These cupcakes have haunted my daydreams for the past two weeks. Last night, my daydreams came true.The cakes are moist and rich and oh, so chocolatey. The frosting is smooth and sweet and so rich it will make you sweat. But don’t worry, it won’t be an embarrassing back sweat. You’ll just perspire a bit in the tiniest, happiest way on your cheekbones. That really happens to me when I eat something as decadently rich and aaaaamazing as these cupcakes. It happens to my mom, too. It’s a genetic thing, I suppose.
What makes these cupcakes so special? I think it’s the espresso powder. Or the double-dutch dark cocoa powder. Maybe both. Anytime you mix coffee and chocolate, you’ve got a good thing started.
Speaking of ingredients, I want to share a secret with you. I think it can take average baking to excellent. It’s Mexican vanilla. The sorta expensive stuff in the big bottle with a red rooster on the screw top. Red rooster vanilla, is what we “in the know” call it. It’s worth every penny! I’ll buy store-brand milk and canned veggies and sliced cheese until I die or learn better, but I will never again spend less than $15 when I buy my vanilla. Interesting history… my grandparents first found this stuff in Matamoros, Mexico, and would bring back a box of bottles to share with friends and family. I think they paid something like 4 bucks a bottle. Don’t I wish they still went to Mexico!
P.S. The label does say La Vencedora. Perhaps that’s its real name…
Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes
by Joy the Baker
Makes 12 cupcakes or 6 regular-size plus about 16 mini
For the Cupcakes:
1 c. plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. double-dutch cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 c. buttermilk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
For the Buttercream:
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. hot water
1 tsp. espresso powder
Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside. In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, being careful not to overmix.
Spoon batter into the prepared cups and place in the oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cup comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then place on a wire rack until completely cooled.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and one-third of the powdered sugar. Beat until thick and incorporated (note: my butter wasn’t completely softened, so I had trouble getting to this point, until I added the espresso powder-vanilla-water mixture). In a tiny bowl, stir together vanilla, hot water and espresso powder, until powder is dissolved. Add the remaining sugar, and the espresso powder, to the bowl. Beat on medium speed until smooth and slightly fluffy. Spread on cooled cupcakes.
In my kitchen, it’s not all cute little cupcakes with perfect poofs of frosting on top. Case in point pictured below. I don’t make cupcakes often. Apparently I overfilled the cups. There is a bright side. We can’t share such ugly cupcakes, so they’re all for us!