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This past Tuesday was a significant milestone for my boyfriend and I. He successfully defended his PhD after 6 years of hard work. People who have done PhDs know this is not an easy task. I am super proud of him. He is a great speaker and he presented his work with confidence and passion on Tuesday. At first I was nervous for him, but as the presentation went on I knew I had nothing to worry about. His PI was very proud as well and it was lovely to see so many people congratulating him on his great talk afterwards. I was so happy and thankful to see the support he got on Tuesday at the talk and at the pub night after.

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I need to be more consistent with my cookie crumbs sprinkling!

The past few months was really tough for him and for us as a couple too. He was juggling with thesis writing, paper revisions, and learning new things for his new job. I was busy with baking, training for the HM, and weddings. But we made it! Through this tough time, we learned a lot as a couple and our relationship grew even stronger. Communication and patience were key! I am sure there will be more grown-up issues that will hit us in the future but I know we will be able to work through it together. Now I am just looking forward to do all the fun things together without the PhD stress!

For his defense celebration I wanted to make something decadent. I thought maybe something with coffee because the caffeine would be a nice pick-me-up in the afternoon. One of the reasons I love browsing at Winners/Homesense is you sometimes find unexpected cool things like the bottle of coffee extract I used for these cupcake. I’ve never heard of coffee extracts before. I did some googling and people said they have used them to flavour ice creams and frostings. So I decided to experiment with my favourite chocolate cupcake recipe. This chocolate cupcake recipe already had 1 tsp of espresso powder in it. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to replace 1/2 tsp powder with 1 tsp of coffee extract! If you didn’t know the secret to chocolate cupcakes already let me tell you…coffee brings out the chocolate flavour!

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For the buttercream, I used 1/2 tsp of coffee extract instead of the 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract for a little more coffee flavour. I made some espresso chocolate chip cookies and cut them up into quarters to place them on top of the cupcake.  I also mashed up some cookies and sprinkled the crumbs on top 🙂 The chocolate espresso cookie decoration is optional! I have a thing with topping cupcakes with cookies. I love how the icing softens the cookies and adds a different texture to the icing when eaten together. My boyfriend and our friends loved this cupcake! You could really taste the coffee/espresso in the buttercream and it went super well with the moist chocolaty cupcake! It’s definitely one of my favourite.

Chocolate cupcakes with espresso buttercream and chocolate espresso cookies

(Adapted from Add a pinch, Brown Eyed Baker, Desserts Required)

Yields 12-14 cupcakes

For the cookies:

1¾ cups (219 grams) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons instant espresso powder
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips – I used about 5-6 ounces of mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and espresso powder together and set aside.
  3. Place butter, both brown sugars and sugar in large mixing bowl. Beat for 3 minutes, scraping bowl down as needed. Add egg and vanilla.
  4. Blend in dry ingredients. Lastly, add chocolate chips. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes to help hold their shape.
  5. Use a ½ tablespoon cookie dough scoop to scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets.
  6. Bake in 350° oven for 8 minutes, rotating baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Remove from oven and cool on pans.
  7. Cut cookies into quarters for decoration.

For the cupcakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon espresso powder
½ cup milk (2% or 3.25%, room temperature)
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg (room temperature)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee extract
½ cup boiling water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
  2. Place cupcake liners in muffin tin. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Don’t forget to BOIL WATER!
  4. Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.
  5. Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, coffee extract, and vanilla extract to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined (Very important to use a hand or stand mixer here or cupcake won’t rise as nice). Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.
  6. Evenly distribute cake batter. Each cupcake liner should be about ¾ full.
  7. Place in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool completely.

For the buttercream:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coffee extract
1½ teaspoons espresso powder

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk 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 1 cup 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 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix at medium-high speed until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary. Frost the cupcakes as desired.
  4. To decorate: Crush some cookies and sprinkle the crumbs on top of the icing. Place a quarter of the cookie on top!

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