These rich coffee cupcakes are made with instant coffee for an intense coffee flavor. They're soft, moist, and topped with a swirl of coffee cream cheese frosting. They are a coffee lover's dream!
Calling all coffee lovers! You're going to love these coffee cupcakes. They're super moist and soft because they're made with oil and buttermilk. Their intense coffee flavor comes from instant coffee granules. If you're more into espresso, you can turn these into espresso cupcakes by using espresso powder instead!
My favorite part of these cupcakes is the dollop of coffee cream cheese frosting on top of each one. The sweet, slightly tangy flavor pairs perfectly with the slight bitterness of the coffee. Serve these cupcakes in the morning with a warm mug of coffee and have dessert for breakfast!
If you love coffee as much as I do, check out my creamy espresso martini, dirty chai cake, and toasted vanilla shaken espresso. For more cupcake recipes, try small batch chocolate cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, or banana chocolate cupcakes (all of these have coffee in them!).
Here are some notes on the ingredients used. For the quantities and full instructions, see the recipe card below.
Ingredients for Coffee Cupcakes
- Oil- Making cupcakes with oil instead of butter makes them extra moist and soft. Use a neutral tasting oil like vegetable oil, avocado oil, or canola oil so the coffee flavor stand out.
- Egg and egg white- A large egg binds the ingredients together while the additional egg white adds extra lift. Make sure they're room temperature so they mix in seamlessly. Take all the dairy ingredients out of the refrigerator an hour before baking.
- Buttermilk- This ingredient tenderizes the gluten and makes the cupcakes super soft. Make sure it's room temperature.
- Vanilla extract- Pure vanilla extract enhances all the other flavors.
- Flour- All purpose flour is best for a soft yet hearty texture. Cake flour also works.
- Granulated sugar- White sugar sweetens the cupcakes and helps hold on to moisture.
- Baking powder and baking soda- These leaveners react with heat and acid to help the cupcakes rise and get light and fluffy. Make sure both are fresh!
- Salt- A pinch of salt helps to offset the sweetness.
- Instant coffee- Instant coffee is essentially dried brewed coffee. Coffee beans are roasted, ground, brewed, and then dehydrated. The crystals are left over and can be rehydrated by adding liquid. Use a high-quality brand for the best flavor like Blue Bottle! Don't substitute ground coffee because the cupcakes will be grainy.
Ingredients for Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
- Unsalted butter- Make sure to soften the butter so it's easy to mix. Take it out of the refrigerator an hour before you make the frosting. Room temperature butter is cool to the touch but easy to indent with your finger. If the butter is too warm, the frosting will get greasy.
- Cream cheese- Use full fat, room temperature cream cheese for the best creamy consistency. It should be in block form. Low fat cream cheese and cream cheese spread in a tub will make the frosting too runny.
- Powdered sugar- Confectioners sugar adds sweetness and structure to the coffee frosting. You don't need to sift it because most powdered sugars in the US contain anti-caking agents.
- Instant coffee- Use the same instant coffee granules you used for the cupcakes.
- Vanilla extract- This is used to dissolve the instant coffee, so don't substitute vanilla bean paste.
- Buttermilk: Plain kefir or Greek yogurt can be substituted. You can also make your own buttermilk by combining a cup of whole milk with a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice and letting it curdle for about 5 minutes.
- Flour: Substitute gluten free all purpose flour if needed. I always recommend Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour.
- Instant coffee: You can substitute espresso powder, which is different than ground espresso. It's more fine and dissolves in liquid.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- You need a 12-well cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Don't use a silicone pan because the cupcakes will burn.
- For the frosting, use an electric hand mixer or a 5-quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- For decorating, you need a piping bag and a large piping tip. The Wilton 1M is beginner friendly and a favorite of mine.
Step by Step Instructions
Before you start baking, preheat a conventional oven to 350°F/180°C. Place 12 cupcake liners in your cupcake pan and set aside.
STEP 1: First, vigorously whisk the oil, egg, egg white, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together in a large bowl until smooth.
STEP 2: Next, pour flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of wet ingredients. Fold them in gently with your rubber spatula until a few dry streaks of flour remain.
STEP 3: In a separate medium bowl, mix instant coffee and hot water together until no crystals are left.
STEP 4: Pour the coffee into the cupcake batter ½ at a time, stirring until the mixture is smooth. It will be very liquidy.
STEP 5: Fill each cupcake liner ¾ of the way full. Bake the cupcakes at 350°F/180°C for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.
