Coffee Cupcakes

Coffee Cupcakes are sure to please any coffee enthusiast! Coffee-infused cupcakes are topped with rich salted coffee buttercream and topped with coffee-glazed chocolate doughnuts.

Coffee Cupcakes

I’ll take coffee just about any way I can get it, but I’m especially excited about these Coffee Cupcakes. My favorite Tiramisu Cupcakes definitely have some new competition for an afternoon pick-me-up. Loaded with coffee flavor, they’re not too sweet. The salted coffee buttercream? It’s so good! The recipe uses salted butter, and the salt tempers any bitterness for a smooth flavor. And if that weren’t enough, I baked up a batch of mini chocolate doughnuts and covered them with coffee glaze. It’s a coffee-lover’s sweet dream come true!

Coffee flavor in an instant.

Instant espresso powder is my preferred ingredient for making any baked good have obvious coffee flavor. It’s easy to use and widely available. I can’t recommend it enough! I use it in all of the components of this cupcake. Instant coffee will work also, if you have a favorite brand. Starbucks VIA comes to mind, because it’s high quality, has big coffee flavor, and there are several varieties to choose from (such as Pike Place and Italian Roast).

Bake the batter in paper liners for about 20 minutes. The coffee cupcakes come out of the oven so beautifully caramel-colored, and have a sponge that bounces back when you press it.

MVP coffee buttercream.

This buttercream. Crème au beurre au café (French coffee buttercream). It’s so dreamy. I have tried many different coffee buttercream recipes, and I prefer this one above all. You may recognize it from the Mocha Yule Log Cakes I made last December. It’s also an important layer in Classic Opera Cake. You just can’t get any better coffee bang for your buck. None of the alternatives came close to its silky texture and flavor. This recipe requires the use of a candy thermometer. However, it’s worth the little extra effort for the end result.

Coffee Cupcakes

This recipe makes 20 cupcakes. I’ve scaled the frosting recipe to fit the yield accordingly. Pipe a nice big swirl on each cupcake that’s not too tall, and you’ll have the perfect ratio of frosting to cake.

Bite-size doughnuts.

That mini doughnut pan that I bought 11-ish years ago? I still have it. At the time, I wondered if I was just clogging up my cabinet space. But it’s turned out to be such a useful tool. I whipped up some chocolate cake doughnuts for cute cupcake toppers- because who doesn’t love a little chocolate with their coffee?

The doughnut recipe will make more than you’ll need to top the cupcakes, but I don’t really see that as a problem. They’re tiny, delicious, two-bite treats that will be eaten up before you know it.

Coffee glaze seemed just the thing to make these the ultimate triple threat coffee cupcakes. The sponge, frosting, and donut toppers all have a coffee element.

Just after glazing, sprinkle on some tiny white nonpareils if you have them. They are just the right size to garnish the doughnuts. They’re not too heavy so they won’t slide off. Let them stand until the glaze firms.

Coffee Cupcakes

Top each cupcake with a coffee-glazed chocolate doughnut. Yum! These look so cute all lined up on a serving tray. I think they’re perfect for an office party, or a book club meeting, or just as a gift for your favorite coffee connoisseur.

Coffee Cupcakes

These cupcakes are intense yet well balanced. The frosting flavor is like lightly salted sweet coffee with cream. (Salted coffee is a thing for a reason!) The little chocolate doughnut on top is a wonderful accent with the coffee flavors.

Coffee Cupcakes with Salted Coffee Buttercream

Heather Baird
These cupcakes have a triple dose of coffee flavor in the cake, frosting and the doughnut glaze!
Please note the frosting uses salted butter, to add mild salty-sweet flavor to the buttercream.
Espresso powder can be found in the coffee aisle at the grocery store, and sometimes in the baking aisle. I use DeLallo brand most often. However, Medaglia D’oro and other high quality freeze-dried instant coffee can be used in place of espresso powder. For example, Starbucks VIA instant coffee has bold coffee flavor, is micro-ground, and dissolves easily.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 54 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 34 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 20


  • 2 Cupcake pan
  • 20 cupcake liners
  • 1 mini donut pan see blog post for link
  • 1 disposable pastry bag
  • 1 large closed star pastry tip


