Since gaining a reputation for being “the cupcake lady” (or whatever you want to call me), I rarely make cupcakes without a purpose.  Usually they are for someone’s birthday, graduation, or even the occasional wedding, but it’s not often I find myself baking cupcakes just because.  However, these vanilla latte cupcakes had been on my list for a long time without anyone requesting them and when I saw a multi-hued container of chocolate-covered espresso beans at The Fresh Market recently, I figured that was reason enough.

Despite my former dislike of coffee-flavored things, both desserts and the drink in general, I have made a complete 180 in that regard during my past five years of blogging.  Now coffee-flavored desserts are at the top of my list and I drink one cup of coffee daily.  (With the heat wave we’ve been having, that’s pretty much always iced coffee, please and thank you.)  And so it is with full confidence that I can say any coffee lover in your life will love these cupcakes.  The cake is moist and full of rich espresso flavor.  And the frosting – oooooohhhh my, the frosting.  It’s Swiss meringue buttercream so you know it’s bound to be good, but then you go and make it way more awesome by blending in espresso powder.  I may have eaten some with a spoon.  And I may not want to share these with anyone.  Thank goodness I still have a few left in the fridge.


For the cupcakes:
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. espresso powder*
½ cup strong brewed coffee
¼ cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. coffee-flavored liqueur (or additional buttermilk)

For the frosting:
3 large egg whites
½ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
¾ cups (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. very hot water

Chocolate-covered espresso beans, for garnish


  • 01

    Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and espresso powder.  Whisk to blend.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the coffee, buttermilk, and coffee liqueur.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients alternating with the liquids, mixing each addition just until incorporated and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

  • 02

    Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

  • 03

    To make the frosting, combine the egg whites and the sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean pods.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

  • 04

    Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Remove about half of the frosting to a bowl and set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the espresso powder and hot water and whisk to dissolve.  Blend the espresso powder mixture into the frosting remaining in the mixing bowl until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

  • 05

    Fit a pastry bag with a large tip (I used a large, unlabeled closed star tip.)  Fill one side of the pastry bag with the vanilla frosting, and then fill in the other side with the coffee frosting (this does not need to be exact – just enough so that both colors are included.)  Pipe a test streak until you see both colors coming out of the tip.  Frost cupcakes as desired, refilling the pastry bag in the same manner as needed.  Garnish the frosted cupcakes with chocolate-covered espresso beans, if desired.

  • 06

    *Espresso powder is generally a specialty ingredient not available in most grocery stores.  It is available in specialty stores such as Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, etc. or from many online retailers. 


  • RikiTikiTembo

    You had me at Latte…
    ps. Gorgeous Photography!

  • Marieke

    Oh my….these look good! Can’t wait to make them. Preferably sooner than later!

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Mmm so pretty Annie! Love these!

  • Jill

    These look so mazing! I want to eat my computer screen!!

  • Rachel

    Does the Swiss Meringue Buttercream keep well at room temperature? I am planning on making these for a picnic and want to know if the frosting gets runny if left at room temperature for a few hours.

    I was planning on halving the recipe to make mini cupcakes. Does that work well?

  • Wow, do those look good. And the cupcake liners are too cute!!

  • These look divine!!!

  • Aimee Conrad-Hill

    Yet another beautiful picture. I’ve made a very similar frosting and oh it is so good. I could eat an entire bowl of the stuff.

  • Aimee Conrad-Hill

    Another beautiful picture! I have made a very similar frosting and it is so good that I could eat an entire bowl of it.

  • And, I see this as I log in to my work computer (yes, my Google Reader is my homepage – not our companies web-Site, not a news site, not even general Google… nope, Google Reader for me!)… I digress. I’m reading this before my emails, while enjoying… a skinny decaf vanilla latte. Kind of fitting, don’t you think?! (Decaf because the hot temp of the coffee in contrast to the freezing of my office wakes me up!)

