I’ve really been on a roll with the booze-flavored cupcakes, huh?  Guinness & Bailey’s cupcakes, chocolate whiskey cupcakes, margarita cupcakes – what can I say, they are everyone’s favorites!  My list of cupcake flavors to try had gotten a bit out of control, with recipes in cookbooks, magazines, on tons of food blogs, and in my own imagination.  I finally took the time to consolidate them all and come up with a cupcake menu for the coworkers to use when making their birthday selections.  These chocolate Kahlua cupcakes were the first flavor chosen from the list.

I opted to use a one-bowl chocolate cupcake recipe for the cupcake base with some espresso powder mixed in to punch up the coffee flavor.  Brushing the cupcakes with Kahlua after baking helps keep them moist and infuses the flavor of the liqueur.  For the frosting I whipped up this Kahlua buttercream, basically a classic boozey buttercream with a bit of whipping cream mixed in to help lighten the texture.  I loved these, as did the coworkers because really, you just can’t go wrong with the combo of coffee, chocolate and alcohol.  Any coffee-flavored liqueur can be substituted for the Kahlua, but that just happens to be what we have on hand.  And because I know someone will ask, the tip I used to frost the cupcakes is a small (unlabeled) star tip.


For the cupcakes:
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1½ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
¾ cup warm water
¾ cup buttermilk
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For brushing the cupcakes:
Kahlua liqueur

For the frosting:
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
7-8 tbsp. Kahlua liqueur
2 tbsp. heavy cream


  • 01

    To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.   Line standard cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a large mixing bowl combine the cocoa powder, espresso powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk well to blend.  Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until smooth, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • 02

    Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling about 2/3 full.  Bake until the tops spring back when pressed lightly, about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.  Poke a few holes in the top of each cupcake with the tines of a fork and brush with Kahlua while still warm.  Allow to cool completely.

  • 03

    To make the frosting, beat the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated.  Add in the Kahlua and beat on medium speed until well blended.  Add in the heavy cream and beat on medium-high speed for about 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.


  • Wow, I’d love to make a selection from your list. Your cupcakes always look amazing : )

  • Andrea R.

    I’m curious…where do you buy your espresso powder? I’ve looked and I can’t seem to find it. I haven’t been to any specialty stores though.

    I really appreciate the kahlua recipe though! I have some that I’ve been wanting to use in a recipe. Just haven’t found the right one yet. Thanks!

  • Siunna

    Chocolate+Kahlua= Marriage made in dessert heaven!!
    BTW, have you checked out the Godiva site yet?:) The Triple Chocolate Kahlua Mousse Cake is to DIE for!

  • Good grief, these look fantastic!

  • So beautiful! They sound delicious too!

  • I found your blog yesterday and I’m absolutely in love. You have great recipes. And these cupcakes sound delicious.

  • Darcys

    It the ususal superb standard as always and I will definitely be giving these a try. Thanks for sharing x

  • You make the best cupcakes!!! These look sooo perfect and delicious!! I love the flavor combos on this one, too. YUM!

  • My friend asked me yesterday if I knew of any great coffee flavoured cup cake recepies so she could bake something for her colleague’s birthday, and now I saw this! I shall be sending a link to her for these cuties and I am sure her colleague will be a very happy birthday girl :) Thanks Annie!

  • yummy! It looks so chocolate and puffy!

  • Oh my! These looks sinfully delicious!

  • These look delicious–you should consider publishing a cupcake cookbook: they are all so good!!

  • Seriously, can I come live with you?

    I’ll play sous chef!

  • Yummy, I love Kahlua, I will have make note of this recipe!

  • I know what you mean about boozy baking! I’ve been doing it so much (and in my regular cooking too), I started a whole food blog about it! It just makes everything taste better, right?

    I can’t decide which I want to try first, these or those margarita cupcakes. Both look absolutely delicious! Thanks!!!

  • These look just lovely, Annie! I’ve been craving a cupcake for WEEKS but just haven’t gotten around to making – or buying – one! :)

  • Annie

    At least in my area, I’ve only had luck finding it at specialty stores (Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, Fresh Market). Unfortunately regular grocery stores never seem to have it!

  • Annie

    I just looked and I don’t see recipes anywhere on there, only a list of products. Can you send me a link?

  • Annie

    Nevermind, found them! (Swear I looked there…)

  • Mmmm, you had me at Kahlua. I just made these cupcakes, but with regular whipped cream frosting. I’ve been wanting to try them with marscapone cheese frosting, and now I also want to try them with the kahlua frosting.

