Coffee Cupcakes with Brewed Coffee and French Buttercream

Coffee cupcakes decorated with buttercream and served on a wooden cake stand

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? The huge problem with instant coffee is that it does not taste like coffee, it tastes simply bitter and bad. Well, at least to me, and 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.

Coffee cupcakes on a dark moody background

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 my biggest challenge was finding a way to add more coffee taste by adding as little water as possible. After A LOT of batches that did not satisfy me, I finally came up with a strange idea: adding some ground coffee beans straight to the cupcake batter. And surprisingly, it 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. Darker espresso roasts, which are slightly more bitter and more intense work better here, but choose the type of coffee you would also enjoy drinking.

Close up of a coffee cupcakes decorated with buttercream and coffee beans

Coffee French Buttercream

Even before starting to develop this recipe, I already knew these cupcakes would 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. This buttercream contains egg yolks and a good idea is to pasteurize them. You will need a thermometer for that. 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.

I’ve written a separate article about French Buttercream, so check it out for more in-depth information and troubleshooting in case you face any problems while making it.

Coffee cupcakes served on a cake stand

Coffee Cupcakes with Brewed Coffee and French Buttercream

Coffee cupcakes decorated with buttercream and served on a wooden cake stand

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 Time50 min
  • Bake / Cook Time20 min
  • Total Time1 hr 10 min
  • Yield12 cupcakes



  • 35-40 ml / 1,2-1,4 fl oz strong black coffee
  • 1,5 tsp ground coffee beans
  • 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

French Buttercream

  • 15 ml / 0,5 fl oz strong black coffee
  • 5 egg yolks (100-120 g / 3,5-4,2 oz)
  • 100 g / 3,5 oz granulated sugar
  • 220 g / 7,8 oz unsalted butter (softened, cubed)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp salt




Prepare coffee the way you prefer doing it, but make sure it is strong. Add more ground coffee for the same amount of water as you would do when preparing your coffee for drinking. I make an espresso shot with 20 g / 0.7 oz of ground coffee in this case. Let the coffee cool to room temperature.


Preheat the oven to 170°C / 338°F (without a fan) and place cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.


In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt well. Set aside.

Flour mixed with baking powder in a bowl


Cream room-temperature butter with sugar for a few minutes until light and fluffy.

Butter creamed with sugar


Add eggs, one at a time, and whip until combined.

Eggs added to the batter


Add cooled black coffee, vanilla extract, and 1,5 extra teaspoons of ground coffee (yes straight to the batter!). Mix until combined. The batter will be thin and slightly curdled, but that’s ok.

Coffee added to the batter


Sift flour with baking powder into the batter and mix everything with a silicone spatula or a spoon just until combined.

Finished coffee cupcake batter


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. 

Cupcake liners filled with coffee cupcake batter


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.

Coffee French Buttercream


Prepare strong black coffee the same way as described before. Make sure it’s fully cooled to room temperature before you use it.


In a mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and sugar. Boil some water in a saucepan, then reduce the heat to medium to keep the water steaming but not bubbling vigorously. Put the bowl with egg yolks and sugar on top of the saucepan with steaming water while making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.

Putting a metal a bowl on a top of a saucepan with steaming water


Heat the mixture stirring with a silicone spatula or a spoon all the time. Do not whisk or whip yet. Scrape the sides to make sure that all the sugar fully dissolves. When the temperature reaches 62°C / 144°F, start the timer. To pasteurize eggs, keep the temperature above 62°C / 144°F, but below 72°C / 161°F, for 5 minutes. You want to pasteurize but not scramble them. That’s how I do it: after starting the timer, I keep stirring and heating the eggs, but if the temperature reaches 70°C / 158°F before the time is up, I turn off the stove or move the saucepan off the heat but keep the bowl with eggs above the steaming water – the temperature starts dropping slowly. If it drops to 64°C / 147°F before the time is up, I turn the heat back on, and the temperature slowly rises again.

Heating and mixing egg yolks with sugar


After pasteurizing eggs, remove them from the heat and start whipping immediately with a handheld or stand mixer. Whip until eggs cool down to room temperature and the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch. The mixture will get thick and pale yellow.

Whipped egg yolks with sugar syrup


While whipping further, add softened butter, one cube at a time, allowing each piece to incorporate before adding the next. After adding all the butter, stop the mixer and scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl, then whisk a bit more to mix in all the butter evenly.

Adding butter one cube at a time


Add cooled black coffee, vanilla extract and salt. Whip an extra minute or so to incorporate.

Finished coffee French buttercream frosting


If you are using a stand mixer, switch to a paddle attachment and mix for a few more minutes at a slow speed to remove big air bubbles and smooth out the buttercream. If you are using a handheld mixer, turn it off and mix the buttercream with a spatula or a spoon to smooth it out.

Smoothed out coffee French buttercream frosting

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. Read more about French buttercream troubleshooting here.
  • 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.
  • These cupcakes contain caffeine. If you don’t want to consume it, you can use decaffeinated coffee, just keep in mind that it will yield a weaker flavor.
Close up of a coffee cupcake
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1 year ago

when you say “ground coffee” – do you mean instant coffee powder?

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