I abstain from coffee, just as I do with alcohol and soda. Add to that my love for the Love Taza blog and guilty-pleasure viewing of TLC’s Sister Wives and I might as well be Mormon. Brian has chosen other plans for me. Emphasis on “chosen.”
As much as I can’t stand coffee, my friend Kate loves the stuff. I’m talking obsessed. So when it came time to bake something for her 25th birthday, I knew some sort of coffee confection needed to be involved. That’s how good of a friend I am. I’d like to think these mocha cupcakes with salted caramel frosting (another one of Kate’s loves) took me from good friend to greatest.
The beauty in these cupcakes is in the cake-mix base. I was working against the clock on the morning of Kate’s birthday, so I reached for a box of chocolate fudge cake mix to give me a head start. Sometimes we need all of the help we can get. You can check out other “halfway homemade” recipes here.
I prepared the cake batter as instructed on the package, but made a few simple changes. I swapped out the water for coffee that I let cool down to room temperature, and added 1 packet of instant coffee granules to the mix. That was it.
Bake the cupcakes for the time instructed and let cool.
I’m partial to a lighter coffee flavor, but you can substitute the packet of instant coffee for a tablespoon of instant espresso powder if you have it on hand and prefer something stronger.
While the beauty in these mocha cupcakes is in the ease of the cake, the best part is definitely the salted caramel frosting. Whenever I’m using a cake mix, I like to make up for it with something more elaborate on top.
Kate loves salted caramel too, so using this cream-cheese-based frosting recipe from Baked Bree was a no-brainer. It’s full of fanciful flavor and involves little to no work. I didn’t have homemade salted caramel on hand, so I used a jar of Smucker’s caramel and sea salt instead. Full details below.
Pipe the cupcakes with frosting, drizzle with more caramel, and sprinkle on ground coffee for looks and more of that taste you all seem to love so much.
I have to say, for as little time as I had to throw these together, I was very pleased with the results. I didn’t sample one myself, because I really mean it when I say I don’t like coffee. But they looked great and everyone, including the birthday girl, seemed to love them. Mission accomplished.
Let’s hope this new week is similarly successful. Happy Monday!
- 1 box chocolate fudge or devil's food cake mix
- oil and eggs as called for on package
- replace water with coffee at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder or 1 packet instant coffee powder
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 8oz package cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup caramel sauce (I used Smuckers)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 to 3 teaspoons milk
- more caramel for topping cupcakes
- ground coffee for sprinkling
- Swap out water called for on cake mix package and replace with equivalent volume of coffee cooled to room temperature.
- Make cake batter as instructed on package and add instant espresso or instant coffee powder.
- Fill 2 cupcake tins and bake as instructed.
- In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and cream cheese and beat on medium until light and fluffy.
- Add caramel and sea salt, beat for 30 seconds.
- One cup at a time, add powdered sugar, mix until combined.
- If frosting is thicker than you'd like, try adding milk one teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Pipe frosting onto cupcakes, top with more caramel and sprinkle with ground coffee.