Mocha Cupcakes

Sometimes I wonder who came up with different flavor combinations, like coffee and chocolate. Although I live a caffeine- and chocolate-free life, mocha is still a delicious flavor, and it’s really nice to bake with for the heavenly aroma that floats around my kitchen. Mocha also reminds me of tiramisu, my absolute favorite dessert, which I still eat despite its migraine risk. I figure that a tiramisu-triggered migraine would be totally worth it…but fortunately, I haven’t had one from it. Fingers crossed that this remains true for the rest of my life.

These mocha cupcakes are adapted from a recipe I found at Brown Eyed Baker, another Pittsburgh-based baking blog. Although I didn’t have whole milk, which the original recipe required, I used an interesting combination of 7/8 skim to 1/8 heavy cream. I added heavy cream to the frosting as well, along with more espresso powder than the original recipe…and let me tell you, it is crazy delicious. I could actually see it as a nice complement to plain chocolate cupcakes, or even the right vanilla cupcake. These treats were very well-received at work this week.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup coffee, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup milk*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature

*As noted above, the original recipe calls for whole milk, but I only had skim and heavy cream on hand, which I used in a 7/8 skim, 1/8 heavy cream ratio.

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons heavy cream

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 18 cupcakes.

In a medium-sized glass measuring cup, whisk together coffee and espresso powder until the powder is completely dissolved. Add milk and vanilla and stir to combine, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and mix to combine, scraping down your bowl at least once. Add flour mixture and coffee/milk mixture in alternate batches, starting and ending with the flour and mixing just to combine between each. Stir with a spatula to ensure that all the flour mixture is incorporated.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into the cupcake wells, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, then remove cupcakes from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, combine espresso powder, vanilla extract, and heavy cream in a small bowl and stir to completely dissolve the espresso powder. Beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, then add powdered sugar all at once and beat until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add espresso mixture and beat 2-3 minutes until completely combined; you’ll want to scrape your bowl a few times in the process.

Fit a large piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe swirls of frosting on each cupcake. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Maple Pumpkin Cupcakes

While scrolling through Pinterest a few weeks ago, I found adorable cupcakes frosted to look like pies. What better time to bake such a treat than the start of Thanksgiving week? I’ll bake actual pies on Wednesday (apple and pumpkin, an annual tradition), but Mike will take these treats to work with him tomorrow.

I’ve gone for a maple pumpkin flavor profile in these treats, and truth be told, the flavors could be stronger. A little more spice in the cupcakes, perhaps a dash of maple extract along with the syrup in the buttercream, and we’ll be in business. They still taste great and have a lovely texture, but right now they’re more of a spice cupcake with a hint of maple than the bolder flavors I’d planned. That’s the beauty of baking, though; there’s always a next time.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin spice*
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 plus 2-3 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • 3-4 teaspoons milk
  • Brown, orange, red, and golden yellow gel food coloring

*If you don’t have pumpkin spice, you can make your own. Combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoons each of ginger and allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg; this will yield 2 1/4 teaspoons of spice. I make my own blend and keep it in a small jar year-round. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; my recipe yielded 14 cupcakes.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin spice.

In a large glass measuring cup, combine pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract. Mix well, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Stir until well-combined and smooth.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, fill cupcake wells about 3/4 full.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven; immediately remove from tins and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the powdered sugar, all at once, then beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take several minutes.

Add salt, vanilla, and maple syrup, then beat on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes, until very light and fluffy, scraping the sides of the bowl very well at least a few times.

Divide frosting into portions for orange, brown, and white; you’ll need just a small amount of white (about 1/4 cup) and about equal portions of orange and brown. To make orange, combine orange food coloring with brown and golden yellow, then add a few drops of red and stir, adding more color to reach your desired shade if necessary. To make brown, combine brown food coloring with golden yellow and stir, adding more color to reach your desired shade if necessary.

Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and fill with orange frosting; pipe into cupcakes and smooth the surface so it’s flat (or just frost with an offset spatula).

I used several different frosting tips for my pie crust details, including a petal tip, a leaf tip, and a star tip. I think I liked the leaf tip best. Fit a piping bag with the tip of your choice fill with brown frosting; pipe around the edge of each cupcake to make the crust detail.

