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 Cupcakes

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.

One more thing: I just realized I have a fascination for chocolate and espresso. Or is it the perfect flavor combination, and I can’t get enough of it? They are amazing!

Ok, on to making cupcakes…

Pro Tricks

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 some espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor. I know what you’re thinking: we’re making espresso buttercream, so is that a secret? Yes! It is the secret to achieving a rich chocolate flavor in baked goods. It’s not an 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: Add boiling water two minutes before placing the batter in the oven. When hot water is stirred well into the 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 out loud, better.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Beginner Frosting Tips

Let me start by saying I am not an expert on frosting, I am far from it. I just scraped the frosting off for most of my life because I did not like it. However, once I tasted homemade frosting, I liked it much better. While I like frosting, I am 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 need 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, add more espresso powder.

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

  • Used a frosting that was medium-stiffness
  • Piped the frosting at a 1:1 ratio. One part cupcake to the equal part frosting.
  • I used a large flower drop tip, similar to a Wilton 2D tip.
  • I also used a reusable pastry bag.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Frosting Steps

  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 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 it out. However, only squeeze the bag from the top. Squeezing from another place could result in air bubbles.
  5. Because we will 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.
Sprinkles dropped onto cupcake.

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.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 cupcakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes


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


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ milk
  • ½ vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • cup boiling/hot water


  • 1.5 cup butter (softened)
  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp espresso powder



  • 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
Affiliate: The equipment section may contain affiliate links to products used in this recipe.

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  1. Can’t wait to make these! I’m excited about the espresso buttercream, normally I find American buttercream tooooo sweet. I bet the espresso is the perfect addition!

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