting on the sides. Remove from the water bath and whip the buttercream again until it comes together.
Coffee Cupcakes with Brewed Coffee and French Buttercream
These cupcakes are full of delicious, real coffee flavor, topped with silky french buttercream that pleasantly tickles the palate. Coffee flavor is paired with vanilla and the combination reminds coffee candy. They are simply decadent.
- Prep Time40 min
- Bake / Cook Time20 min
- Total Time1 hr
- Yield12 cupcakes
- 30 g / 1 oz + 1,5 tsp ground coffee
- 100 ml / 3,4 fl oz hot water
- 130 g / 4,6 oz wheat flour (cake or plain flour)
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 80 g / 2,8 oz unsalted butter (softened)
- 150 g / 5,3 oz granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs (~120-140 g / 4,2-4,9 oz without shells)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 10 g / 0,4 oz ground coffee
- 30 ml / 1 oz hot water (to brew coffee)
- 4 egg yolks
- 80 g / 2,8 oz granulated or caster sugar
- 30 ml / 1 oz water (for sugar syrup)
- A splash of lemon juice
- 170 g / 5,9 oz unsalted butter
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
Pour 100 ml / 3,4 fl oz of hot water over 30 g / 1 oz of ground coffee. Mix well and leave for 15-30 mins to brew.
Filter brewed coffee using a paper filter or a very fine metal sieve. Try to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. You should get ~40 g / ~1,4 oz of filtered coffee.
Preheat the oven to 170°C / 338°F (without a fan) and place cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.
In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder well. Set aside.
Cream room-temperature butter with sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until combined.
Add filtered coffee, vanilla extract, and extra 1,5 teaspoon of ground coffee (yes straight to the batter!). Mix until combined. The batter will be thin and slightly curdled, but that’s ok.
Sift flour with baking powder into the batter. Add salt and mix everything with a silicone spatula or a spoon just until combined.
Distribute the batter between 12 standard-sized cupcake liners (bottom diameter ~5 cm / 2 inch). You should have a bit more than ½ of the liners filled. I add about a tablespoon to each cup.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20 mins.
Remove baked cupcakes from the pan and transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
Prepare coffee the same way as described before. You should get ~13 g / ~0,5 oz of filtered coffee. Make sure it’s fully cooled to room temperature before you use it.
Combine 30 ml / 1 oz water, a splash of lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat over low heat stirring till the sugar fully dissolves. Insert candy thermometer, increase heat to medium, bring to boil, and continue cooking till the syrup reaches 115°C / 240°F.
While the syrup is cooking, start whipping the egg yolks in a bowl using a handheld or a stand mixer. Whip until foamy.
When the sugar syrup reaches 115°C / 240°F, remove it from the heat immediately. With the mixer running, very slowly drizzle the syrup into egg yolks.
Continue whipping until the yolk mixture cools down to room temperature – the bottom of the bowl will be cool to the touch.
While mixing further, add softened butter, one cube at a time allowing each piece to incorporate before adding the next.
Add vanilla extract, filtered coffee, and salt. Continue whipping until you get soft and creamy buttercream.
Frost the cupcakes
After the cupcakes have cooled completely, transfer the buttercream into a piping bag and decorate the cupcakes.
Keep decorated cupcakes in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Let them come to room temperature before serving.
- When you start adding butter to the buttercream, all ingredients have to be at room temperature. Too cold butter will make it curdled, and too hot yolk mixture will make it soupy.
- You can bake the cupcakes in advance and decorate them just before serving. In this case, keep undecorated cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature.
- If you don’t want to consume caffeine, you can use decaffeinated coffee. Just keep in mind that it will yield a weaker flavor.