These moist chocolate espresso cupcakes have a fluffy texture and rich coffee flavor that pairs beautifully with a silky swirl of whipped chocolate ganache frosting. Although they're made from scratch, they're perfect for an easy last-minute dessert - you'll only need about 30 minutes of active time to make them! They can even be made gluten-free and/or dairy-free. Mocha fans will LOVE these cupcakes; they're intensely chocolatey and luxurious.
This one's for my chocolate lovers, my coffee lovers, and basically my kindred spirits - moist, rich and fluffy dark chocolate espresso cupcakes. They have the intense chocolateyness of a nutella brownie, the boldness of a coffee scone, and the show-stopping looks of a chocolate tart. Combining an espresso-spiked dark chocolate cupcake with an airy, coffee-infused whipped chocolate ganache, they're both light and deliciously decadent.
Highlights of this chocolate espresso cupcake recipe
- SO simple - No sifting, minimal mixing, and very low maintenance. In fact, you'll only need about 30 minutes of hands-on time to make them!
- Extra chocolatey - Like any good chocolate cupcake worth its salt, these leave nothing lacking in the flavor department. Along the lines of my favorite chocolate cake, they have a deep, dark chocolate intensity that's moist and not too sweet.
- Three-ingredient frosting - The whipped coffee ganache in this recipe is essentially the simplest form of a chocolate espresso frosting that you could possibly make (though chocolate whipped cream might give it a run for its money). No butter, no powdered sugar, only 3 ingredients!
- Flexible - Halve the recipe for small-batch cupcakes. Double it for a party. Make gluten-free cupcakes. Make dairy-free cupcakes! This recipe can do it all.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Chocolate chips - I recommend bittersweet, semisweet, or a combination - no higher than about 60% cacao. Since the chocolate chips are one of only three ingredients in the dark chocolate ganache frosting, splurge on the good stuff! My favorite for this recipe is Ghirardelli.
- Heavy cream - The only substitution I'd recommend here is full-fat coconut milk (for dairy-free chocolate ganache, just like the one gracing the tops of these financier cupcakes).
- Espresso/strongly-brewed coffee - You can use either one, but I do recommend brewing it fresh since you'll need a portion of it to be hot to make the chocolate coffee ganache. (You'll also need a portion cooled to room temperature, which is super important to avoid accidentally cooking the eggs in the chocolate cupcake batter!) And maybe it goes without saying, but pleeeease use decent coffee/espresso. Your taste buds will thank you.
- All-purpose flour - You can use regular flour or a gluten-free all-purpose blend. If you're opting for gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, make sure the flour blend you use contains xanthan gum.
- Cocoa powder - Use natural cocoa, not Dutch process, which lacks the acidity needed to react with baking soda and make your cupcakes rise. And as with any chocolate cupcakes, quality is important! Ghirardelli cocoa is typically easy to find in most stores, and works well here.
- Espresso powder - You can buy it or make your own; I have an entire post on espresso powder that will tell you everything you need to know!
- Oil - Any neutral-flavored cooking oil should do the trick, including avocado oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil. Don't use melted butter; your chocolate cupcakes won't turn out as moist!
- Eggs - Should be at room temperature! Make that happen quickly by putting them in a glass filled to the brim with warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Optional extras (for decorating): I used chocolate jimmies and dark chocolate espresso beans, but you could also use sparkling sugar, mini chocolate chips, chocolate hearts (perfect for Valentine's Day cupcakes!), chocolate shavings, etc!
Although there is a little bit of downtime involved with making these chocolate espresso cupcakes, you can absolutely manage to make them just before dinner and have them ready in time for dessert tonight. I know because I've done it! We'll start by prepping the chocolate espresso ganache, and while that's cooling, we'll make the chocolate coffee cupcakes. Once the cupcakes have baked and cooled, we'll whip up the ganache and decorate!
Make the chocolate coffee ganache:
Step one - Make the ganache: Place chocolate chips in a medium-large, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream (heated to a simmer) and hot coffee/espresso on top, and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes. Then, stir until smooth - it will be thin! - and set aside to cool to room temperature. Continue to stir every 15 minutes or so as you make the cupcakes.
Make the dark chocolate espresso cupcakes:
Step one - Oven and pan prep: Preheat your oven to 350ºF, and line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
Step two - Mix the dry ingredients: In a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together all of the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt.
Step three - Mix the wet ingredients: In a second, large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, room temperature coffee/espresso, and vanilla extract; the mixture should be smooth.
Step four - Combine wet and dry: Add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients and stir it in with a spatula just until it's fully incorporated - overmixing is never your friend! The batter will be on the thick side, but still fluid; it doesn't need to be completely smooth.
