The first time I ordered a cup of coffee at a French cafe, I simply asked for “un café.” The waiter promptly brought out a tiny cup, the size of a shot glass, filled with some very black looking coffee. I smiled and pretended like I wasn’t a tourist who was seeing the smallest cup of coffee she’d ever seen in her life. One sip was all it took to finish the coffee and keep me awake and alert for the rest of the day.
I realized the coffee was really just some strong espresso, and that the tiny cup it was served in was customary for an order of un café. I later learned that if you wanted a milder version of coffee served in an actual mug, you needed to ask for un café Americain.
Most French people don’t understand why Americans drink a watered down version of coffee, as they prefer the taste of espresso. I’ve come to understand their point of view and often side with them, especially when it comes to something like these espresso chocolate cupcakes.
These cupcakes prove that espresso can be quite delicious!
After one too many shots of espresso in Paris, I’ve learned to appreciate the art of enjoying coffee in its most potent form in small portions.
After all, this is the French approach to everything, non? Enjoy the good stuff (full fat, cream, butter, sugar), but in moderation. It’s an approach I imagine many would want to take with these espresso chocolate cupcakes, even if their willpower begs to differ.
These espresso chocolate cupcakes are rich and decadent in every way you could imagine. While the taste of espresso is apparent, the espresso’s importance in this recipe is more for the sake of enhancing the chocolate flavor in these cupcakes.
These cupcakes are one of my favorite ways to enjoy chocolate on chocolate.
The actual cake part of these espresso chocolate cupcakes is supremely moist, which has a lot to do with the half and half in this recipe.
It also has to do with the fact that you bake these cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center almost comes out clean. A few crumbs lingering on the toothpick is preferred, as over-baked cupcakes are no fun.
The espresso chocolate frosting on top is absolutely divine and will have you licking your fingers with complete abandon. It’s smooth, shiny, luscious, and represents everything we adore when it comes to chocolate.
Think of these espresso chocolate cupcakes as the more refined, adult-version of cupcakes to enjoy at your next birthday, anniversary, or just simply because.
Espresso Chocolate Cupcakes
for the cupcake
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 c hottest tap water
- 1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 1/3 cup half-and-half
for the frosting
- 100 g dark chocolate 3.5 oz
- 150 g unsalted butter 5 oz., softened
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1/8 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp instant espresso powder
To make the cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Beat the sugar and unsalted butter until smooth and fluffy - about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and eggs, and mix again until combined.
Add the flour, baking soda, and salt, and whisk the mixture to blend everything together.
In a separate bowl, add the hot tap water, cocoa powder, and instant espresso powder. Mix everything until the powders have dissolved. Pour this into the batter and mix.
Finally, mix in the half and half, then distribute the batter among the cupcake liners, filling each liner 2/3 full.
Bake the cupcakes for approximately 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out relatively clean (with just a few crumbs). Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
To make the frosting
Melt the chocolate for 30 seconds in the microwave. Stir the chocolate to get it completely smooth. Transfer this chocolate to another bowl so that it cools faster.
In the meanwhile, beat the unsalted butter with the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and espresso powder.
Add in the cooled melted chocolate. Mix to combine. Refrigerate the frosting to so that it can stiffen up just a bit before applying to the cupcakes.
If your frosting looks too stiff, feel free to add in a teaspoon or two of brewed coffee (or milk). If it's too loose, you can add in more powdered sugar.