Moist, homemade Coffee Cupcakes made with instant espresso powder and hot coffee come together in under 1 hour. You’ll love these cupcakes topped with creamy and fluffy vanilla bean espresso buttercream speckled with vanilla seeds and espresso. These easy to make cupcakes will be your new favorite treat to satisfy your coffee craving!
You’ll want to trade your morning cup of coffee for a bite of these homemade coffee cupcakes. I love baking cupcakes for a quick weeknight treat, and these cupcakes will not disappoint. A light and airy vanilla bean espresso buttercream adds the crowning touch!
As a trained pastry chef, I love taking favorite flavors (hello coffee!) and creating desserts with a twist for quick and easy baked goods. Just like in my chocolate coffee cake, hot coffee and espresso powder provide bold flavors for these cupcakes. It’s a recipe you won’t want to miss!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Vanilla bean espresso buttercream. Most coffee cupcakes are topped with traditional coffee buttercream. But what makes these cupcakes stand out is the vanilla bean espresso buttercream. You can see the vanilla seeds and espresso specks throughout, and the flavor is irresistible!
- Made in under 1 hour. Ditch the boxed mix. This homemade cupcake recipe is quick and easy to fit your busy schedule. No fuss here!
- Versatile recipe. Make these cupcakes into a single layer 9x9-inch cake or mini cupcakes. No need to change up anything but the pan and baking time.
Ingredients You'll Need
These easy coffee cupcakes require basic everyday baking ingredients, and one specialty ingredient (instant espresso) which is readily available. If you’re a coffee lover, you won’t want to miss out on these cupcakes. Here’s what you need:
- All-purpose flour. Gives the right amount of tenderness to the cupcakes (not too dense and not too cakey).
- Sugar. We’re using granulated sugar to sweeten the cake batter. Powdered sugar sweetens the frosting and creates a smooth and creamy consistency.
- Instant espresso powder. The key ingredient for the coffee flavor in these cupcakes and buttercream. If you prefer a coffee flavor that’s not as strong, you can use instant coffee.
- Baking soda and baking powder. Leavening agents that contribute to the rise of the cupcakes for a light and fluffy texture.
- Salt. Enhances the flavors of the other ingredients, especially the sweetness.
- Buttermilk. Adds moisture and richness to the cake and creates a tender crumb. The acidity of buttermilk activates the baking soda.
- Coffee. Contributes to the coffee flavor in the cupcakes. Feel free to use regular or decaf coffee.
- Vegetable oil. Adds moisture and creates soft and tender cupcakes. The oil gives a lighter texture to the cupcakes compared to butter. Use vegetable oil or any mild oil.
- Eggs. Adds richness (especially the extra egg yolk) and contributes to the rise of the cupcakes.
- Vanilla bean paste. Contributes to the flavors of the cupcakes and frosting. It’s the perfect combination of pure vanilla extract and vanilla pods.
- Butter. Adds a delicious flavor to the espresso buttercream. Stick with unsalted butter to control the amount of salt and bring to room temperature.
- Heavy cream. You’ll need a bit to thin out the frosting for the perfect spreadable consistency. Feel free to use any milk.
Easy Ingredient Swaps
- Sour cream. Switch out the buttermilk for an equal amount of sour cream. It’ll still add moisture and richness to the cupcakes.
- Pure vanilla extract. Substitute an equal amount of the vanilla extract for the vanilla bean paste. I highly recommend pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
Helpful Tools for Making Homemade Cupcakes
- Muffin pan. If using a dark-coated pan, set the oven temperature to 325°F/177°C to prevent your cupcakes from burning.
- Cupcake liners. Using grease-proof liners prevents the cupcakes from sticking to the wrappers.
- Digital kitchen scale or measuring cups. A scale makes it easy to measure ingredients with consistent results.
- Measuring spoons.
- Mixer. You’ll need a mixer for the frosting (a handheld or stand mixer will work!).
- Mixing bowls.
- Rubber spatula.
- Decorating tools. A small offset spatula or pastry bag is helpful but optional for decorating the cupcakes.
How to Make Coffee Cupcakes
Before you begin: Bring all ingredients to room temperature and read the recipe from start to finish. Preheat the oven to 350°F/177°C and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk the flour, sugar, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Mix the wet ingredients. Whisk the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg, yolk, and vanilla.
Combine ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk.
Divide and bake. Fill the liners halfway with batter and bake.
How to Make Vanilla Bean Espresso Buttercream
Beat butter. Beat until smooth and creamy.
Add sugar. Mix in the powdered sugar and espresso powder.
