Over the top rich and easy to make, Perfect Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes (aka mocha cupcakes) are for any occasion. Tender chocolate cake is infused with espresso or strong coffee and topped with a rich and chocolatey easy buttercream. This recipe is vegetarian and easily dairy free.
This recipe was first published March 2014 and was updated February 2023.
For Any Occasion: Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes
Espresso takes these little cakes to a new level of richness while creating a bolder tasting cupcake. It’s the best chocolate cupcake recipe I have in my repertoire and one I return to again and again for birthdays, celebrations or just to say I love you. If you love chocolate and coffee, you’re going to love these mocha cupcakes!
This Cupcake Recipe Is:
- Rich and Chocolatey
- Fun and Easy to Make
- Freezer Friendly
- Easily Dairy Free
Ingredients You’ll Need
For The Espresso Chocolate Cupcakes:
- Cane Sugar: less refined than granulated sugar and made from 100% sugar cane, this can be purchased in the bulk bins or in big bags at Costco (for a good price)!
- Unbleached All Purpose Flour OR Whole Wheat White Flour: both produce a light and tender crumb in this recipe.
- Unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa: this is an ultra rich and dark cocoa to bake with. Its notes are smoother and a little less bitter than regular cocoa powder. I like Rodelle Gourmet Baking Cocoa or Hershey’s Special Dark Dutched Cocoa.
- Baking Powder and Baking Soda: both provide leavening. Make sure they’re fresh/not expired.
- Vegetable Oil: use coconut oil, refined or unrefined here, melted and at room temperature. If you prefer, you can use canola oil.
- Eggs: two large at room temperature.
- Milk of Choice: you can use whole dairy milk or plant milk. I use unsweetened Homemade Cashew Milk, at room temperature.
- Espresso or Strong Coffee: you need one cup of espresso, strong brewed coffee or instant coffee. If you prefer a little less coffee flavored cupcakes, you can sub 1/2 cup or hot water.
For the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
- Unsalted Butter: make sure it’s at room temperature and if needed, you can use plant butter. I like Earth Balance.
- Unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa:
- Powdered Sugar: some powder sugar can be clumpy, so for the smoothest buttercream, be sure to sift the powdered sugar before mixing it into the icing.
- Vanilla Extract or Vanilla Bean Paste
- Milk of Choice: just a hint is added to the icing to bring it to proper consistency.
Quick Guide: How to Make Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
While the mocha cupcakes can be made with a bowl and spoon, I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer because the bowl is deep, and mixing is a snap. Here’s how to pull together these cupcakes (see recipe card for details):
- First, add sugar to a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt into the sugar. Whisk, and set aside.
- Second, in a medium bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Add this mixture to the sugar/flour mixture. Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients on low just until incorporated.
- Third, with mixer off, pour in the hot espresso. Mix by hand until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Next, portion into cupcake liners and bake.
- Last, make the buttercream using a whisk attachment, mix the icing ingredients, adjusting the consistency with a touch of vanilla and milk.
Once the cupcakes are cool, have fun with the icing! Or at this point, the cupcakes can be frozen for up to two weeks, iced or uniced.
Baking Tools for Making Mocha Cupcakes
A few kitchen tools I use to make these chocolate coffee cupcakes a snap to pull together (these are affiliate links):
How to Decorate Cupcakes
This is the joy of cupcakes including these coffee cupcakes! I use a large open star tip to make rosettes. Or, for a more rustic cupcake, dollop and spread the icing over each cupcake.
Cupcakes can be garnished with many different things. For this recipe, I like to add cocoa nibs which offer a nice crunch and interest. But I’ve also used, mini chocolate chips, chocolate covered espresso beans, shaved chocolate, chocolate jimmies, sprinkles, edible wafer paper or nothing at all! Whatever you top your mocha cupcakes with, have fun!
How to Freeze Chocolate Coffee Cupcakes
You can freeze the cupcakes iced or uniced! Simply place your cupcakes on a parchment lined sheet pan and freeze. Once frozen, transfer the cupcakes to a lidded container for up to two weeks. Thaw at room temperature for at least an hour before sharing.
Mocha Cake Variation!
If a two layer cake is more of what you’re after, you can bake the mocha cupcake batter in two 9″ cake pans, filling the cake pans 3/4 full each. Simply bake the cake for 30-35 minutes instead of the 25 minutes the cupcakes require. Be sure to spray your pan, line with parchment and spray with oil again. This will ensure an easy release.
A Few Recipe Notes
- Yield: This chocolate espresso cupcake recipes makes 27 cupcakes. If needed, the batter can rest while one or two pans of cupcakes are baking. Once the first or second batch is out of the oven, the remaining batter can be baked, in a cooled cupcake pan.
- Flour Options: For this mocha cupcake recipe, I use unbleached all purpose flour or whole wheat unbleached white flour. The texture of the cake is similar!
