Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

You’ll be happy to know that I have recovered from my epic kitchen fail, the oven is sparkling, and to celebrate I give you these amazing mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream frosting. Plus, it’s Friday. And cupcakes are a perfect way to welcome the weekend with open arms. It’s been a crazy, messy, stormy week, and you deserve one. I might even go so far as to suggest that you should just skip your morning cup of coffee or trip to Starbucks and have one of these instead. The cupcakes themselves strike a subtle balance between light chocolate and a hint of creamy coffee. Not overwhelming on either end of the spectrum, and the combination results in a smooth, clean flavor, which is perfect for topping with espresso-spiked buttercream. I’ve been trying a new method for making buttercream for cupcakes, and I think you’re going to love it as much as I do. It involves lots of whipping of the butter, and then really whipping the finished buttercream. It gives the frosting a very smooth texture and it melts in your mouth. And as always, I try to achieve at least a 1:1 ratio of frosting to cake when frosting my cupcakes. Frosting is dreamy, yes? I could eat it with a spoon, straight from the mixing bowl.

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Now, back to my baking disaster (sort of) for a moment. I wanted to share a recipe resource with all of you in the event that you don’t know about it yet. There is a custom Google search engine called Food Blog Search, built and maintained by Elise from Simply Recipes and Kayln of Kayln’s Kitchen, which pulls search results from over 2,000 hand-selected food blogs. It’s typically my first stop when I’m searching for inspiration for a specific recipe. While I absolutely adore my cookbook collection and find many wonderful recipes among their pages, I know that any recipe I find on a fellow blogger’s site will have been tested and reviewed, with honest feedback. That is invaluable information when undertaking something in the kitchen! Stopping there first instead of my cookbook shelf may have saved me from an oven of overflowing batter. In fact, I think you should bake these cupcakes, then mosy on over to your computer and eat the cupcake while testing out the Food Blog Search.

If you’re in the mood for more cupcakes you may want to send summer out in style with these Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes, and then usher in fall Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting! And everyday is a good day for Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.

One year ago: Pistachio Nut Ice Cream
Two years ago: Panzanella Salad
Three years ago: Samoas Brownies

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 12 cupcakes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 17 to 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Coffee-infused chocolate cupcakes topped with espresso-spiked buttercream frosting.


For the Cupcakes:
1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
½ cup strong brewed coffee, at room temperature
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

For the Espresso Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons espresso powder


1. To make the Cupcakes: 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.

6. To make the Frosting: Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved; set aside.

7. 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.

Note: To make the swirls on the cupcakes, I used a 1M decorating tip.

(Cupcake recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction)

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434 Responses to “Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting”

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  1. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit on August 13, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Those are scrumptious! The frosting looks perfect- light and fluffy. I totally agree with your cake to frosting ratio. It seems more civilized to eat frosting on cake rather than right from the bowl, but I’d be surely tempted. Thanks for the recipe. I think my co-workers deserve these on the first day back to school!


    • Lisa Psomas on May 15th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      I want to try these cupcakes, but I live in Colorado at 7,000 feet above sea level. Does anyone have a suggestion as to how I can modify this recipe so the cupcakes don’t sink in the middle?


      • sue on May 22nd, 2012 at 1:53 pm

        I used to live in Leadville and that was 11,000 ft. above sea level. I called the County extention office to get help. I also called a few bakeries to pick their brain of all their secret tips. I know I had to adjust the leavening, liquid and flour and time of baking. My worst nightmare was trying to boil potatoes and pasta. It took 45-60 min. Crazy!! It is hard cooking with such craziness. Good luck!


      • rebecca on August 20th, 2012 at 7:13 pm

        change the baking soda ammount


      • ducksandbooks on November 12th, 2012 at 11:37 am

        I also live in CO and have found that adding a heaping Tablespoon of plain yogurt and a 1-2 Tablespoons of AP flour to cake recipes works really well. The yogurt tames the leavening and the flour makes it less wet and adds more gluten.