  • These look AMAZING – I can’t wait to make them! You always have the prettiest (and most delicious-looking) cupcakes :)

  • These are beautiful! I love your photography!!! (Obviously the recipes are good too!)

  • I love lattes, and I love cupcakes, so these look like a definite must-make for me! Thanks for sharing!

  • Lattes and cupcakes together? Yummy!

    Oooh, and I love a good cold glass of iced coffee!

  • Wow! I’d be licking that frosting with a spoon too. These sound amazing! I love anything coffee flavored. In fact, the first recipe I featured on my blog was a chocolate cupcake with mocha cream cheese frosting. Coffee is great on its own but, in cupcake form, its even better! I can’t wait to give these a try!

  • annieseats

    Thank you so much!

  • annieseats

    It’s fine at room temperature but since it’s mostly butter, it will get a bit soft outdoors. Of course if they are well chilled when you take them, they will hold up a bit longer.

  • Yes, please. Those look so yum.

  • Yes, please. Those look so yum!

  • These look sooo good. My mouth is watering. I’ll have to try them soon.

  • Mmm, these look divine. I love espresso ice cream and cheesecake but haven’t often tried it in baked goods like cupcakes or cake. These look fantastic as always! I owe the executive assistant at work some cupcakes, so I will keep this recipe in my back pocket to match her love of coffee!

  • CAS

    I might just be lucky, but I usually can find instant espresso at the grocery store (with coffee). I live in the NY Metro area, so that might be why. I just checked and has Medaglia D’oro Espresso Instant Coffee. The website only has the 12 pack which is an insane amount. I add some to most chocolate cakes and it makes a big difference because the same cake got rave reviews after I started adding it. It really brings out the chocolate flavor.

  • Christin Wade

    Oh my heavens those looks amazing! Where did you get those adorable cupcake liners? I really like the simple yet elegant look of them. Thanks!

  • Kat

    Love this recipe! These will be made ASAP.

    One note about espresso powder, I’ve usually had decent luck replacing it with Starbucks VIA packs since they dissolve completely. Not exactly the same, but handy in meringues, etc.

  • annieseats

    They are actually meant to be mini brioche molds but I have used them for cupcakes a few times and really like that too. I got these from King Arthur Flour.

  • How decadent! I must bake these up for my husband, who is a coffee lover.

  • oh my gosh, i love those mini brioche molds!! They give the perfect exaggerated fluting to the cupcake… these look gorgeous and the recipe sounds to die for! You definitely exhibited a lot of patience in saving these for so long. I say Friday is the perfect occasion to whip them up. :)

  • Val Ward

    I am SOOO glad to see that you have posted a coffee cupcake!!!! I have recently tried 2 recipes for espresso cupcakes…. BOTH were a bust! Ugh! My husband and I love coffee. We were so excited to eat the cupcakes after I made them…. and then they disappointed. The caramel espresso buttercream icing was heaven!!! The first recipe for cupcakes stuck inside the cupcake pan and were so dry! The second recipe was rather bland… and again dry. I love so many of your recipes (one at the top of my list being the Louisiana Cajun Pasta-MMMmmmmm!)! So I am glad to see you’ve posted a recipe. It is next on my list to try. Thank you!!!


  • Val Ward

    OH! And we ONLY drink frozen or iced coffee. No hot coffee for us!!

  • Carla @ Carla’s Confections

    These look absolutely fabulous! I agree that the liners are very elegant! I love them. Beautiful photography as always too!

  • Wow! These look amazing! Can’t wait to try!

  • Fantastic idea! I love the idea of swirling a vanilla frosting and an espresso frosting on top, too cool!

  • Scherpf

    Wonderful! Any suggestions on where to find choc covered espresso beans? Thx!

  • annieseats

    I got them at The Fresh Market. You can also find them online.

  • yay can’t wait to try them!!! i just need to buy unsalted butter and find some chocolate covered espresso beans *rolls up sleeves* I’m a girl on a mission ;)

  • Another winner!