Add vanilla and cream. Mix in the vanilla and enough cream until desired consistency. Beat for 3-4 minutes until light and airy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Note: We’re not dissolving the espresso powder for our buttercream so we can see the beautiful specks throughout the frosting. If you prefer, you can dissolve it in the cream before adding it to your buttercream.
Don't Skip These Cupcake Baking Tips
Cupcakes are perfect for any baking skill level. To ensure you get perfect cupcakes every time, follow these essential baking tips and tricks:
- Weigh your ingredients. Using a scale takes the guesswork out of measuring and always gives consistent results.
- Use room temperature ingredients. Be sure to bring ALL your ingredients (except the coffee) to room temperature (even your eggs!). This will allow your ingredients to be incorporated evenly and smoothly.
- Fill cupcake cavities ½ full. You can use a cookie scoop or pastry bag. Overfilling will cause the cupcakes to spill or rise quickly and collapse in the middle.
- Bounce-back test. You can always check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of a cupcake to see if it comes out clean. Otherwise, gently press down on the cupcake. If it bounces back, then the cupcakes are ready!
- Cool cupcakes completely. Decorate your cupcakes with the buttercream once the cupcakes are at room temperature. Otherwise, the frosting will start to melt if they’re still warm.
2 Easy Ways To Frost Cupcakes
When it comes to decorating cupcakes, there are no specific rules. Decorating is meant to be fun! Regardless of your skill level, here are two simple techniques to guide you.
- No pastry bag. Scoop a dollop of frosting on a cupcake. Use a knife, the back of a spoon, or a small offset spatula to spread the frosting in an even layer.
- Classic swirl. Place a large round pastry tip or large closed star tip in a disposable pastry bag. Snip enough of the end off so half of the pastry tip comes out. Fill your bag with frosting, and starting at the edge of the cupcake, pipe the frosting in a swirl, finishing in the center of the cupcake.
Note: Cover your cupcakes with frosting close to the edges. The frosting helps to keep the moisture in the cupcakes.
Ideas for Variations
- Mocha cupcakes. Replace 65 g (½ cup) of all-purpose flour with 40 g (½ cup) of Dutch process cocoa for mocha flavored cupcakes. You could also replace the buttercream with fudge frosting from my favorite chocolate cake.
- Filled cupcakes. Biting into a filled cupcake is always a fun surprise. Hollow out the centers of the cupcakes with the same process as these strawberry cupcakes and fill them with extra espresso frosting.
- Silky smooth frosting. If you love Swiss meringue buttercream (it’s less sweet than traditional American buttercream and also silky smooth), feel free to substitute it for the frosting. You can still add the instant espresso powder after all the ingredients have been mixed!
How to Store and Prep Ahead
We love coffee cupcakes for a weeknight dessert. They are easy to make, you can prep ahead, and store any leftovers. Here’s all you need to do to fit your busy schedule:
- Make ahead. Store the completely cooled cupcakes in an airtight container overnight. You can prepare the buttercream up to 1 week in advance and store it in the refrigerator. Bring the frosting to room temperature, re-whip it, and frost the cupcakes for an easy coffee-flavored treat!
- Leftover cupcakes. Store your cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Any longer than that, transfer to the refrigerator (they will hold well in the fridge for up to 5 days).
How to Freeze Cupcakes for Easy Prep
Not only can you bake these cupcakes the day before, but, you can also store them in the freezer for a last-minute dessert. Leftovers? You can freeze those too. Here’s how:
- Unfrosted cupcakes. Individually wrap cooled cupcakes with plastic wrap and store them in a freezer-safe container or resealable bag. You can freeze these cupcakes for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, thaw at room temperature and frost.
- Frosted cupcakes. Store cupcakes in a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before serving.
Note: You can also make vanilla bean espresso buttercream ahead of time and freeze. Place it in an airtight container and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw the frosting overnight in the fridge and bring it to room temperature, re-whip and decorate your cupcakes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Overfilling the cupcake cavities can cause cupcakes to sink. Other reasons include expired leavening agents or an overmixed batter.
Sure! Replace the hot coffee with room temperature cold brew for a bolder flavor. You can also use decaf coffee.
Yes! You can bake the batter in a greased and floured 9x9-inch square baking pan for 25-27 minutes.
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I hope you love these Coffee Cupcakes with Vanilla Espresso Buttercream as much as we do and they become a family favorite! Please leave a comment below, I love reading your feedback. And if you’d like to make this recipe later, don’t forget to pin it on Pinterest. Happy Baking!Print