- About the Coffee: This recipe calls for 1 cup of espresso or strong brewed coffee. You can use decaf or regular. For a lighter coffee flavor, use 1/2 cup boiling water and 1/2 cup espresso.
- Espresso Buttercream Frosting: For over the top chocolate espresso cupcakes, add a little espresso powder to the icing by dissolving 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of instant espresso powder into the milk.
- Isa said: “For the icing, I dissolved 2 teaspoons of instant coffee into the milk, which made the icing deliciously coffee-ish, and it tastes almost more like a ganache than a sweet icing.”
- Lyndsey said: “I made the icing into chocolate coffee buttercream by subbing the 2 tablespoons of milk for iced coffee.”
- Hayu said: “Made half recipe for my kiddos today just before my lunch break. I reduced the sugar to 3/4c for half recipe since I used regular cocoa powder.”
More Chocolate Recipes to Love
- Mocha Cookies
- Spiked Orange Hot Chocolate
- Chocolate Pots de Creme
- Double Chocolate Devils Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream
- Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies – gluten free + vegan
Perfect Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes Recipe
For The Cake:
- 2 cups (400 grams) Cane Sugar
- 1 3/4 cups + 1 tablespoon (250 grams) Unbleached All Purpose Flour or White Whole Wheat Flour
- 3/4 cups (80 grams) Unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) Coconut Oil melted and warm to the touch, or canola oil
- 2 Large Eggs at Room Temperature
- 1 cup (245 grams) Milk at Room Temperature, whole or plant milk
- 3 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- 1 cup (226 grams) Espresso or Strong Coffee, fresh brewed, HOT
For The Icing:
- 2 sticks (226 grams) Unsalted Butter at Room Temperature, dairy or plant*
- 2/3 cup (70 grams) Unsweetened Dutch Process Cocoa
- 2 1/2 cups (285 grams) Powdered Sugar
- 1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (75 grams) Milk dairy or plant milk
For The Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven.
- Add sugar to a mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt into the sugar bowl. Use the paddle attachment to mix for about 30 seconds. Set aside
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla until an emulsion is formed. Add this mixture to the sugar/flour mixture of the stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients on low just until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
- With mixer off, pour in the espresso/hot coffee. Mix by hand, scraping down the bottom of the bowl to get all the batter incorporated. A few lumps are ok. The batter will be runny. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.
- ***Line a standard muffin tin or cupcake pan with cupcake cups. Fill each cup to about 3/4 full, 3 tablespoons each. Or, use a #20 or large ice cream scoop to make portioning a snap! One scoop per cup. Bake cupcakes for 22-25 minutes. The cupcakes are done when they pass the toothpick test, and the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the center.
- Once out of the oven cool cupcakes in the pan pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes from the pan, place on a cooling rack and let cool completely before icing.
For The Icing
- In a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape down the bowl several times during this process.
- While the butter is creaming, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa powder. Once the butter is creamed, add the sifted cocoa and sugar alternatively first with all of the vanilla extract, then with 2-3 tablespoons of milk at a time reserving the last two tablespoons for consistency adjustment. Mix the icing until creamy and light, about 30-40 seconds. The icing should be spreadable, not too stiff or loose.
- Once the cupcakes are completely cool, pipe or schmear the icing on each cupcake, about 2-3 tablespoons each (they don't need much because they're so rich!).
- To Store: Store in a covered container at room temperature for up to three days, or in the freezer for up to two weeks. Thaw at room temperature for at least an hour before sharing.
I’m so excited to make these for my boyfriend’s birthday this weekend! We will have a couple kiddos in attendance, so I’ll make a few without coffee. Should I substitute something in for the coffee to keep the consistency right?
Hi Mel! You can use hot water instead. Enjoy!
The BEST chocolate cake/cupcake recipe ever! I did sub the regular white flour as well as the strong brewed coffee as it states you can do at the bottom. I also like to use Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder as I love a bold chocolate flavor. I have made these cupcakes 3 times with consistent results, lots of compliments, & requests for the recipe! Thank you for sharing!
Hi T.Mac! Thank you for your note and giving the recipe a go! SO happy to hear everyone’s enjoying the cake. A reminder that it’s time for me to make these again!
These cupcakes are delicious! I love how easily they come together, and the cupcakes themselves are moist with great flavor. For the icing, I dissolved 2 teaspoons of instant coffee into the milk, which made the icing deliciously coffee-ish, and it tastes almost more like a ganache than a sweet icing.
Thanks for the recipe!
So happy to hear Isa! Thank you for your note and instant coffee tip! Love it!
These look amazing! Do you think this recipe would be enough to make a layer cake? Thanks!!!