Fit a small piping bag with a star tip and fill with white frosting; pipe a blob in the center of each cupcake to look like whipped cream.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Note: my orange frosting started to look mottled the day after these were baked, but it still tasted delicious. Makes 14.

Bloody Murder Cupcakes

Due to inclement weather, trick-or-treating has been postponed in many neighborhoods around Pittsburgh. Cue outrage! I do have to admit that in my childhood we went trick-or-treating exclusively on Halloween, regardless of the weather. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor freezing temperatures kept children of the 1980s inside on Halloween night. Out we went with coats over our costumes or sweatshirts underneath, prowling the neighborhood in eldest-child-lead packs (I truly have no recollection of ever trick-or-treating with my parents), returning soaked and half frozen with pillow cases full of candy bars we had to break in half before eating, lest they be laced with razor blades. Ahh, the 80s.

But times are different now, and in all fairness it really is horrible out tonight. In any case, to celebrate this Halloween, I’ve whipped up some bloody murder cupcakes, a new take on the crime scene cupcakes I’ve made previously, thanks to some candy decoration weapons. Mike is very excited to take these to work in the morning.

 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting, blood spatter, and weapons

  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Wilton Halloween weapon candy decorations*

*I had the variety pack, which featured knives, axes, and meat cleavers and I bought at my local Target. Fun!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe can yield 12-16 cupcakes depending on how full you fill the wells. Now that I’ve baked this, I recommend filling the wells about half full, rather than three-quarters full as I did tonight.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to fill the cupcake wells about half full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

Prepare the frosting and fit a 14-inch piping bag with a large plain tip. Pipe generous portions of frosting onto each cupcake, then flatten out each blob with a small offset spatula.

Stir together raspberry jam and red gel food coloring to your desired bloody shade.

Using a teaspoon from your flatware, drop, drizzle, or splatter jam onto each cupcake. If you like, lightly drag a toothpick through the jam splatters to extend the splattered effect. Place a candy weapon on top.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Coffee & Walnut Cupcakes

I’ve never been a coffee person. Tea is my warm beverage of choice, especially now in caffeine-free migraine life.  But even before I went caffeine-free, I’d really only liked coffee in baked goods, like my favorite dessert, tiramisu.

While coffee and walnut seems like a more American combination to me, this recipe actually comes from Baking with Mary Berry, which Mike gave me for my birthday this year. I’ve seen several coffee and walnut combinations on British food sites, right up there with the Victoria sponge, the Battenburg cake, and various fruitcakes. My batch turned out okay, just a bit on the dry side. The original recipe called for extra large eggs, but I only had large on hand – I suspect the extra large eggs give a bit more volume and moisture to the cupcakes, so next time I’ll definitely use them. That’s the beauty of baking; even “mistakes” can turn out delicious.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
  • 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups self-rising flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

For the frosting

  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 2 teaspoons boiling water
  • 7 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 12 walnut halves, toasted*

*Mary’s original recipe doesn’t include toasted walnuts, but I prefer toasted nuts to raw ones for flavor and texture.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners; my batch yielded 13 cupcakes, so I used two tins.

In a mixing bowl, combine coffee granules and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add butter, flour, sugar, milk, and eggs and beat until combined. Stir in walnuts.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake tins. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting, in a mixing bowl, combine coffee granules and boiling water, stirring to combine. Add butter and powdered sugar, beating on low speed for a few minutes, then on medium speed for a few more minutes, to combine completely. Scrape your bowl a few times to avoid streaks of dissolved coffee.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop frosting onto cupcakes and spread with an offset spatula. Top with a toasted walnut half.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. The original recipe yields 12, but mine yielded 13.

Spiced Apple Cupcakes

Fall begins tomorrow, and I am ready. As a person who appreciates all seasons, I welcome the changing leaves, crisp evening air, and an excuse to bake with delicious fall favorites like apples, pumpkins, and one of my favorite spices, nutmeg. Apples feature heavily in many fall desserts, but these cupcakes feature an easy pantry staple that also lends great, tender texture: applesauce.

