Caffeine-Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes

January 13, 2010 at 11:34 pm 45 comments

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.

Bittersweet Ganache
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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Entry filed under: Cake/Cupcakes. Tags: , , , , .

Adventure, Anticipation, and Appreciation Buttercream in Bloom

45 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jiyeon  |  January 14, 2010 at 12:49 am


  • 2. Lauren  |  January 14, 2010 at 7:17 am

    I definitely used to love the bakery as well. Now I race through it, if I walk through it at all (I can’t eat any of it anyways). How nice of you to make cupcakes for your teachers! These ones sound fantastic!

  • 3. Valérie  |  January 14, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Aaaah, bribing teachers with baked goods – I’m doing my PhD right now, and I can tell you: it still works! (Only kidding of course – about the bribing, I mean. But I’m serious about homemade treats keeping me on my professors’ good sides.) I’m sure your teacher will love these adorable cupcakes.

    I know exactly what you mean about bakeries: once a place of desire, they become a place of inspiration.

  • 4. Laura  |  January 14, 2010 at 8:51 am

    These look delicious. Although they do bring to mind the hostess cupcakes (which, by the way, I don’t find appealing either) they lack that plastic-made-for-toddler’s-playhouse-kitchen look. And the addition of the espresso sounds great. Next excuse I find, I’m making these.

    My second day of graduate school, the first thing I did was make cookies for the two administrative assistants. Baking can help you warm your way into (almost) anyone’s heart!

  • 5. Stephanie Elliott  |  January 14, 2010 at 10:33 am

    As a high school teacher who writes many, many recommendation letters (about 40 so far this year!) I want you to know how delightful it is when students say thank you through special gifts like these. Those letters take time, energy, and heart and so do the lovely (and I am sure, delicious) things you bake. I am confident your teacher will love them!

  • 6. Wendy  |  January 14, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Mmm, caffeine spiked and generously chocolatey too. Perfect alternative source of caffeine intake for the IB student!
    The squiggle of frosting is a great touch and way of decorating the cupcakes!

  • 7. Hannah  |  January 14, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Wow so elegant! I admire your commitment for baking for the teachers – I gave mine homemade jam :P Plus coffee and chocolate… such a classic combination. I can’t wait to see more in the new year!

  • 8. Noor  |  January 14, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    I HAVE to try making these. They looked amazing when you brought them into school :)

  • 9. Mrs Ergül  |  January 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    You know what? These are so pretty! I will be making them soon!

  • 10. Mrs Ergül  |  January 15, 2010 at 1:26 am

    By the way, how mini were these?

  • 11. Eliana  |  January 15, 2010 at 9:37 am

    These look precious and better than the original :)

  • 12. ~Issy  |  January 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    OMGosh…those look yumm! I’m going to have to try them!

    And i LOVE the photos…

  • 13. Kerry  |  January 15, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    damn. why couldn’t you be MY student? :)

  • 14. Ivona  |  January 16, 2010 at 6:55 am

    Thank you Elisa! I also love all things chocolate and while normal cupcake recipes are too sweet for me I have a feeling these will be right up my alley…. so thank you again :)

  • 15. diva@The Sugar Bar  |  January 16, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    beautiful photos and just gorgeous cupcakes :) caffeine-spiked is totally my thing. x

  • 16. Tania  |  January 16, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I saw these in OB’s office and they caught my eye!! But I never knew they were from you (: I should have known better.

  • 17. Nina  |  January 16, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Oh man! I am an 18 year old baking enthusiast finally done (woot!) with the college process, and I am so glad to have found this blog! I’ll have to give these a try.

  • 18. Monica H  |  January 17, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Not generally a fan of the Hostess cupcake though I thought it was pretty. I always liked Ding Dongs back when they were wrapped in foil and were covered in real chocolate– not so today.

    I like the addition of espresso in these. yum!

  • 19. cookeaze  |  January 17, 2010 at 10:22 am

    That is certainly an interesting Cupcakes! Looks like a great combination of flavors.

  • 20. mcaules24  |  January 17, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    These look so good!I can imagine they taste wayyy better than any grocery store would ever sell!

  • 21. vicvickvicky  |  January 18, 2010 at 6:30 am

    coffee and chocolate! perfect pick-me-up in a cute little package. :)

  • 22. lavienouveau  |  January 18, 2010 at 9:34 am

    SO cute! :)

  • 23. Iryna  |  January 18, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    I don’t understand how you always find the best recipes, and take the best pictures . . . and I also don’t understand how you always manage to post at the exact time my stomach is rumbling for a snack. *sigh* It’s probably one of the many mysteries of life.

    (I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog! :D Happy Monday!)

  • 24. Jenny  |  January 19, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I love the coffee spike in this cupcake – very grown-up. Terrific job and photography too.

  • 25. Saudi  |  January 19, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Ok, so I am a wayyyyyyy better baker than u, I am 13 and I am already in several culinary and chef/baker courses, I have been paid too make awesome cakes and I bet u just use the crappy instant mxs. I started 3 years ago and have been improving by myself, my mom even rented out a building and I have my own bakery.

  • 26. Shauna from Piece of Cake  |  January 20, 2010 at 9:00 am

    A little late to the party, because I just found your blog, and I’m sure you hear this from everyone, but dang girl! I am so impressed with your work. I will be visiting often!

  • 27. Michelle  |  January 20, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Hey Saudi, let’s see your baking blog? Why don’t you wow us with pictures of your “awesome” cakes??? And let’s see your bakery while you’re at it? Better yet, why don’t you find something else to do with your time that doesn’t involve coming on someone else’s blog and leaving nasty, arrogant comments?

