Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

Espresso Chocolate Cupcakes

Remember the espresso pots de creme I posted a while ago? I turned them into cupcakes here and they are really delicious. I started with a traditional chocolate cupcake batter and added some instant espresso powder to it. The frosting is a simple buttercream flavored with espresso powder as well. As a finish I drizzled coffee sauce made from coffee liqueur and cream over the frosting. I couldn’t stop eating these guys!

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 8 tablespoon butter at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
For the espresso frosting:
  • 1½ cups confectioner's sugar
  • 10 tablespoons softened butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream (plus more, if needed)
For the coffee sauce:
  • ¼ cup coffee liqueur (I used Kapali)
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
Instructions:
For the cupcakes:
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder together in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl whisk boiling water, cocoa powder and espresso powder together until dissolved. Set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar until well combined.
  5. Add vanilla and egg to the butter/cream mix and continue to beat until well combined and slightly creamy.
  6. Add the flour mix to the butter mix and beat until well combined (I quickly mix it in with a rubber spatula first, then continue to beat with the electric mixer. That way I don't have flour dust flying all over the place).
  7. Add the chocolate/water mix and continue to beat until well combined.
  8. Distribute the batter among muffin tins. (The batter will make 12 cupcakes).
  9. Bake for 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
For the espresso frosting:
  1. Beat all ingredients until you have a creamy frosting. Add more cream if you want a less dense consistency.
For the coffee sauce:
  1. Add ingredients to a sauce pan and bring to a low simmer.
  2. Stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, keep simmering the mix until it's reduced to about ⅓ cup. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes and drizzle with the sauce.

 

Food Photography and Styling: By far my favorite part of this recipe is the frosting and the coffee sauce so that’s what I wanted to draw the viewer’s attention to. I did that by keeping the set very dark so that the frosting would be the brightest part of the photo and would therefore be the first thing the viewer looked at.

I wanted to show three cupcakes and the little wire trivet (with its cute, curvy feet, aren’t they adorable?) fit those three nicely so that’s what I used. I piped the frosting with my 1M tip and rather than dragging the tip along quickly I piped slowly to create a more “ruffled” look that would provide more nooks and crannies to hold the sauce. Something subtle was needed in the background to break up the negative space and since this is a chocolate dessert I chose to set a pile of dark chocolate pieces onto a dark metal dish.

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Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Trifles

Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Trifles

Happy Labor Day weekend! Time to kick off the pumpkin spice craze with these 10-minute hazelnut trifles. If you need to whip up a pretty dessert fast, this is a really good and absolutely foolproof one. It’s just simple layers of crumbled graham crackers with pumpkin spice and a little melted butter, some maple-flavored whipped cream, chopped hazelnuts and Nutella. That’s it! Enjoy your weekend and thanks so much for reading! :)

Hazelnut Pumpkin Spice Trifles
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 2
Ingredients:
For the graham cracker layer:
  • ⅓ cup crumbled graham crackers
  • 1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped hazelnuts
For the chocolate layer:
  • hazelnut spread, warmed up for a few seconds in the microwave
For the whipped cream layer:
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon maple extract
Instructions:
  1. Mix all the graham cracker layer ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. Combine cream, sugar and maple extract and whip to stiff peaks.
  3. Layer graham crackers, hazelnut spread, then whipped cream into glasses. Go easy on the hazelnut spread, it quickly becomes overpowering, just drizzle a thin layer of it onto the Graham crackers.

Food Photography and Styling: I wanted this hazelnut trifle to be a fall photo and to evoke a feeling of fall I chose a color palette of brown, red and orange hues and sprinkled brown, wrinkled leaves into the composition. To create an outside feeling I used wood planks that look like an outside table and lit the set slightly from the back instead of from the side (side light always suggests an indoor table next to a window to me).

You’ll notice that this photo has a lot of horizontal lines created by the gaps between the wood planks but I still decided to frame it vertically. Typically, predominantly horizontal lines call for horizontal orientation and vertical lines for vertical orientation but that’s a rule I broke here and I think it works. I think the relatively tall glass looks nice in the vertical frame and the horizontal lines don’t distract me.

