mocha chip cupcakes + coffee buttercream
There are a ton of chocolate cake recipes to weed through, and because I didn't want to reinvent the wheel, I went with my favorite - Beatty's Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten. What I did remember about the cake is that the batter is kind of runny, which is a testament to the magical powers of buttermilk, but I was unsure how I was going to transfer the batter to cupcake liners without dumping an entire batch onto my stove. I decided to go the easy route and just add flour to give the batter some body, hoping that it didn't dry out the cupcakes or give them that awkward floury taste/mouth-feel. Fortunately the extra 3/4s of a cup of flour didn't hurt a thing, and these cupcakes turned out splendidly! I made an extra-dark cup of coffee to add in and enhance the "mocha" feel of the cake, and I also added some chocolate chips to the batter, hoping that it would add a few pockets of melty semi-sweet goodness.
The coffee buttercream was an experiment. I was not going to go out of my way to make icing for this competition, primarily because I'm impatient but also because I have found that sometimes the final result doesn't always justify the effort. I'm not going to whisk egg whites over a double-boiler because Martha thinks I should, and I'm not going to buy instant coffee when I would never buy it or use it except for this cupcake experiment. So I used the basic technique provided in the apple cider buttercream recipe, and I was VERY pleased with the results. The recipes are available below, just click "read more"! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
UPDATE: These cupcakes helped me win 2nd place in my neighborhood cupcake wars! I was beat out by a peanut butter s'mores cupcake.
Mocha Chip Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream
adapted from Food Network.com and my own brain
Mocha Chip Cupcakes
1 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 cup (approx) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop and pour the batter into prelined cupcake pans, or until they are about 2/3s full. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips (8-10) around the top of the batter.
Bake for 20-23 minutes or until a toothpick comes out (mostly) clean; it won't ever come out totally clean because of the melty chocolate chips. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes and then remove from cupcake pan. Let cool thoroughly before icing.
This recipe makes 24 regular cupcakes, 12 regular and 24 mini cupcakes, or 48 mini cupcakes. If you're baking minis, reduce the cooking time to 12-14 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Also, don't use as many chocolate chips.
1/3-1/2 cup strong coffee (please read ahead for my process!)
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 and 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp good vanilla
1 tsp coffee or espresso grounds
Strong coffee: I use a pour over filter method when I make coffee, but I know not everyone does that. To make a strong, concentrated coffee which will impart delicious flavor to the buttercream requires that you not only brew coffee, but steep the steaming hot coffee with two tablespoons of coffee grounds for a few minutes. Then you'll carefully refilter it through a new filter, or strain the coffee grounds out of the liquid using a fine-mesh strainer. Of course you could always use a French press or even make your own espresso. Whatever works best for you!
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and confectioner's sugar. Cream together on low speed for 1 minute or until incorporated, add the vanilla. Once cooled to room temperature, add 1/4 cup of the strong coffee. Mix all of this together on medium high speed for 3-4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. My personal experience with frosting is that once is starts to make noise in the mixer, it's perfectly fluffed. You'll hear it smacking against the paddle and sides of the bowl. I don't mean to get all Rachel Ray on you, but food does speak to you. With the mixer on low, add 1-2 tbsp of the additional strong coffee and the coffee/espresso grounds, one at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired spreading consistency and the grounds look evenly incorporated.
Put the buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a large icing tip and decorate your cupcakes according to your preference! I added a few chocolate chips on top for decoration.