      • Haneul on May 22nd, 2013 at 10:27 pm

        I also live in CO and have had no problems baking. The only adjustments i usually make concern sugar, salt, and vanilla. I also do bake weekly at a minimum (usually more) and have tried hundreds of recipes.


      • Elise on July 4th, 2014 at 12:23 am

        I live at the base of Manitou Springs, Colorado and I work at the Chefs Catalog Store in Colorado Springs. I assist Cooking Classes and help customers and questions of altitude adjustments are something I’m good at- lots of practice! So I often use The Cake Doctor Cookbook and while it’s about cheating with a cake mix she also has some really good cake mix Adjustments- so for that basically a 1/4 cp of flour is added to any mix you come across- an extra egg if rich and beat a bit more. For homemade goods from scratch it gets a bit tricky- but in general I cut down the sugar by 2 -4 Tbls. per cup of sugar and I decrease the leaven (baking soda, B powder, etc.) by 1/4 tsp per each tsp. Basically we are high up and the baked goods need less to make it rise. there are other things you can do, but essentially these 2 steps- lowering the sugar and leaven is enough. Happy having a Baking High!


    • Erika on May 14th, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      Did your cupcakes turn out super light? I tried them twice, cut down the baking time and mine are still so light and crumbly


      • mariana medellin-meinke on October 12th, 2012 at 8:45 pm

        hi, I just made the cupcakes and they turned out super moist. the only thing that comes to mind is that perhaps you’re mixing the flour and the espresso mixes in too big of portions or not mixing it well enough before pouring in the next portion of either mix….?????
        the cupcakes are so so delicious definitely a keeper!!!!!!! thanx so much for the recipe….!!!!


      • Tania on January 28th, 2014 at 1:32 pm

        I had the same problem, my cupcakes turned out very light and crumbly. Idk what I did wrong but at least the flavor is great. Does anybody know how to avoid this? Do I have to add more flour or something like that? I live in a high place, maybe that’s the problem :S


        • Michelle on January 28th, 2014 at 7:33 pm

          Hi Tania, If you’re baking at high altitude and not making any adjustments, then that could definitely be the issue.


          • Yanina on May 23rd, 2014 at 9:42 am

            Hi, just a question, what are the adjustmets that have to be done, i have no clue and allways have the same problem because of the hight altitude. Do we need to add more flour? less liquid? thanks


  2. Cheah on August 13, 2010 at 4:33 am

    These are just wonderful. They look so tempting that I wish I could just pull them out from the screen!


  3. Marta on August 13, 2010 at 5:15 am

    I have to try!!



  4. Kalynskitchen on August 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

    I agree about food blog search; it’s so nice to read someone else’s feedback about a recipe before you make it. Your cupcakes are making me drool here!


  5. joudie's Mood Food on August 13, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Soooooo Good! Im salivating. I could defintely do with one right now….


  6. Sarah K. @ The Pajama Chef on August 13, 2010 at 9:11 am

    These look absolutely beautiful!


  7. Ameya on August 13, 2010 at 9:18 am

    The look so tasty and elegant! Chocolate and coffee are a match made in heaven :) I love it!


  8. foodlvr on August 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I didn’t know about the food blog search. I bookmarked it. Wow. Thanks so much.

    I am glad you finally had success with the cupcakes. Can you pass me one? Oh how yummy they look. I haven’t eaten breakfast yet and could use a sugar rush.


  9. Kim - Liv Life on August 13, 2010 at 10:21 am

    LOVE the 1:1 ratio! I too am a frosting fan, and anything with a coffee flavor is even better. Thanks for the food blog link, I wasn’t aware of that either, but I can definitely see me using it for just the reasons you listed.


  10. Maria on August 13, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Your cupcakes always look perfect. I love the frosting!


  11. Tracy on August 13, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Nice recovery! :-) These cupcakes look so pretty!


  12. Maggy@ThreeManyCooks on August 13, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I can’t believe how beautiful the frosting looks! As always, wish I had your talent. These look DELICIOUS!


  13. Priscilla Tsai on August 13, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Wow, these are beautiful. Your frosting looks like satiny ribbons. I’m gonna try making these soon!