  • It almost looks like the top of the cupcake was dipped in a chocolate glaze – it’s so shiny. But it must just be the Kahlua brushed on top.
    These look great – I have some French Vanilla Kahlua to use up – so I have to try this recipe.

  • randomanderson

    I’m sending this to my mother. She loves Kahlua.

  • Love the idea of a cupcake list! That’s certainly one menu I’d have fun choosing from.

  • Another winner. This one looks delicious. Love the idea of a list, I think I’m going to use that too!

  • I have to tell you the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes were a hit at my party! :) I have been looking for a new cake recipe for my dad. He is a White Russian freak, so this is PERFECT. Gonna have fun unveiling this….maybe father’s day, since his bday isn’t until November! Thanks for the great recipes. I love your site!

  • These look fantastic! I love the frosting. Most of the Khalua frosting recipes I’ve seen as chocolate based but this sounds like it would be excellent with the chocolate cupcakes! Great recipe:)

  • I have a Kahlua recipe that I have not made in forever. Looking at this picture makes me want to bake them right now, gosh I wish I had some right now :-)

  • Chloe

    Hi Annie

    Your cupcakes look like they have a glaze or ganache on them under the buttercream, or is it just a great photo?!

  • obviously i shouldn’t be here when im trying to lose weight. heh. but these look soooooo good. period.

  • Annie

    That is from being brushed with the Kahlua. I took the pic pretty quickly after making them so they were still shiny.

  • Mary

    Ok, I am seriously obsessed with cupcakes now! This is the third weekend in a row I am making them. First were the chocolate peanut butter, last weekend triple chocolate and this weekend Kahlua! I have to tell you as I was making them this morning and was looking at the batter thinking “what the heck, Annie is letting me down on this one”…well thank goodness I am a taste tester…I didn’t add the sugar! Maybe it has something to do with working 11am to 11pm while training in open heart recovery? Anyway, added the sugar, finished the batter and they look delicious! Thanks for another great recipe.

  • These are gorgeous ! I’ve never tasted Kahlua liquor but you make me wanna try :o)

  • Amanda

    Let’s say i wanted to make a Kahlua cake instead of the cupcakes, what adjustments would i need to make to the recipe? Because i love Kahlua and these would make an awesome cake :]

  • Annie

    Just bake the batter in cake pans instead of cupcake pans and adjust the baking time accordingly.

  • Lindsey

    Well, unfortunately the main sweets lover in my house (Dad, of course) doesnt really like chocolate. So, just for him, I’m gonna attempt to make some Vanilla Kahlua Cupcakes. Using your Vanilla Bean Cupcake recipe and the frosting recipe from this page. Wish me luck!! :)

  • Hi Annie, these look great, and I’m going to make them for a party tomorrow. Do you recommend that I wait to frost them until tomorrow, or can I do the whole shebang today? If so, should I put them in the fridge to keep the frosting set? I don’t make cupcakes very often, any tips appreciated. Great website! =)

  • Annie

    You can do it all today and refrigerate them. Enjoy!

  • Thanks Annie!

  • Susan Daniel

    Hi Annie,
    In most of your recipes I see you use all purpose flour and you simply state to “mix together” Do you use cake flour? Do you sift?

    I am starting a home based cupcake business and am truly wanting to create a fabulous product.

    Any suggestions you or your readers could provide would be so appreciate!

    My best…Susan

  • Annie

    I use cake flour when indicated, and I indicate that in my recipes. If it says all-purpose, it means all-purpose. Mixing together well is equivalent to sifting, at least for dry ingredients of cakes.

  • Hi Annie,
    I have a shower I would like to make cupcakes ahead of time for and decorate right before the shower, is it ok to freeze the cupcakes if they have alcohol in them? Does it affect the flavor?

  • Annie

    I don’t think the fact that they contain alcohol matters. I would just think the freezing itself may make them less than stellar regardless.

  • LJ

    Hi Annie,

    I’m going to try making this today. Your website is my go to whenever I make cupcakes :) I was wondering if I can use instant coffee for the espresso since I can’t find any and what ratio/amount? Thanks!

  • Annie

    Please read the FAQ page.

  • Emmelyn

    I found instant Espresso powder at HEB in the coffee isle! Yay!

    I made these and YUM. I did not end up finding espresso powder before I made them so I added double the instant coffee amount (not recommended). They weren’t bad but a little to strong for my taste – I will definitely be using espresso powder next time! Otherwise, they were DELISH.

