Coffee-Scented Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Coffee Buttercream

OK, I’ll admit… I totally didn’t understand the “scented” cupcake thing until now.

You always hear those fancy bakers from posh cupcakeries talk about pistachio-scented this and almond-scented that. And you know what? It used to sound silly to me.

But now I totally get it. In my Google quest to figure out what makes a really moist chocolate cake, I added a little secret ingredient to these cupcakes (the ones I baked into mason jars with my leftover batter). It imparts a mouthwatering coffee scent without making you feel like you’re eating a coffee-flavored cupcake.

Want to know the secret?

Instant coffee.

I bought a box of eight of these little Nescafé Clasico packets, used one to stir up a cup of coffee (J and I don’t have a coffee maker at home—sacrilege, I know!) and added that java-licious mug straight into the batter before baking.

The results were moist, mouthwatering and quite delicious when paired with a vanilla coffee buttercream frosting that features the same instant coffee powder mixed right in.

Now, the frosting’s not coffee-scented, that thing just tastes like a straight up vanilla latté.

No joke. A moist chocolate cupcake with a whipped latté on top.

Ready to chow down?

Coffee-Scented Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla coffee Buttercream
For the coffee-scented cakes
  1. 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. ¾ cups cocoa powder
  4. 2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 1 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 cup buttermilk
  8. ½ cup vegetable oil
  9. 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  10. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
For the vanilla coffee frosting
  1. ½ cup solid vegetable shortening
  2. ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  3. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  4. 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  5. 3 tablespoons milk
  6. 1 gram instant coffee powder (about one-half of an instant serving)
Make the cupcakes
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two cupcake pans with 24 cupcake liners (or just use mason jars!).
  2. In one bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until well-combined.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla, then mix together until just combined. With the mixer still on low speed, add the dry mixture in three parts, allowing each addition to mix in completely. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine.
  4. Pour the batter evenly into your cupcake liners and bake it at 350°F for 25 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes almost clean (it's the secret to moist chocolate cake). Let the cupcakes cool completely.
Make the frosting
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the shortening, butter and vanilla until combined.
  2. Increase the speed to medium and gradually add confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl as necessary. Add the milk and continue to beat the frosting at medium speed until it's light and fluffy. Add the coffee powder, then mix until it's combined throughout.
Adapted from Ina Garten
Adapted from Ina Garten
Taryn Williford


  • September 14, 2011 11:32 am

    I don’t like coffee at all but I do like adding a little when I bake with chocolate – it just gives such a delicious rich taste. I love these cupcakes in mason jars, they are so cute. I just want to dive right in!

  • September 14, 2011 11:05 pm

    These look so good! I love that you baked them in mason jars. I used the cake portion of this recipe a few months ago for some marshmallow filled cupcakes, and it was amazing…I think the coffee really enhances the chocolate flavor.

  • September 15, 2011 2:45 pm

    they looks amazing!

  • September 15, 2011 3:11 pm

    I want to ask you permission to use the foto of your chocolate cupcake for my blog’s October favorites round up. All credit will be linked to your blog as I normally do with all my round ups. You can respond to my request via my email and consider this an invitation to visit my little humble blog. Thank you,

  • September 17, 2011 10:15 am

    Clever! Stunning! Looks delish too!!!

  • Anonymous

    September 17, 2011 5:54 pm

    What could I use in place of shortening?

  • Jam

    September 17, 2011 5:55 pm

    What could I use in place of the shortening?

  • September 18, 2011 4:45 pm

    Are those 4oz Mason jars that you used?

  • October 27, 2011 9:23 am

    My boyfriend & I just got our first coffee pot. It looks like we need to get ourselves some canning jars because this recipe looks (& sounds) decadent. I love the ramped up flavor that coffee brings to chocolate. Getting my mocha latte fix without leaving the hose? Yes please!

    Heather @ Find That Warm Fuzzy Feeling

  • May 28, 2012 10:16 pm

    Very good recipe, I tried it with great success and shared it with my wife & both my mom & mother in law and all give it two thumbs up with a twist!
    Thanks for the recipe,

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  • Keirsta

    April 26, 2015 5:15 am

    I can’t wait to make these! I did notice that you didn’t add the coffee in your icing recipe instructions. Do I dissolve the coffee in the milk or when do I add it? Thx.

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