  14. Shannon on August 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    These look amazing!! I cannot wait to try these this weekend!!


  15. Debbie on August 13, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I love the way you decorated the cupcakes, those ripples of frosting are beautiful! Any words of advice on how to make those with the 1M tip?


  16. Karen on August 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    These cupcakes look amazing!! Just the other day I was thinking that I need to find a recipe for espresso buttercream – this one looks delicious. Thanks for the recipe!


  17. RavieNomNoms on August 13, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    oh my word….mocha cupcakes?! Is this what heaven is made of? Just so yummy! Love the pictures too!!


    • Emely on June 23rd, 2011 at 7:28 am

      This looks lovely


  18. Jenny Flake on August 13, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    Can I just have one right now?! They look fabulous!


  19. Mitzi on August 13, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I think my daughter and I will be baking these this weekend. They look incredible!


    • avery on July 17th, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      samewith me and my mum


  20. Michelle on August 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    What perfect cupcake! Just elegant!


  21. natalie on August 13, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    yum! i’ve always loved the combo of chocolate and coffee!! these are beautiful- love the way they are frosted!!


  22. thecoffeebreak on August 13, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Wow- these are awesome cupcakes :) Yum!!


  23. Jillyann on August 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Ok…I’ll take two dozen! These are beautiful and im sure they taste as amazing as they look!


  24. Terri on August 13, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Yum! Can’t wait to try these especially since I have been on a mocha kick lately!


  25. Elizabeth on August 13, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Yum yum yum and man! Do I wish I could pipe like you do! Mine never look that good!


  26. Jen @ Project Cookie 365 on August 13, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I really lovelovelove the icing on that ‘haphazard-y’ one. It looks so much better than a swirl! Am I right to assume that you just held the bag upright, and sort of moved it around a bit while squeezing?


  27. gal's cupcakes on August 13, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    That frosting looks perfect!!


  28. The Cilantropist on August 13, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Ok I think I have died and gone to heaven. yes, I am floating on a cloud and I have one of these cupcakes in my hand. This is my dream. :)

    Also, it looks like you more than bounced back after that epic disaster of baking, sorry to hear that happened but so glad to see I am not the only one with failures sometimes!


  29. Joanne on August 14, 2010 at 12:58 am

    I really like the sound of supersmooth buttercream. I also wonder why I do not own a 1M piping tube. I need to fix that.


  30. Azee'sKitchen on August 14, 2010 at 3:57 am

    luks yummy!!


  31. baobabs on August 14, 2010 at 6:56 am

    AMAZING photos!! but before getting amazing photos, the cupcakes are beautifully done like a PRO! I am completely in awe!


  32. I’m not a big cupcake fan, but I’ll make an exception for any that are topped with an espresso buttercream frosting. In fact, skip the cupcake and just pour the frosting in a cup for me. They’re absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for passing along the recipe.


  33. Ambika on August 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

    The cupcakes look yum! The frosting is the most gorgeos one I’ve ever seen, the most perfect texture, it almost looks like a rose on top of the cupcake, love it! Love your blog :)


  34. Cassidy on August 14, 2010 at 10:19 am

    These look lovely! I love the cake stand too!


  35. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) on August 14, 2010 at 11:43 am

    I use Food Blog Search a lot too!! These look awesome.


  36. Becka on August 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    The cupcakes look gorgeous!
    However, that cakestand… WOW! I have to get one of those, it’s amazing!!! Please tell me where you got it from! x


    • Michelle on August 17th, 2010 at 11:03 am

      Hi Becka, Thank you! The cake stand is actually from Marshall’s! Anytime I’m near a Marshall’s, TJ Maxx or Ross I take a spin through the kitchen department to see if there are any good finds. This was so cute and only $5!


