Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes

Delicious chocolate espresso cupcakes topped with a creamy espresso buttercream frosting, caramel sauce and coarse salt.

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More salted caramel mocha deliciousness here today! The macarons from a few weeks ago were not enough for me to tide me over until September, when Starbucks starts serving the drink again. These cupcakes here taste just like the salted caramel mochas only that they are, you know, solid. The cake part is a delicious and easy chocolate espresso batter (the same one I used here). The topping is an espresso-flavored buttercream, topped with caramel sauce and coarse salt. Yummy!


Salted Caramel Mocha Cupcakes Recipe

serves 12


For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs

For the caramel sauce:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the espresso frosting:

  • 1.5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small cubes
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 5 tablespoons heavy cream (plus more, if needed)
  • coarse salt



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. While the cupcakes are in the oven, make the caramel sauce.

For the caramel sauce:

  1. Put the water in a saucepan.
  2. Add the sugar in a mound into the middle of the saucepan. Be careful not to have any sugar on the sides of the pan.
  3. Turn the heat on to high and without any stirring or touching of any sort, let the sugar/water mix come to a full boil. Be careful, the mix will get very, very hot. Do not touch the pot or the caramel under any circumstances.
  4. Keep boiling the mix on high heat (still without any stirring) until it starts to turn golden brown.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium and continue to boil until the mix reaches a deep amber color.
  6. Turn the heat off.
  7. Standing back, very slowly start to whisk the cream into the mix, a little bit at a time. The sauce will bubble violently and is still very hot, so be careful.
  8. Let the sauce cool until you can handle it easily. If it’s too thick by the time you want to use it, gently warm it up over a pot of hot water or in the microwave.

For the espresso frosting:

  1. Beat butter, espresso powder and sugar until they are well combined and take on a creamy consistency.
  2. Add the cream, one tablespoon at a time, until you have a creamy frosting.
  3. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes, drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle with salt.


Food Photography and Styling: I used my zinc-coated metal tray as the surface for this shot because its color went well with the brown and beige of the cupcakes. Since it’s not entirely obvious what the topping on these cupcakes is just from looking at them I decided to show them as if they were just being finished. That allowed me to put a little metal bowl with caramel sauce in the composition and sprinkle some coarse salt around them. To break up the surface a bit and keep it from looking too uniform I set three of these guys onto a cooling rack. (The cooling rack also fit with the story of the cupcakes still being worked on). I lit the set from the back with my strobe.

Nikon D600, 105mm, f/11, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.


  1. CakePants says:

    Oh wow, these look incredible! I’ve never had a salted caramel mocha (I’m not really a coffee drinker), but I’d be more than happy to make up for lost time with a few extra of these cupcakes!

  2. Carolyn says:

    Oh my, your recipes continue to cause me to clean up drool from my keyboard. Annnnd, your photography is just amazing. So appreciate that you give background information on that . .. have the camera and the lens, just not the lighting portion.

  3. Karina says:

    So beautiful Nicole! Recipe; photography…just everyhting about your style and what you do. So inspiring, I love your photography tips also. What a beautiful blog. I’m so glad I found you :)
    Enjoy the rest of your week Xxx

  4. Victoria Chase says:

    I made these cupcakes tonight and I must say…this recipe is awesome! I did increase the instant espresso to 2 tsp because I really wanted to be able to taste the coffee in the cake…worked perfectly! TFS!

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