    Keep writing…

  • These look so delicious. I will have to try them.

  • Lcoudiere

    Hi Annie,
    I noticed you use the brioche molds for the these cupcakes. I’m just wondering how easy they are to take out of the mold when you are ready to eat them. Do they get stuck at all?

  • MRK

    If I substitute the vanilla bean with 2 tsp. vanilla extract, should I also adjust the amount of hot water?

  • annieseats

    No, you will still need the hot water.

  • annieseats

    They have been fine. I’ve used them for cupcakes a couple of times and they always come out easily.

  • Sabrina

    These cupcakes look sinful and delicious! I cannot wait to try them! Your photography is amazing too.

    Love your blog, so glad I came across it! I will definitely be following to see what you share next.

    I recently started a food blog, and I’d love for you to follow. Maybe we can link up sometime! New blog friends makes me :)

  • Skiinmeg

    I MUST try this! Sounds delicious!

  • Jackiefo4

    I will have to make these as vanilla lattes are my FAVORITE coffee drink…iced in the summer, of course!

  • Iman76543

    I love you!! You have the most amazing recipes ever… I just baked these and they were amazing.

  • amanda

    Made these this morning! Wonderful. I did however substitute american buttercream frostings since I don’t like swiss meringue buttercream. I was able to adapt the frosting recipe to make it work. the only issue I had was frosting them. I had such a hard time getting the frostings both in the bag at the same time. I wonder what size bag you use Annie? Do you use a washable reusable one or disposable? I bought a 14 inch reusable one I think and it was really difficult to work with….

  • annieseats

    I think my bags are 12-inch.

  • Surita

    I baked this over the weekend and I absolutely loved the cupcakes. However the frosting was extremely thick and heavy, not like yours at all. It is extremely cold in my part of the world so I don’t know if that can have anyting to do with it. How can I make it lighter and softer?

  • annieseats

    I’m not sure what would cause it to be thick and heavy. Possibly if the meringue portion didn’t whip up appropriately. Sorry, it’s hard to know what the problem might be.

  • annieseats

    So glad you enjoyed them :)

  • Sue

    Amanda, how did you adapt the frosting? This is exactly what I would like to do, since swiss meringue buttercream, in this heat and humidity down here in Mexico, always falls apart.

  • Joleen

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this recipe! I just made it tonight for a coworker’s birthday. I put them in the refrigerator for tomorrow. Is this how you stored them? I am worried about setting them out tomorrow and having condensation form on them.

  • annieseats

    Yes, I refrigerate them. They will be fine. Enjoy!

  • amanda

    Hi Sue, I used 2 sticks of butter, 4 cups of powdered sugar, the seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean and 1TBSP of cream. Then I pulled out half of the frosting, and added 1 tsp of espresso powder mixed with 1tsp of hot water to the rest of the frosting and mixed it up. That gave me the two flavors of frosting to mix together in the bag.

    Of course I tinkered with it a bit and tasted it every so often to make sure it wasn’t too buttery or too sugary. This may not make enough frosting for you and if that is the case, double it.

  • Barbara

    I am going to make these and put a chocolate covered hazelnut on top! Toast hazelnuts rub skin off, dip in melted chocolate and place on parchment paper to dry Can’t wait!

  • stephanie b.

    Oh My Goodness! I made these today, and they are awesome! It’s a stalemate between these and an almond, white chocolate, honey, bailey’s cupcake for the #1 spot in my heart! These are awesome! Everybody in my family Loves them! I do too. And, the frosting, DIVINE! Thank you, thank you for the recipe!

  • Those look and sound so good. I have to try them.

  • Hi Annie,
    Made these and it was really delicious… Just posted it in my blog… thank you so much for the recipe

  • Lexy

    Can’t wait to try these….certainly got rave reviews.
    Question about using the mini-brioche pans. Did you grease or spray them before filling.
    They are soooo neat…wish you would have shown how it looks out of the pan…are the
    ridges as sharp as it looks? Thanks for the recipe and the idea.