I found this recipe at Cooking Classy and adapted it slightly to cut down its size, adjust the spice level, and add a vanilla caramel buttercream rather than a cream cheese frosting (which would also be delicious). The cupcakes themselves carry more of a spice flavor than an apple flavor, but are quite delicious with a very tender crumb. The frosting has a subtle caramel flavor that brings a nice balance of sweetness to the warm spice in the cupcakes. Next time, I’d love to try this recipe as a whole cake, served with warm apple compote and whipped cream. Stay tuned!

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Heaping 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened applesauce

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup caramel sauce
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. With the mixer running on low, add the applesauce. Turn off the mixer and stir in flour until just combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into liners, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 20-21 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from tin; place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, beat butter in a mixer for about 1 minute, then add powdered sugar and mix on low, then medium speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add caramel, heavy cream, and vanilla and beat well, about 3-4 minutes.

Fit a large piping bag with a large plain tip; pipe a generous blob of frosting onto each cupcake. You’ll have plenty of frosting left over for another use; I may make a second batch of these cupcakes for mine!

Store in an airtight container at a cool room temperature, or in the fridge. Makes 12.

Orange Cupcakes

Mike turned 42 this past Sunday. Each year I ask him what he’d like me to bake, and his answer is usually chocolate chip cookies. Then I force him to choose something different, and this year, he picked orange cupcakes. Not just any orange cupcakes, though – an homage to the Hostess cupcakes of our childhood, complete with a squiggle of white frosting across the top.

There are several copycat Hostess orange cupcake recipes out there, and this is a hybrid of several, plus my own take on the filling and frosting. I used buttercream frosting, rather than the fondant-like topping available on the store-bought version, and I’m glad I did. The cupcakes turned out a bit dry, and they needed the extra moisture from the filling and frosting. They tasted amazing, but next time I think I’ll use a cupcake recipe that’s oil-based, rather than butter-based, for a softer texture. You’ll have filling and frosting left over, which you can store at room temperature in airtight containers for 2-3 days for another use.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 1/2 medium oranges
  • juice from 1 medium orange
  • 2 tablespoons milk

For the filling

  • 4 teaspoons butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • yellow and red food coloring, for tinting

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter on medium for 1 minute. Add sugar and orange zest, beating until fluffy. Add egg and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Add flour mixture and orange juice and milk in three alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely before filling and frosting.

To make the filling, beat butter and shortening together until combined. Add powdered sugar in small batches, beating until combined.  Once all sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for two minutes. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and beat to combine; you may want to add more vanilla to taste, depending on your preference.

To make the frosting, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, then add powdered sugar all at once. Beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add orange extract, vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of milk, beating for about 1-2 minutes to combine. Add additional milk to reach a smooth consistency that will be easy to pipe and spread. Reserve about 1/4 cup frosting for white squiggle; tint the remaining frosting a yellow-orange. I used golden yellow gel food coloring with one drop of liquid red to get my desired shade.

To assemble, use a sharp knife (a melon baller did not work well for these cupcakes, I have to say) to core each cupcake. Place filling in a piping bag and generously fill each hole.

Place orange frosting in a large piping bag fitted with a large plain tip and generously pipe a blob on the top of each cupcake, then flatten it out with an offset spatula.

Place white frosting in a small piping bag with pipe the squiggle on the top of each cupcake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 12 cupcakes.

Turkey Cupcakes

My nephew Roman loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and these adorable little turkeys are on their way to North Carolina, along with my mom, for his Thanksgiving. I cannot get over how cute they are.

There are plenty of turkey cupcake decorating ideas out there, but I chose the M&M version for ease of completion. You can create their beaks, wattles, and feathers with the same candy, though I recommend buying a larger bag so you have enough for the whole batch. I used several different designs for their feathers, as you can see in the photo below, but I think the stand-up version – where you place the candies vertically instead of pressing them flat into the frosting – yields the best look.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make frosting and hand-frost the tops of the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe a blob for the face, then pipe additional frosting around the top edge of the cupcake to make it easier to place the candies.

Add candy eyeballs, then use a yellow M&M for the beak, red for the wattle, and the colors of your choice for the feathers. I used two different methods for the feathers; I pressed some directly into the frosting flat, while I stood others up vertically, using the frosting as sort of a bolster. I prefer the second method, as the candies look more feather-like that way.

Store in an airtight container and serve within a few days. The moisture from the cupcakes and frosting will affect the candies after a while.

Makes 13. Below is a look at the flock for Roman!