Caffeine-Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes
When I was younger and the family went shopping, I always drifted over to the best part of the grocery store – the bakery. Nothing was more attractive than the brightly decorated sugar cookies, the two-bite little brownies, and the cupcakes topped with a swirly heap of rainbow frosting. I would slowly walk around the tables, lusting over all the baked goods set out, and then I would stand in front of the glass-shielded cake display and simply stare.
I truly thought nothing in the world was more attractive. There was a magic in the perfectly round chocolate chip cookies and trays of brownies with fudge frosting. I could almost taste the light and creamy frosting on the chocolate cake, the soft dusting of powdered sugar on the donuts, the buttery crumble of their cinnamon scones. But on the few occasions where I bought something, I was almost always disappointed.
Looking back, it’s hard to see the same appeal. I simply don’t have much interest in store bought baked treats anymore.
These days I still wander over to the bakery section – I just can’t help myself. But instead of examining the products with an appreciative eye and a rumbling stomach, I want to be inspired. As I observe the cake counter, I can’t help but visualize which piping tips the decorator used. I find that four words inevitably flicker across my mind like an unexpected gale: “I could do that.”
Since I’ve begun to bake, my tastes have really changed. I was a child who would have preferred a pristine sugar cube to a cup of coffee, and a peppermint patty over a good bagel. Today, raw sugar doesn’t conquer all (whew!) and I now hold homemade treats over store-bought desserts. I think you can taste the love in a homemade buttercream and the tradition and passion in a homemade crust.
I no longer want to spend savings on baked goods that are likely to disappoint, especially when I could make them at home for a fraction of the cost. And though I rarely find myself longing for a name brand dessert, once in a while I am swayed by the urge to make something… undeniably sugary and comforting.
Enter these Caffeine-Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes. Chocolate-coffee cupcakes filled with a simple espresso frosting and topped with a bittersweet ganache. Made with ground coffee and instant espresso powder, they really do contain caffeine (I learned the hard way by eating a few before bed and not sleeping for a long time.)
First, I have to make a confession. No matter how young and how sugar-craved I was, I have never tried a hostess cupcake (or had any desire to.) But I know the hostess cupcake sits on a beloved pedestal in the American palate, and I thought a homemade version would be delicious.
I am currently in a baking frenzy where I am playing catch-up. During the months when I worked on applications, I had to miss five birthdays. Now that I have free time, I’m slowly baking my way through them, and I’m also baking to thank the teachers, counselors, and adults who helped me during the college process. These cupcakes are for my physics teacher, who wrote me a letter of recommendation and likes all things coffee.
These worked great as mini cupcakes. I liked that they were bite sized – getting all the cream and ganache in one bite helped keep it moist, whereas a larger cupcake would have been less moist. I did make a few full-sized cupcakes, but they were too domed! As little cupcakes, the tops were nice and rounded, but when I made them larger, the tops rose ridiculously into triangular points. Plus, the small cupcakes are easier to fill and dip in ganache.
My mom, who doesn’t usually like chocolate or sweets, liked these cupcakes. She said it wasn’t overbearingly sweet, and she liked the coffee aftertaste. Everyone who saw me with the plate at school couldn’t help but say “aww,” and I hope Mr. OB liked them!
Chocolate-Espresso Mini Cupcakes
Adapted from Nestle
Makes about 40 mini cupcakes
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 four-ounce stick) butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder [I actually used 1/2 tablespoon finely ground coffee]
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 40 mini cupcake tins with paper liners.
Microwave the chocolate in a small, microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds. Stir gently to melt. If there are a couple unmelted pieces, the residual heat will melt them. Cool to room temperature.
Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the brown sugar, eggs, butter, espresso powder/ground coffee, and vanilla extract for 3 minutes until smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate until well mixed, then beat in half of the flour mixture. Beat in the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture. Beat a minute until smooth.
Fill each cupcake tin 2/3 – 3/4 full and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Simple Coffee Frosting
Makes enough to fill and decorate 40 mini cupcakes
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 tbsp softened butter, cut into cubes
3/4 tsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Mix the instant espresso powder and milk together, dissolving the powder. Beat the butter in an electric mixer, then add the powdered sugar. Beat in the powder/milk mixture and extract until fluffy and smooth.
Makes enough to cover 40 mini cupcakes
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Take off the heat and add the chocolate. Let sit five minutes, then stir to melt the chocolate. Stir in the butter until melted. Let cool slightly.
To assemble the Caffeine-Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes: Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/4″ round tip with the coffee frosting. Simply stick the end of the piping bag into a cupcake and squeeze to fill the cupcakes with the frosting. Fill all of the cupcakes, reserving a little frosting for the piped design on top. Wipe off any excess frosting coming out of the cupcakes, then dip in the ganache. Don’t use your finger or a spoon to smooth the tops (prevents it from drying smooth.) Instead, tap the cupcake on the table, move it gently from side to side, and tilt it to even out the ganache. Put the cupcakes in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set. Using a very small round tip, pipe the signature Hostess pattern on top of the cupcakes with the coffee frosting.
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