My cousin Kristen is getting married in a couple of weeks and the funny thing is we just sat down to do a cake tasting this weekend. How crazy is that? I mean, we had almost an entire year to do this but somehow we never got around to it. We've talked about cake designs, colors and possible flavors but we waited till the very last minute to do the most fun part of all - the cake tasting.
Photo Credit: Ja Tecson
If there's one thing I know about Kristen and Jeff, they love chocolate and coffee. Every time they're out on a date, they end their meal with a decadent chocolate dessert. From molten lava cake to gigantic slices of mud pie, they're always posting droolworthy photos on Instagram. And when it comes to coffee, I'm pretty sure they've tried every coffee shop in San Diego. But there is this place called the Better Buzz that they've been talking about alot. They have something called the "Best Drink Ever" (BDE for short) and according to them, it really is the best drink ever. It's a caffe Americano with some cream and vanilla mixed in. They're basically addicted to it. I'm not sure if I want to try it because I'm afraid I'm gonna get hooked too :-)
While Kristen and I were talking about chocolate and coffee combitations one day, she mentioned that she really loved the chocolate covered espresso beans from Trader Joe's. She'd even snack on them while she's at work. So she wondered if I could incorporate them into their wedding cake. The next day, I went to Trader Joe's, picked up a container of chocolate covered espresso beans and started experimenting.
To save time, I whipped up some cupcakes for the cake tasting instead of baking a whole cake. Chocolate and coffee is a such a perfect pairing. When you put them together, they really bring out the best in each other. I actually like to add brewed coffee to my chocolate cake batter to give the chocolate more depth. So for Kristen and Jeff's cake, I decided to go with my chocolate cake and then drizzle it with Kahlua liqueur to amp up the coffee flavor. For the frosting, I added a little Kahlua into some cream cheese frosting. As if that wasn't enough, I also drizzled some Kahlua on top of the frosting. And finally, I crushed up the chocolate covered espresso beans and sprinkled them liberally on top.
The combination of the moist, rich chocolate cake and light, tangy cream cheese frosting really worked together. Also, the bits of chocolate covered espresso beans gave the cupcakes tiny bursts of coffee flavor as well as some crunchy texture.
Makes about 30 cupcakes
Allergy note: contains dairy, wheat and egg ingredients
(Please see note for egg-free alternatives)
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk or 1 cup whole milk with 1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup strong coffee, cooled
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. bar cream cheese, cold
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened to room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbs. Kahlua coffee liqueur*
4 Tbs. Kahlua coffee liqueur*
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, measure then sift
1/2 to 3/4 cup Kahlua coffee liqeuer*
1 cup chocolate covered espresso beans
Note: I have two alternatives for egg-free cupcakes. You can try the egg-free chocolate cupcakes or the vegan wacky chocolate cake recipes.
*You can adjust the amount of Kahlua to your preference. Feel free to add more if you want a stronger coffee flavor. For those who prefer a non-alcoholic option to Kahlua, you can mix together 2-3 tablespoons of instant espresso powder and 1/2 cup granulated sugar to 1 cup of hot water.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 3 muffin pans with cupcake liners. Beat together butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Slowly add eggs one at a time. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine the buttermilk and coffee together. Alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture. Pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for at least 10 minutes then poke holes on top of each cupcake. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon of Kahlua over each cupcake.
With the mixer on a low speed, beat the cream cheese and butter till blended. Mix in vanilla and Kahlua. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a cup at a time. Once all the powdered sugar is added, increase to a higher speed to whip up the frosting till light and fluffy. Transfer frosting into a piping bag.
Place the chocolate covered espresso beans inside a ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, lightly crush them into smaller pieces. Pipe frosting on top of each cupcake. Drizzle a little bit of Kahlua on top of the frosting. Sprinkle the crushed chocolate covered espresso beans on top of each cupcake.