    • Tammy on February 19th, 2012 at 3:51 pm

      I got one of these cake stands from Home Goods (like TJ Maxx). You can take the ribbon out and put any kind to match your theme. :)


  37. Beba on August 14, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    These are just delicious!!!! I’ve made them already, but could not make them to puff up!! what could I be doing wrong?? I checked my baking powder and soda and worked fine… could it be butter (I used sweet cream butter) ????
    Do you happen to have measurments in oz. (lbs.) for ingredients?? I am wondering, maybe my quantities varied from yours!! It would be of great help…. I will make them again, and post my measurements and see!!!


    • Tiffany on May 2nd, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Beba, I had the same thing happen to mine. They came out delicious, but I found the cake to be very light, and did not produce a dome top. The fell a bit after cooling. I even cooked them for the full 20 minutes to try and avoid that from happening. I used regular butter as well.


  38. The Chocolate Priestess on August 14, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I bet our old and new Mocha Acoyltes would love this recipe. Thank you for sharing it. Your frosting looks great! Wish I could be that fancy with decorating but I seem to have unsteady hands so I make up for looks with tons of chocolate.


  39. Evan @swEEts on August 14, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    Anything coffee flavored always sounds good to me.. these cupcakes are beautiful! And I like that you do a 1:1 ratio of icing to cupcake.. I do the same thing! Man these look good!


  40. Clare @ Mrs Multitasker on August 15, 2010 at 10:00 am

    This is some of the most beautiful icing I’ve ever seen!


  41. Sandi on August 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Made this into a cake yesterday with my teenage daughter. Although we didn’t have espresso powder, the taste was fantastic. I can’t wait to make this again! Thanks!


  42. Cookin' Canuck on August 16, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Wow! Do these ever look good. I’m certain I wouldn’t be able to eat just one. Food Blog Search is one of my favorite places to search for recipes, too.


  43. Ashley on August 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Mmm I love all the coffee and espresso that’s used in these! I love the food blog search search engine too and use it all the time. :)


  44. Ivy @ My Simple Food on August 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Wow! The frosting looks fantastic. Really wanna have a bite into it. Irresistable!


  45. Laura on August 16, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    These were easy to make and are sooooooooo great! They are even great gluten free!! Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes!


  46. Jen @ How To: Simplify on August 17, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    These cupcakes are absolutely beautiful!


  47. Susan on August 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    I love your website…and I can’t wait to try your recipes. How do you get the frosting to look so great – any advice or tips on using the 1M or other frosting tips?


    • Michelle on August 25th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Susan,

      For cupcakes I typically hold the piping bag straight up and down and then, starting on the outside, pipe a continuous circle around the outside, then into the middle, covering the top of the cupcake. Then I release and pick the bag up and do the same thing again, to create a mounded effect. I am going to be doing a series of icing, piping and decorating tutorials beginning in September, and cupcakes is on the list, so keep an eye out – there will be step by step photos and video!


      • Loli on July 23rd, 2012 at 10:44 pm

        Did you do the tutorial yet? I’m searching through your website and can only find the royal icing one.

        Thank you so much!


        • Michelle on July 28th, 2012 at 4:28 pm

          Hi Loli, Gah! No, I haven’t yet. I need to get down to it!


          • Esther on September 27th, 2013 at 10:15 am

            I really would like the tutorial as well. Looking forward to it!


            • Julieo on February 23rd, 2014 at 6:15 pm

              Me too, we have an event coming up and I would love to make these beauties!

  48. Winelady Cooks on August 21, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Oh my, these look sooooo delicious. Anything with chocolate and espresso has to be a winning recipe. You have inspired me to try these and practice my piping skills.

    Thanks for sharing,


  49. ButterYum on August 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Absolutely stunning first photo – very tempting!!



  50. LeeAt on August 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Where should I keep these gorgeous?
    Buttercream is not something you frost with here in Israel (too hot!!!) so I don’t have any information about right storage. it’s about 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). Is it safe keeping them outside the fridge or should I refrigerate them?

    {you have fans here in Israel (: }


    • Michelle on August 25th, 2010 at 10:06 pm

      Hi LeeAt,

      At 86 degrees F the buttercream would start to melt, so I would store the cupcakes in the refrigerator and then let them sit out and come to room temperature before serving.

      Enjoy the cupcakes! 


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