I observed the rule of thirds and placed the glass along one of the vertical lines that dissect the frame into thirds and placed the tip of the whipped cream on one of the intersection points.

The whipped cream needed to have some good curves to look interesting so I piped it with my beloved 1M piping tip that produces beautiful swirls. It’s by far my favorite piping tip, I don’t even know why I have others. I got the spoon and the metal plate from antique stores and the fabric is just one of those little quarters from Jo-Ann.

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Prop Talk – Fabrics

Food Photography Props Fabrics

Today on Prop Talk: fabrics! More specifically, I’m going to show you small pieces of fabric that I like to set plates and bowls on. What these fabrics do is visually anchor the tableware to the table. I find that a bowl or plate sitting directly on a “naked” surface can sometimes look disconnected from it, almost floating, depending on the angle of view. Whenever that happens, I turn to my collection of small napkins and fabrics. These can also help single out the main subject in photos that show multiples, such as several jars of trifle, for example. Setting the one jar that is your main subject on a small piece of fabric will elevate it ever so slightly and mark it as the most important.

I picked out my four favorite pieces to show to you.

Let’s start with the burlap ribbon. This material comes on a roll and you can buy it by the yard. I bought a large string of it at a local store but I’ve also seen it on Amazon. The one I have has a nice wide mesh and very thin metal wires (that can be cut with regular scissors) run on either side of the ribbon. The wires make the material nicely bendable and you can easily make nice waves that stay in place.

Here is an example of the burlap ribbon in action:
Mushroom Risotto with Cracked Black Pepper

From post Mushroom Risotto with Cracked Black Pepper.

Next, I’ve got a small lace table topper I found at an antique store. It measures 7 inches by 7 inches and fits perfectly underneath plates and bowls. I’ve used it in the beer cheddar soup photo below:

Beer Cheddar Soup
From post Beer Cheddar Soup.

Lastly, two linen cocktail napkins (10 inches by 10 inches) that I bought at Crate & Barrel. They can look very elegant, especially when a nice crease is ironed into them. I like these two a lot and have used them in the examples below:

Star Anise Poached Pears
From post Star Anise Poached Pears.

Cardamom Apple Crumb Cake
From post Cardamom Apple Crumb Cake.

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Strawberries and Coconut Cream

Strawberries and Coconut Cream

Let’s end August with some fresh berries! I find strawberries with plain whipped cream already pretty tasty but I wanted something more complex in this dessert so I added mascarpone and coconut flakes to the cream. That turned out really great. What I absolutely loved about the addition of mascarpone was the texture it created; it made the cream much more substantial but still left it beautifully soft. It had a real comforting feel to it. I folded in the coconut flakes, which added some good flavor as well as something to bite into. This cream will go well with any fruit you have on hand, blueberries, peaches, bananas, you name it!

Strawberries and Coconut Cream
 
Prep time
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4
Ingredients:
  • ¾ cup mascarpone
  • ⅔ cup heavy cream
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes
  • about 16 large strawberries
Instructions:
  1. Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff.
  2. Fold in the coconut flakes.
  3. Slice the strawberries and serve with the cream.

Food Photography and Styling: I thought the intense red of the strawberries would work well with a dark background so I chose my dark, rustic wood surface as the “wall” in the back (this surface is actually an antique tray and I’ll talk about it on a prop talk segment soon). I selected a glass bowl to show the individual layers of the dessert. Since the glass bowl was wide and short and the orientation vertical I needed something tall in the background to fill the space and the milk jug did the trick. I followed the rule of thirds, the strawberry sits smack on an intersection point. A little bowl to the left of the set, just outside the frame, creates a small shadow that suggests that the scene continues outside of the frame. I put some coconut flakes in the small dish in the background and sprinkled some next to the bowl to give the viewer the cue that there is coconut in this dish.

 

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