  • annieseats

    It wasn’t a brioche pan, it’s just what you see in the picture – brioche paper molds :)

  • Nicole

    Your recipes are amazing and certainly make my friends very happy with me :) I just tried these yesterday and as a coffee lover i was thoroughly delighted!

  • Kari

    Hi Annie!

    I have a question regarding recipes that require cooking something in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. I’m a newbie so not exactly sure how to do this, does this step mean to get a small pot of boiling water, and get a heatproof bowl big enough that sits on top of the pot so the steam from the boiling water cooks whatever is in the bowl? Thanks Annie, love all the recipes they look amazing!

  • annieseats

    Yep, that’s the idea. There are lots of ways to do it but the two key things are just that the water should simmer, not boil, and the bowl should not be in contact with the water. It’s essentially a double boiler without buying an actual double boiler because there is no need when a bowl works just as well.

  • Samiwoolsey

    Hi Annie! I LOVE your site! recipes are wonderful! I have a recipe specific question for this, instead of using half a cup of the strong brewed coffee could I use half a cup of espresso? Perhaps this would be too strong? Thank you !

  • annieseats

    Oh, I think it would be okay. Can you have too much coffee? Methinks no.

  • Roohi

    Hi Annie! I just have one quick question. When making the butter cream do I switch to the paddle attachment after the egg whites are whipped to stiff peaks or keep the whisk attachment?

  • annieseats

    Nope, just stick with the whisk.

  • Anicholsphoto

    Wait a minute….I’m supposed to make two different kinds of frosting with this? I only see one kind in this recipe. Maybe that’s why I ran out of frosting. Where is the recipe for the second frosting?

  • annieseats

    From the instructions: “Remove about half of the frosting to a bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the espresso powder and hot water and whisk to dissolve. Blend the espresso powder mixture into the frosting remaining in the mixing bowl until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.”

  • JLHCupcakes

    Beautiful cupcakes! I love when everything turns out right the first time. =) Joy to make and got rave reviews. Although I topped with a vanilla bean and espresso swirled buttercream.

  • Anicholsphoto

    Sorry, I saw that. I ended up not separating it & just making the icing all one. Should that have affected the amount, though? I had enough for about 16 :( What could I do to make it a little more icing? Maybe add some cream?

  • annieseats

    Not sure why that would have been. Adding cream won’t help with this type of frosting but would make it very runny. You probably just need to make more frosting.

  • holygypsy

    Hello, I nominated your blog for the “Super Sweet Blogger Award”… I just love your blog! Hope you accept it!

    Here is the link!

  • Hey Annie, I love your recipes. I just wanted to add some info for folks. I live in Texas and our local Kroger has espresso powder. It’s about $3.00.

  • Vivian Nguyen

    Hello Annie! I made these great cupcakes for my parents on their anniversary and they LOVED it! Next week is my mom’s birthday and she wanted me to make this but in a cake version. I wanted to ask how I should make it. Should I keep the recipe the same and bake it in a cake pan with different baking time or change the recipe a little?

  • annieseats

    Sure, you can make it as a cake. Please see the FAQ page for more info. Enjoy!!

  • Sue

    I just made these. I used Amanda’s “American” buttercream recipe, because down here in Mexico, I just haven’t had any luck with Swiss meringue buttercream. I don’t know if it’s the quality of the butter, or the humidity, or what. I made it successfully in MN many times! Anyway, this recipe was a success. I love these!

  • Roohi Patel

    I’ve made this SMBC several times and it always comes out perfect. I know SMBC can be finicky sometimes so an I just double the ingredients if I need more buttercream or should I make two separate batches?

  • annieseats

    Yep, you should be able to double it without issue. The only thing to consider is whether your mixer bowl is big enough to hold the double batch. Glad you enjoy it!