Coffee Mocha Cupcakes with Blackberry Frosting

I have been on a strict no sugar cleanse for almost three weeks.  No added sugar that is.  No white sugar.  No sugar in my coffee.  No ice-cream or cookies or cakes or donuts or muffins or anything else I usually find myself craving at all hours of the day.  Not even bread with sugar.  I’ve been pretty good.  Except for that bite of dessert the other night when I was out with my family for dinner.  Just one bite though.  I’ve shown a huge amount of willpower for me.  Until today.  When I came across an old cut out from a BBC Good Food Magazine dating from who knows when of some purple velvet cupcakes with blackberry frosting.  Oh they looked so beautiful.  I had to have them.  Just one.  They looked wintery and decadent.  And got me thinking about my favorite cupcakes from my well loved Martha Stewart Cupcake Cookbook.  Page 47.  It is almost open permanently in my copy.  These cupcakes are so delicious and have almost a devil’s food type taste and texture.  Sort of like a Devil Dog for those of you who grew up with them shoved in your brown paper bagged lunches at summer camp in the early 80’s.  The Mocha Cupcake.  But I didn’t have instant espresso so I had to improvise with espresso grounds from yesterday’s afternoon pick me up.  I know, I know, it sounds gross.  But it worked like a charm. The combination of recipes worked really well together- blackberry and chocolate is a great match anyway – so it wasn’t as if I was being super risky or anything.  Mostly I loved the buttery frosting against the somewhat dry cupcake.  And, despite falling off the sugar free wagon, I’m back on track today.  Except for that mistaken sip of the iced Pumpkin Latte with added sugar they mistakenly gave me at the coffee shop this morning before I quickly ran back up to the counter and returned it for a black iced coffee with a splash of milk.


  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup freshly brewed espresso
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder…** see note **


After preheating the oven to 325 f. and lining muffin tins with paper wrappers we were ready to start.  The flour and cocoa powder were sifted together into a bowl.  The butter was creamed for about five minutes in our mixer on high speed until it was creamy and light in color.  We added the brown sugar and eggs, then the vanilla, baking soda and salt.  This was beat for about three minutes.  We shut off the mixer and lowered the bowl to add half of the flour/cocoa mix alternating with sour cream for a total of two times.  In the meantime we had brewed espresso and set it aside.

**Ok now we didn’t have espresso powder so I had remembered reading that you could substitute the grounds of espresso pods that had been dried out and ground with a mortar and pestle.  Not everyone will have dried espresso pods lying around- but at our house we recycle and compost as much as possible so we did have old pods which we had cut the espresso grounds from.  They were semi dry already so we ground them up and then added a tablespoon to our hot espresso before adding it to the cupcake mixture and beating slowly until the batter became a bit looser.  Slowly is the key word here guys.  Otherwise it splashes everywhere so beware!**

The cupcake tins were filled a little over half way and baked for about thirty minutes in our oven- but we began checking them at twenty minutes.  They do rise so a good tip is to spray the top of your cupcake pan before you put it in the oven – this helps the cupcakes release easy…or you could just not fill the liners quite so much.  Once done remove from cupcake pan and cool on racks.


The frosting, from BBC Good Food, is perhaps the best frosting I have EVER had.  It is delicious and pretty.  We started with 1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature and 14 oz of powdered sugar which we combined in our mixer for a good four minutes before realizing we would need more butter.  So we added an additional 1/2 stick.  This brought the mixture together.  In a good blender we whizzed a handful of blackberries – we didn’t measure – to create a puree.  This was sieved in a fine mesh strainer and left us with a gorgeous blackberry gel like substance.  We folded it into the frosting and decided it needed a little more powdered sugar to get the consistency we wanted for our piping bags.  Sorry guys, we didn’t measure- we eyeballed it.  We did top with blackberries just like the original photo that inspired us.

These were heavenly.  Worth jumping off the sugar free wagon for one day.  The coffee flavor is really subtle.  The blackberry stands out.  A great winter cupcake for your recipe box!

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