Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

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If you like coffee and chocolate you are in for a delight!
These chocolate cupcakes with espresso buttercream are moist, rich and the perfect marriage of flavors.

Chocolate cupcake. Doesn’t that bring a smile to your face? Cho-co-oooo-late cupcake. I just had to do it. 🙂

The nice thing about cupcakes they are made in 30 minutes from start to finish, the only kitchen special equipment required is a mixer and a cupcake tin. If you are looking for either option, click here for a handheld or stand-up mixer. Click here if you need a cupcake tin.

One more thing, I just realized I have a chocolate and espresso fascination. Or is it the perfect flavor combination and I just can’t get enough of it? If you want more chocolate and espresso treats, check out my chocolate macarons with espresso. They are amazing!

Ok, on to making cupcakes….

Tricks to Making a Great Chocolate Cupcake

These chocolate cupcakes are so rich and so moist by design. To achieve this, I used my three favorite secrets for baking anything thing chocolate: espresso powder, hot liquid, and vegetable oil. I use these three secrets every time I bake a chocolate cake or cupcake, and every time they come out perfect!

Trick One: Add a little bit of espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor. I know what you’re thinking, we’re making espresso buttercream so is that really a secret? Yes! It is the secret to achieving a rich chocolate flavor in baked goods. Not espresso flavor, but chocolate. Espresso powder adds a deep and complex flavor that enhances the chocolate flavor but does not taste like espresso (or coffee).

Trick Two: Two minutes before placing the batter in the oven, add boiling water. When hot water is stirred well into chocolate batter and dissolves any cocoa powder clumps. During this time, the liquid thickens and releases flavor particles within the powder. This is called “blooming”. This technique only works with cocoa powder and will take your chocolate cupcakes to the next level. (Pinky swear!)

Trick Three: Vegetable oil, yep, you need it for a super moist cupcake. As a bit of a food snob, it’s a really hard thing for me to buy. However, vegetable oil is a must for a moist cupcake. I actually feel better now, like I said that out loud better.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Beginner Tips to Frosting a Dramatic Cupcake

Let me start by saying I am not an expert on frosting. In fact, far from it. For most of my life, I just scrapped frosting off because I did not like it. However once I tasted homemade frosting, I liked it so much better. While I like frosting, turns out I am really bad at using a pasty bag. To improve my skills, I watched many, many videos and practiced before I took these pictures. Below are the lessons I learned to get to this point. If you are needing help read along.

Also, when I designed the recipe I decided on a mild espresso flavor. I wanted the frosting to compliment the rich chocolate cupcake and not detract from it. If you prefer a stronger flavor, just add more espresso powder.

For these cupcakes I went for a dramatic look. To achieve this I did the following:

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream with Sprinkles

Steps for Frosting a Dramatic Cupcake

  1. Start with placing the tip inside the piping bag (yeah, really, I did know that when I first used a piping bag).
    • If you’re using a coupler, place the coupler base inside the piping bag, place the tip on the outside of the bag and screw the ring into place.
  2. Place the unfilled bag into a tall drinking glass or a jar. Then fold the top of the piping bag around the glass and fill the base with frosting.
  3. Push the icing all the way down, work any air bubbles out and twist the bag closed. This step purges the air from the bag and forces the frosting into the tip.
  4. Place your dominant hand around the top of the bag. Use this hand to squeeze the frosting. Because the frosting is stiff you might need two hands to squeeze the frosting out. However only squeeze the bag from the top. Squeezing from another place could result in air bubbles.
  5. Because we are going to use the flower tip, use a 90-degree angle, meaning hold the bag straight up.
  6. Using your dominant hand from the top of the bag, squeeze a dollop of frosting in the center of the cupcake. Without breaking the stroke, move the frosting bag to the outside of the dollop and frost the perimeter of the dollop.
  7. Using a continuous movement, continue to pipe in a circle slightly inward. Continue piping, moving inward with each rotation for three full rotations. Once you reach the tip, place a small dollop to close the circle. Then release the pressure and pull the bag away.

    For additional resources, I recommend visiting the Wilton website. This video really helped me learn techniques and improve my piping skills.

Great British Baking Show Bake
Season 1, Episode 6, Signature Cupcakes

I loved this challenge, but mostly because it did not hurt my brain. It was a lot of fun to make cupcakes, super simple and super good. However, during the process, I learned a lot about frosting. Being someone who is a stronger cook than a baker, I tend to just add ingredients. I think this is the solution to any kitchen recipe. However, with frosting, adding just a teaspoon of one ingredient can change the consistency from thick to medium. Another teaspoon with changing the consistency from medium to thin. Turns out with frosting, just adding ingredients was not my smartest move.

While not my smartest move, I am glad I learned something as easy as a cupcake. It was very simple for me to make another batch and start again. Three times to be exact.

Count: 14 down, 264 to go!

Chocolate Macarons with Espresso
Chocolate macarons with espresso are melt in your mouth nuggets of French perfection!
Check out this recipe
Chocolate Macarons with Espresso
Chocolate Cupcakes

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Rich chocolate cupcakes with espresso buttercream are the perfect marriage of flavors. The buttercream has just a hint of espresso, providing a perfect subtle complement.
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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cupcakes


  • Mixer (handheld or stand)
  • Two mixing bowls
  • Muffin Tin
  • Muffin Cups
  • Whisk
  • Piping bag
  • Large flower drop piping tip (Ex. Wilton 2D)





  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare the cupcake tin with liners.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Using a whisk, mix all the ingredients well. These are your dry ingredients.
  • In a separate mixing bowl whisk the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla together. These are your wet ingredients.
  • Combine the wet and dry ingredients together. This is your batter.
  • Add the boiling/hot water to your batter, mix well, and let stand for 1- 2 minutes. Your batter will be thin.
  • Pour the batter into the tins and bake for 15 – 20 minutes. While the cupcakes are baking you can begin making the frosting.
  • Remove and allow cupcakes to fully cool before adding frosting.


  • Using the mixer, beat the butter until it is fluffy.
  • Add the confectioner's sugar, slowly, one cup at a time.
  • Add the vanilla and espresso powder.
  • Add the buttercream to the piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes.


When making the cupcakes:
  • You will want to add very hot water or boiling water and allow the batter to stand for one to two minutes.  This step helps to dissolve any cocoa powder clumps and helps make a moist cupcake.
  • When I wrote the recipe, I added a long cooking time. This is because I live at a high altitude and the cooking time is slightly different. To see if your cupcake is done you can try one of two methods:
    • Insert a toothpick and if it comes out clean, you’re done.
    • Gently tap the top of the cupcake and if the cupcake springs back with no indentation, you’re done.
When making the espresso buttercream:
  • I increased the buttercream to accommodate a dramatic frosting. If this is more frosting than you would like, feel free to adjust the recipe down. Here is an adjusted down recipe I recommend:
    • 1 cup butter
    • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
I hope you enjoy it! If you like this recipe, please let me know and give me a good rating. 
Thank you!
Keyword Buttercream, Chocolate, Chocolate Cupcake, Cupcake, Espresso
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!