  • Hi Annie,

    I was looking for the perfect mid-week treat and voila…your Chocolate Kahlua Cupcake recipe looks like The One. Thank you!!!


  • ps: oh my gosh…delicious! I didn’t have espresso powder so I mixed some coffee in with the warm water and it turned out nicely. Thanks again!!!

  • Louann Zundel

    These cupcakes look great but could you tell me if you use natural cocoa or dutch process.

  • Annie

    Any time it is not specified, it refers to natural.

  • Marie

    Do you chill the frosting before piping?

  • Annie

    No, I don’t.

  • Amy

    I made these cupcakes today. The cupcake flavor was good but not exceptional. I used 2 single serving packages of Starbucks French Roast coffee instead of instant espresso. I wonder if they would be better had I used espresso powder. The problem I had was with the icing though. With that much liquid, 4 cups powder sugar is just not enough to create a frosting with piping consistency. I should have known. But I didn’t have extra powdered sugar on hand to add so I ended up with gloopy frosting. I love coffee and kahlua, but I still feel something is missing from the recipe. I’m going to try other booze cupcakes and find my favorite.
    I really like your site. I was looking for a recipe and ended up spending way too much time browsing around and look at all the gorgeous pictures. Thanks!

  • Annie

    Adding more powdered sugar definitely would have fixed your issue. I used only four cups and, as you can see, my frosting turned out fine. I guess it’s just one of the problems measuring by volume instead of weight – the way I scoop a cup may be different from you, yielding less consistent results.

  • Kim

    Thank you for such an amazing recipe! I made these cupcakes tonight. They are probably the most moist cupcake I’ve made in a long while. Because I am out of espresso powder I used half warm water and half Kahlua in the cupcake recipe. Made the frosting as listed above and its fantastic. This cupcake will be made again by me for my chocolate loving family (ok, we also really like Kahlua!). I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. This was my maiden voyage at your website. I’m thinking something pumpkin is up next! Thanks again for the fantastic recipe! Here’s to hoping I don’t eat them all before everyone comes home tonight :)

  • Christie

    Yum! I just made these and they are to die for! I definitely think these are my new favorites!!

  • Rhonda

    First and Foremost, I am so sorry for your loss!!! My heart really goes out to you and your entire family.

    What tip did you use to frost these? I looked and didn’t see the question or answer to this, so I apologize if it has already been asked.

  • Annie

    It’s in the text of the post.

  • Marichu35

    These were so awesome!!! I used my mini muffin pan….so many bite size muffins. Everyone at work that sampled them were so impressed on the flavor and how moist they were. This will be added to my all time favorite things to eat!!

  • LisaMarie

    So I just made these, followed everything, and filled the liners 2/3. Well, they expanded and overflowed, and the middles are sunken in. I’m at 6,000 ft. What adjustments should I have made for high alltitude?

  • Anonymous

    I have no experience with baking at altitude. You could try Googling for some information on the topic.

  • I just made these and let me tell you ! These are by far the most talked about cupcakes I have made to date! Everyone cannot stop talking about them! Amazing recipes as per the usual!

  • Kathleen C Webster

    I have baked many recipes from the internet and have never made a comment. But I just can’t let this one go. I made mini cupcakes with this recipe and the moistness of the cake and the perfect amount of Kahlua in the frosting made these unbelievably delicious! And so easy! I gave them to coworkers and word spread through out the company on how great they were.
    Absolutely amazing! Thanks Annie! :)

  • Danielle

    these came out great! Everyone at work loved them!

  • amanda

    Ok, made these today for father’s day. the flavor combo is amazing. I do prefer a denser cupcake, so I think i will make these again but with a denser chocolate cupcake recipe. the frosting is sooooo good!!!

    If you are making these, don’t think you have done something wrong if the batter is very runny. I thought for sure I had made a mistake, but they baked up wonderful and light.

  • Brittney

    These cupcakes are incredible, made them tonight. WOW!

  • TheGirls@WhimsicallyHomemade

    Hey there! Just wanted to let you know we featuring you in our Favorite Find Fridays post tomorrow over at Whimsically Homemade. We’re using one of your pictures and are linking back to you. If that’s a problem let us know and we’ll remove it immediately. Thanks for your great inspiration!

  • Blue Orcas

    I just made these! They taste absolutely awesome! Thanks for the recipe! :)