Step five- Transfer to muffin pan: Divide the cupcake batter evenly between the 12 lined cups of your muffin pan; each one will be about ⅔-3/4 of the way full. Note: These cupcakes will bake up with a slight dome if filled more than ⅔ full. If this bothers you, you can make 14 cupcakes instead of 12 to avoid this.
Step six- Bake: Bake the cupcakes in your preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, until the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let them cool for about 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frost and decorate:
Step one - Whip the ganache: Transfer the fully-cooled ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment (a handheld electric mixer should also work!) Beat at medium-high speed just until the ganache is slightly lighter in color and thick enough to hold its shape, making sure to scrape down the bowl as needed. This happens quickly! Be careful not to overwhip to avoid a grainy frosting.
Step two - Frost and decorate cupcakes: Pipe the ganache onto the cooled cupcakes, or spread it on with a small offset spatula (like I did with these classic cupcakes!). I like to pipe these with an Ateco #827 open star tip and top them with a chocolate espresso bean and a sprinkle of chocolate jimmies.
The cupcakes can be kept at cool room temperature for a day, but for anything longer I recommend storing them in the refrigerator due to the cream content in the ganache frosting. Keep them in an airtight container or zip-top bag; they'll be good for up to 5 days. The good news is that they taste incredible straight from the fridge!
Definitley! Just use gluten-free all-purpose flour; no other changes need to be made.
Yes! In fact, the chocolate espresso cupcakes themselves are dairy-free as-is. The only change you'll need to make is swapping heavy cream with coconut milk in the chocolate ganache frosting. Make sure the chocolate chips you use are also dairy-free!
Yep! This recipe halves well - perfect for a small batch of 6-7 chocolate cupcakes. You can easily double it to make 24 cupcakes too; the scaling feature in the recipe card will do the math for you!
Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
These moist chocolate espresso cupcakes have a fluffy texture and rich coffee flavor that pairs beautifully with a silky swirl of whipped chocolate ganache frosting. Although they're made from scratch, they're perfect for an easy last-minute dessert - you'll only need about 30 minutes of active time to make them!
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Chill Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 15 minutes (up to 17)
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 12 cupcakes 1x
- Category: cakes and cupcakes
- Method: baking
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting
- 10 ¾ ounces (1 ¾ cups plus 2 teaspoons) good-quality bittersweet/semisweet chocolate chips
- 7 ⅜ ounces (⅞ cup plus 1 teaspoon) heavy cream, heated to a simmer
- 4 ounces (½ cup) espresso or strongly brewed coffee, hot
Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
- 2 ⅞ ounces (⅔ cup, spoon and level) all-purpose flour
- 2 ⅜ ounces (⅔ cup) good-quality natural cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
- 1 ½ teaspoons espresso powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅜ teaspoon salt
- 6 ½ ounces (⅞ cup plus 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar
- 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) neutral-flavored cooking oil
- 2 large eggs, room temperature*
- 4 ounces (½ cup) espresso or strongly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- chocolate espresso beans
- chocolate jimmies
Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting
- Make the ganache: Place chocolate chips in a medium-large, microwave-safe mixing bowl. Pour the heavy cream (heated to a simmer) and hot coffee/espresso on top. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring about every 15 minutes.
Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
- Oven and pan prep: Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- Mix dry ingredients: In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Mix wet ingredients: In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, eggs, room temperature espresso/coffee and vanilla until smooth.
- Combine: Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir in with a spatula just until evenly incorporated; batter does not need to be perfectly smooth.
- Transfer to pan: Divide batter evenly between prepared muffin cups, filling each about ⅔-3/4 of the way full.
- Bake cupcakes in preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, just until the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Whipped Chocolate Ganache Frosting (continued)
- Whip the ganache: Transfer cooled ganache to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the wire whip attachment (or use a bowl and handheld electric mixer). Beat on medium-high speed just until thickened and slighter paler in color, wiping down bowl as needed. This doesn't take long; be careful not to overwhip!
- Frost and decorate: Pipe ganache onto cooled cupcakes, or spread on with an offset spatula. Top each cupcake with a chocolate espresso bean and a sprinkle of chocolate jimmies before serving.
Ingredient notes and substitutions:
- Heavy cream can be substituted with full-fat coconut milk for a dairy-free whipped chocolate ganache.
- Regular or gluten-free all-purpose flour can be used. If using gluten-free, make sure your blend contains xanthan gum.
- Flour and cocoa powder should be measured correctly using the spoon and level method (or better yet, a kitchen scale).
- To quickly brings eggs to room temperature, put them in a glass filled to the brim with warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Other garnish ideas include sparkling sugar, mini chocolate chips, chocolate hearts (perfect for Valentine's Day cupcakes!), chocolate shavings, etc!
- Cupcakes can be kept at cool room temperature for a day, but should be refrigerated if kept longer. Store in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 5 days.