Hi Katie! Easily. I’ve actually scaled this recipe down to make two 6″ cake rounds, but I didn’t write the recipe down. You could probably get away with using two 7″ or 9″ round pans. Fill 1/2 – 3/4 full (but not more) and you’ll need to bake them a bit longer. I would say to start checking them at around 25-30 minutes using the toothpick test. I hope this helps and you enjoy the recipe!
Wowza! This was delicious! Loved my first from scratch chocolate cake. Full cup of coffee in the batter and 1 cup less sugar in the buttercream. Stunning! Of course, it helped that you made it in my kitchen…thank you! When I make it on my own I will try the iced espresso instead of milk in icing. Soooooo good!
SERIOUSLY YUMMY! Made half recipe for my kiddos today just before my lunch break. I reduced the sugar to 3/4c for half recipe since I used regular cocoa powder (no one sell hershey here). The result is 14 delicious cupcakes . Had no chance to do the frosting since we only have 5 cupcakes left after the lunch break. Thanks Traci!
Hey Hayu! Thank you for your note on halfing the recipe! Hooray…! I’m so pleased you and your kiddos loved the recipe :D . No doubt you had no chance to ice them.. they are sooo good as is!
I made these cupcakes for my coworkers the other day and wow, all 24 of them were demolished! I have never made chocolate cupcakes so good and the frosting makes you want more. I love this recipe and will use them every time I make chocolate cupcakes. Thank you for sharing!
Hooray! Thank you so much for sharing, Joy. This makes my day! :D
HI, I love trying new chocolate cake recipes! Especially ones that contain coffee. However, I have a question…do you use brewed coffee and hot water, or coffee grounds? I can’t wait to try!
Hi Glynda! Use 1/2 C Boiling Water AND 1/2 C brewed coffee or espresso (no coffee grounds). I’ll make a note in the recipe! I hope this helps!
Husbands That Cook
We made these yesterday and they were absolutely delicious!! Perfectly moist and tender, deeply chocolatey and rich, and the frosting is so silky smooth! Thanks for the great recipe, Traci! We’ll definitely be making them again soon!
Hooray! This is great Adam and Ryan. Thank you for sharing here and on IG! :D It’s one of the first recipes I blogged about because it’s solid and one of my most favorites! I use the cake for so many other recipes too. Your description is spot on! We love this one too! :D
Made these this weekend and they were wonderful. I used vegetable oil instead of coconut and it was fine. I did find the batter to be a little runny, so I added a couple of tablespoons of flour to make it a bit thicker (in the future could add less water).
I made the icing into chocolate coffee buttercream by subbing the 2 tablespoons of milk for iced coffee.
These were absolutely divine. Thanks for sharing!
Hii! I was wondering if you think using canola oil would also work? Cant wait to try it! Thanks
Hi Sara! I think canola will work just fine. Thanks for asking and stopping by. I hope you enjoy the recipe!
Sooo I couldn’t find the hersey cocoa powder, and i was to short in time to buy it on Amazon. So I used a regular cocoa powder, with canola oil. I wanted them to taste expresso a bit more, so i filled them with expresso buttercream and topped them with dark chocolate ganache !
Made some mini cupcake for a friend’s exposition. SUUUUPER cute and delicious ! Thanks again for your recipe !
Hi Sara! Oh this is fabulous! You are welcome! I’m inspired by your adaptations of buttercream stuffed and ganache topped (ohhhh ganache!)! Thank you for sharing your success and adaptations! Well done!
Hi Sarah, Did you have to change the measurement or cook time when using canola oil, or was it an even swap?
yum, yum, yum!! I’ve been using the Hershey’s cake recipe for years as well. I love it and use it as the base for most of my chocolate cake/cupcake recipes. Adding espresso powder is a great trick!
Hi Faye. Yes, I agree, Yum, Yum, Yum! It IS a great recipe. It’s almost no fail!
This is Mother Finch from Columbia, SC, and what an informative, helpful website you have got goin’ on! The Photos are so clear and tempting, and that is one fine Photographer you have!
Carrie arrives Wednesday evening, and we will be trying these healthy recipes. Thanks for a fine job!! All the Best to You, Rob and Kitties! Barbara
Hello Ma Finch! Thanks for stopping by! Thank you for your kind comments. Hope you enjoy the recipes! And have a wonderful visit! Best to you!
Thank you for including a recommend bake time for those preferring to make it as a cake. I always have the hardest time with that!
Hi Jessica! Would love to hear how your cake turns out!
Abbie @ Needs Salt
These cupcakes look incredible! Everything about them.
Thank you Abbie!
Ohh…Love adding coffee to chocolate. What a great idea. I’ll do this sometimes with my chocolate smoothies – throw in a shot or two of espresso and some cinnammon. YUM! Maybe these will be great for our B-Days?? One could only hope.
We’ll make it so!
Fantastic pictures and commentary. My mouth is watering and I can’t wait for more!!!! Congratulations, Traci. You are a star who has caught her dream.