Coffee cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 10.14 oz. sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature

Salted coffee buttercream

  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups salted butter softened
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tablespoon hot water

Doughnut batter

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour sifted
  • 1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg lightly beaten, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. butter melted

Coffee doughnut glaze

  • 1 tablespoon hot milk plus more to thin if needed
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder or instant coffee
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • White nonpareils


Coffee cupcakes

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 20 cupcake cavities with paper liners.
  • Combine 1/4 cup hot water and 2 tablespoons espresso powder (or instant coffee) in a small bowl; stir to dissolve.
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, and sea salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, brown sugar and butter. Add the dissolved coffee mixture. Beat well on medium speed until well combined, 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract. Beat in eggs one at a time. Scrape down the bowl as needed and mix again.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl and beat until just combined. Beat in half of the buttermilk. Alternate the remaining flour and buttermilk, ending with the flour. Mix the last flour in until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and fold to make sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.
  • Use a trigger ice cream scoop (1/4 cup) or a 1/4 cup measure to portion batter into each cupcake liner, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the cakes bounce back when pressed in their centers, or when a toothpick tester comes out completely clean.
  • Transfer the baked cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

Salted coffee buttercream

  • In a small heavy saucepan set over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue to cook until it registers 240°F on a candy thermometer.
  • Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment beat the eggs until they are thick and pale, about 5 minutes on medium high speed. While mixer is running, add the sugar syrup in a thin stream, carefully tempering the syrup into the eggs without cooking them. Beat until the mixing bowl is cool.
  • Change to the paddle attachment and add the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. The mixture will deflate and look runny, then curdled. Keep adding butter and mixing. This buttercream goes through several ugly stages before it reaches fluffy consistency. When all the butter is added, add the espresso mixture. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
  • Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes in a large single swirl.

Doughnut batter

  • Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a mini donut pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In large mixing bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat until just combined. Transfer the batter to a disposable piping bag and fill each donut cavity approximately 1/2 full. Don’t be tempted to overfill the cavities, too much batter will make these doughnuts too tall and they won’t have a hole.
  • Bake 5-8 minutes or until the top of the donuts spring back when touched. Let cool in pan for 2 minutes before removing. Cool completely. Wash pan, re-grease, and bake remaining batter. (Yields about 2 1/2 dozen mini doughnuts.)

Doughnut glaze

  • In small bowl, mix together the hot milk and instant espresso powder until dissolved.
  • Stir together sugar and espresso mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. The glaze should be thick and almost opaque. Add more milk drops at a time to thin, if needed. Dip the rounded sides of the doughnuts into the glaze, about five doughnuts at a time. Wait 10 seconds then sprinkle on the nonpareils. Keep working in batches of 5 donuts until they’re all glazed and sprinkled.
  • Allow the doughnuts to stand until the glaze sets, about 15 minutes. Top each frosted cupcake with a single mini doughnut.
  • Store airtight at room temperature for 3-4 days, or they’ll keep for up to a week if refrigerated. Bring chilled cupcakes to room temperature before serving.


Flour: Use the spoon and sweep method for measuring flour if you don’t have a scale. Spoon the flour into the measuring cups then sweep it level with the back of a butter knife. Don’t forget to sift! Sifting is important to create a light texture. 
Optimal temp for ingredients: Bring the ingredients to room temperature before mixing them together. In my workshop room temperature ranges from 68-70F. 
Doughnut toppers: If you don’t have a mini doughnut pan, and don’t want to buy one, you could bake the chocolate doughnut batter in a mini cupcake tin instead. (Mini cupcake on top of the big cupcake – cute!) Spray the cavities with flour-based baking spray and bake until done, about 6 minutes. Cover the tops with the doughnut glaze and add nonpareils. 
Keyword coffee cake, instant espresso powder, mini chocolate doughnuts, salted coffee buttercream
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1 year ago

These look beautiful and that buttercream looks fantastic. Definitely going to try this although I will probably add some chopped walnuts to the cupcakes, I love that combo.

1 year ago

I’d love to bake these in 6-inch pans to make a small cake. Would you suggest using two or three 6-inch pans?