STEP 6: Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Let them cool completely before frosting (about 30 minutes).
STEP 7: While the cupcakes cool, make the coffee cream cheese frosting by beating butter and cream cheese together on high speed in a stand mixer. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Then dissolve the coffee in the vanilla extract and mix that into the frosting on medium speed.
STEP 8: Once the cupcakes have cooled, pipe a swirl of frosting on top, dust with espresso powder or garnish with chocolate covered coffee or espresso beans, and enjoy!
Expert Baking Tips
- Use room temperature ingredients. Room temperature ingredients (like buttermilk, eggs, butter, and cream cheese) mix in more easily to create a uniform batter and smooth frosting with no lumps.
- Make sure your leaveners are fresh. Baking powder doesn't last very long once it's opened, and it's important that it's fresh so the cupcakes rise properly. To test its freshness, spoon a little into boiling water. If it bubbles, it's fresh and ready to use. If there are no bubbles, it's time to replace it!
- Use a kitchen scale. Weighing your ingredients in grams will have the best results! Metric measurements are in the recipe card below (and cup measurements are too). A scale is super affordable and worth it!
- Don't overmix. Overmixing the batter can make cupcakes gummy and a little tough. Make sure to mix until everything is just combined. Stop right when the dry pockets of flour disappear.
- Don't overbake. Check on the cupcakes a few minutes before the suggested baking time because oven temperatures can vary. They're done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or when the tops bounce back when you lightly touch them.
Additions and Variations
- Chocolate mocha: Reduce the flour by ½ cup and substitute ½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder for a deep chocolatey flavor.
- Caramel macchiato: Drizzle caramel sauce on top for a sweet contrast to the bitter coffee.
- Toffee nut: Sprinkle toffee bits, chopped nuts (like walnuts and pecans), or a mix of both into the batter for crunch and flavor.
- Irish cream liqueur: For a boozy twist, add a splash of Baileys to the batter or frosting.
- Chocolate ganache: Drizzle or dip the cupcakes in silky whipped chocolate ganache to complement the coffee flavor.
- Different frosting- To shake up the flavor, try using different frosting like almond buttercream, brown sugar buttercream, chai buttercream (for dirty chai cupcakes) or even banana frosting. You can also try filling the cupcakes!
I haven't tested these variations, so let me know in the comments how it goes if you try one!
Storage and Freezing
Store your cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let them come to room temperature on the counter for 30 minutes before eating.
Place the cupcakes in an airtight container or freezer safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Let them thaw in the refrigerator overnight or on the counter for a couple hours before eating.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can. Make 6 ounces of double strength coffee and use that instead of instant coffee and water. A darker roast will have a stronger flavor.
If your cupcakes crack, it's most likely because your oven temperature is too high. A high temperature makes the cupcakes rise and fall more quickly, causing cracks. Make sure your oven is at 350°F/180°C and consider getting an oven thermometer to make sure the temperature is correct.
I have not tested this, but you can try substituting 2 flax eggs. Mix 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds with 5 tablespoons of water. Let thicken in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes before using.
More Cupcake Recipes to Try
- 130 grams neutral oil
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 egg white room temperature
- 225 grams buttermilk room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 240 grams all purpose flour
- 260 grams granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules
- 200 grams hot water
Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
- 113 grams unsalted butter softened
- 226 grams cream cheese softened
- 500 grams powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Place 12 cupcake liners in a cupcake pan and set aside.
- Whisk oil, egg, egg white, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together in a large bowl until smooth.130 grams neutral oil, 1 large egg, 1 egg white, 225 grams buttermilk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pour flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of wet ingredients. Fold in gently with a rubber spatula until a few dry streaks of flour remain.240 grams all purpose flour, 260 grams granulated sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¾ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a separate bowl, mix instant coffee and hot water together.1 tablespoon instant coffee granules, 200 grams hot water
- Pour coffee into the cupcake batter, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
- Fill each cupcake liner ¾ full. Bake for 16-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
- Add butter and cream cheese the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed for 5-7 minutes until smooth.113 grams unsalted butter, 226 grams cream cheese
- Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low 1 cup at a time until smooth. Increase the speed to medium and mix until fluffy.500 grams powdered sugar
- Mix vanilla and instant coffee together in a small bowl until the granules dissolve.1 teaspoon instant coffee granules, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Pour the vanilla and coffee mixture into the frosting. Mix on low until well combined.
- Pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!