Not much of a cupcake gal, but birthday weeks are the exception! The past week happens to hold the birthdays of 3 of my favorite people in the world! My two best friends and my not-so-secretly favorite aunt.

And, while I prefer not to age, today is actually my birthday – although I may or may not have celebrated the same year of birthday more than once. 😉 I ascribe to the theory that if I can still pass as 24, then why not remain 24 until that’s no longer the case? Since I still get carded everywhere I go, I’m thanking my lucky-genetic-stars and thinking that “24” is still safe.

I will admit, my propensity to remain 24 was a little odd last month when my little brother turned 25. But, nonetheless, happy “24th” birthday to myself and my two best friends who have also decided that this aging thing is for the birds! And to my Aunt L.: Don’t worry, you look 24, too! 😉

When I am celebrating this many of my favorite people over a 7-day period of time, it makes me take a step back and be thankful for these 3 completely unique, amazing, and completely irreplaceable individuals. I love you all!

So lets celebrate!! With… cupcakes and coffee! Better yet, coffee IN cupcakes! YAASSS! Because I know we all LOVE our coffee.

So lets start with an ultra moist coffee and cardamom cake. The ratios are from my perfect ratio cake (the same ones I use in my chocolate cake). The best part is that this cake can be whipped up with a whisk and a couple of big bowls! No stand mixer required. 😉   The result is a delicate coffee flavored cake with warmth from cardamom spice and vanilla. Buttermilk keeps things super moist, and oil (rather than butter) keeps the texture light and with an open crumb.

The cake needs a frosting that is not too sweet so the cardamom can really pop! Cream cheese frosting is my usual favorite but this cake requires something more delicately flavored. That’s where this Coffee Italian Buttercream comes in. Italian buttercream is buttery, yet light, and not very sweet. In my opinion, it is also less finicky than Swiss buttercream, which can curdle more easily. This frosting is oh-so-subtly coffee flavored with just a tiny pinch of cardamom. It’s a more refined twist on the typically very sweet buttercream frosting we all know. I tend to steer clear of most buttercream frostings for this reason – too sweet! But, this is to traditional buttercream what the European coffees are to the Frappuccino. No offense to Frappuccino drinkers;)

When choosing a birthday dessert, I admit, there is a large world of delicious options out there, but the portability of the cupcake is not to be underestimated. Cupcakes have gotten a bad rap from the grocery store variety, cloyingly sweet frosting, food coloring, and multicolored sprinkles. But, when we remove the possibly radioactive dyes and obscene amounts of sugar, cupcakes are delicious! So, what grown up actually wants cupcakes for dessert at their birthday? ME. So long as its one of these suave little bad boys.

Basically, this is the cupcake – all grown up!

Coffee Cardamom Cupcakes with Coffee Italian Buttercream

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 18

Serving Size: 1 cupcake

    For the cake:
  • 2 cups flour, sifted then measured
  • 1 ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 1 cup strong French press or espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • ¾ cup butter milk
  • ¾ cup canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • For the frosting:
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ cup strong French press or espresso, cooled to room temperature
  • pinch of cardamom
  • Optional: Coffee beans and cardamom pods for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line cupcake tins with 18 paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine sifted flour, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and sugar. Whisk to combine.

In a second large bowl, add eggs and beat lightly to break them apart. Then add coffee, oil, vanilla, and buttermilk. Whisk just until combined.

Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all of the wet ingredients. Whisk the wet into the dry until fully incorporated. Batter will appear thin.

Add ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. of batter to each paper liner of the muffin tin. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Then remove from oven.

Allow cupcake to cool in the tin for 3-5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from tin and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before icing.

To make the icing, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil stirring occasionally. Reduce temperature to medium and continue to cook until softball stage or until you can blow sugar bubbles through the tongs of a fork (my favorite!).

While boiling sugar, using a stand mixer beat egg whites until soft peaks form (Be careful not to overbeat!)

With the mixer set to medium speed slowly pour the hot sugar into the egg whites in a slow stream that runs down the side of the mixing bowl. Once all of the sugar has been added, increase the speed and beat until stiff peaks form and the bowl is no longer hot (about 3 minutes). It is ok if it still feels a bit warm.

With the mixer set to medium-high, add the butter one tbsp. at a time, until all of the butter has been added. It may look a bit funky for a bit, but keep adding and mixing until smooth and combined. I usually stop and scrape down the sides a few times throughout this process.

Now, add the vanilla, salt, coffee, and cardamom. Set mixer to low and mix to combine. I usually fold it in a few times with my spatula as well, so that the liquid doesn’t just settle to the bottom. The frosting will feel a bit soft, but should be thick enough to use. I prefer soft frosting for icing and decorating. But if it is not thick enough to hold a peak, stick it in the fridge for 10 minutes or so, but not longer prior to use.

Now its time for the fun part! You can either slather a thick layer on top with a knife or offset spatula or pull out your decorating tips. Either way, frost those cupcakes like it’s your job! Garnish with coffee beans and cardamom pods if desired.


The frosting in this recipe has been ever so slightly adapted from the Vanilla Bean Baking Book.