cupcake interlude

When I started this challenge, I decreed: no desserts! I am great at desserts. And I have a monstrous sweet tooth and immediately eat all the desserts once they’re baked.


But these tiramisu cupcakes are so good, so I thought I’d post the recipe and just have it not count toward my 52 weeks/52 recipes.

The ingredients list and multi-part directions make these seem incredibly complicated, but they’re really not nearly as hard as they seem, and absolutely worth the effort. I made them with my friend Jasmine, and it took about an hour and a half, including baking time. You could always skip the first part and use a cake mix. I won’t tell.

These celebrated Presidents Day and, later, a Northwestern basketball game that turned out not to be worth celebrating. (I’m never taking baked goods to watch a Northwestern game again. Two times out of three I’ve done this have now turned out badly, and what I hope will be victory cupcakes always end up being consolation cupcakes. These cupcakes are pretty great, but consolation cupcakes never taste as good as victory cupcakes.)

Tiramisu Cupcakes

cupcake-ified from Smitten Kitchen’s tiramisu cake.

For the cupcakes:
2 cups cake flour (cake flour hack, if you don’t have any: 1¾ cup all-purpose flour + ¼ cup cornstarch. I forgot to do this, and they were a little dense, so you really should.)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¾ cup buttermilk (buttermilk hack: ¾ cup milk + 2 teaspoons white vinegar + 5 minutes. Bonus points if  your milk, like mine, was going sour anyway!)

For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water

For the espresso syrup:
½ cup water
⅓ cup sugar

For the frosting:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 oz. dark chocolate, grated

 Part One: The Cupcake Batter. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one by one, then the egg yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. It will all look a little cottage cheese-y; it’s supposed to.

With the mixer on low, add one-third of the dry ingredients and mix gently until just combined. Add half the buttermilk and mix gently. Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix gently. Add the rest of the buttermilk and mix gently. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and… you know the deal.

Pour into lined cupcake pans. It should make 18 cupcakes. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean.

Part Two: The espresso extract and syrup. Boil 2 cups + 2 tablespoons of water in a small saucepan. When boiling, carefully measure out the 2 tablespoons of water and add to the 2 tablespoons of espresso in a small cup. This is your espresso extract.

Add the sugar to the remaining water, stir, and simmer for a minute. Turn off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract (made in the last step). Pour into a wide bowl.

Part Three: The frosting. Put the mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, the remaining espresso extract and Kahlua in a bowl and beat until combined and smooth.

In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. With a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture. Try not to lick the spoon.

Part Four: Assemble the cupcakes. Let the cupcakes cool, then jab their tops repeatedly and deeply with a fork. Dip the tops into the espresso extract a few times and let sit for 30 minutes. You want the extract to run through the top layer and down into the cupcake.

Frost with the mascarpone frosting. Dust with the grated chocolate.