    As always, LOVE your blog and those “hostess” cupcakes look and (I’m sure!) taste way better than the store bought variety. I’ve actually tried one and they aren’t that good. But a marriage of chocolate and coffee :::perk::: now, you’ve got my attention!

  • 28. Sandra :)  |  January 20, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I popped over for a visit from a link on Baking Bites – I’m going to have fun reading your posts, looking at your photos and checking out your fantastic recipes – what a great blog you have!! I second (and c&p!) what Shauna said … dang girl! I am so impressed with your work. I will be visiting often!

  • 29. Saudi  |  January 20, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Hey Michelle, just search why am I such a loser and u will find ur name, and make me, I do have a blog but of course, not am I gonna tell u, b******

  • 30. Eddy  |  January 20, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    Saudi, you can be as good at baking as you want but if you have that kind of screwed up attitude, you will have no friends and fail at life.
    Typing trash on the internet doesn’t make you cool. Or good at baking. Actually just kind of proves that you lack social skills, are probably suppressed by your peers and family, desire attention but don’t receive it, so you try show off to other people that cannot retaliate face to face. And because of the comment about your mother giving you a bakery, you probably wish you had the means to actually get something like that but know you will never get it. Sucks that your personality is that screwed at age 13, hope you get some therapy or something.
    And you’ll probably come back with a stupid comeback but I won’t end up reading it. Have a good one.

  • 31. Eddy  |  January 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    I’m a caffeine addict basically thanks to AP classes, but THIS SEEMS AN AMAZING IDEA. And looks delicious.

  • 32. Margarita  |  January 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    At 13 I had lots to learn. Luckily, we can all live, learn and get better. Some people llive in situations that I can only imagine. But if we remember that with faith we can overcome and do wonderous things. I think, the reason why I like Elissa’s blog so much is that her attitude towards life and hardships teaches about living happily. She is truly a blessed young woman to have wonderful , loving, and supportive parents. We should all be so lucky. But some of us aren’t. If we are smart we lean on those around us, on whatever is available to us (Elissa’s blog) to keep going and becoming a better person in life. Elissa’s blog shows that sometimes things aren’t easy but we just keep going and trying to do it as compassionately as possible. Keep them coming. :) If I were 13 years old I would read the archived (past) blogs. There is lots to learn. Good luck.<3

  • 33. Max  |  January 21, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Well, I am much better baker than you Saudi. I am 9 and I have already graduated from Le Cordon Bleu and have been paid to make many gorgeous cakes, soufflés, tarts, and other baked goods. I bet you just buy your baked good at the grocery store and say you baked them. I started baking 5 years ago and have been improving myself ever since. I even own my own chain of bakeries. I have better spelling and grammar skills than you.

  • 34. Bites from other Blogs | Pet Secrets | Birds  |  January 21, 2010 at 10:43 am

    […] improving a basic filled cupcake recipe with a jolt of caffeine? 17 and Baking made up a batch of Caddeine Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes. These chocolaty little cupcakes have espresso in the batter and also have an infusion of coffee […]

  • 35. Michelle Moore  |  January 23, 2010 at 10:34 am

    I wanna make those! How adorable!!

  • 36. Hostess Cupcake Knock-Off « Feast: Food + Entertaining  |  January 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    […] automotive parts, knock-offs in the realm of food are often better than the real thing. Take these Caffeine-Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes for example. This seventeen year old baking prodigy over at 17 and Baking managed to capture 100% […]

  • 37. Night Owl Chef  |  January 27, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    What a wonderful blog and a wonderful post! I’m so glad I clicked on the link from Joy the Baker’s blog (no wonder she praised you so highly!). These are the cutest little things…. I’m 26, and they will be about the most perfect morning bite for my caffeine-and-sugar addicted coworkers (who crave the baked goods I bring in right in the morning … who could wait, anyway?). Thanks for sharing the recipe!
    P.S. I, too, detested store-bought baked goods once I discovered how great homemade goodies are … it’s kind of like joining some sort of secret club that brings never-ending happiness to you, your family, and your friends, eh?

  • 38. Dharma Cupcakes « popcorn marshmallow  |  February 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    […] Recipe can be found here. […]

  • 39. loveinspoonfuls  |  February 2, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Wow, what interesting comments! Looks like Saudi got scared away. :) I think you have a great blog and I find it really inspiring that you’re 17 and already have so many readers. I’m 18 and just starting one so it’s cool to see what you have done. These hostess cupcakes are so adorable, I love how they even have the filling inside!

  • 40. Becky  |  March 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Elissa, I made these for a birthday at my office. They were a huge hit. One girl told me she was going to be able to do her 15-minute walk in 10 minutes! Thanks for the great recipe.

  • 41. Mrs Ergül  |  June 13, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Hi Elissa, I have been contemplating making this recipe for the longest time ever! And recently I have taken up an offer to sponsor 30 snacks at a talk. While I will like to make this, packaging them individually in transparent plastic might smudge the frosting. Sigh!

  • 42. Recipes to Try (Sweets/Desserts) | Schmelly Eats  |  August 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    […] Caffeine-Spiked Mini Hostess Cupcakes From 17 and Baking (01/13/10) […]

  • 43. Coffee Hostess Cupcakes « munchkitchen  |  July 26, 2011 at 10:35 am

    […] adapted from 17 and Baking […]

  • […] the topping recipe go to:  I used the ganache recipe from that, but I added some Starbucks coffee to that […]


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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