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Spectacularly sweet and unbelievably soft these coffee and walnut cupcakes are perfect for an afternoon coffee break. Make a batch of them and enjoy them throughout the week or whip them up when you are entertaining guests. These cupcakes are a beautiful mix of rich espresso and mildly nutty walnuts topped with a velvety buttercream spiked with a little cocoa.
How do you make the perfect cupcake?
Make sure the butter is at the right temperature
Your butter should be soft but not oily. You should be able to easily stick your finger into it, but it will hold its shape. You shouldn’t see any oily or wet parts on the butter. Whenever you see a recipe that calls for room temperature butter this is typically the consistency that you need. In standard home temperature conditions, you can achieve this consistency by leaving the butter out of the fridge for around 2 hours.
Too cold butter will give you those weird peaks in the middle of the cupcake and the texture will be dense. This is because the air won’t be as well incorporated throughout the batter due to the heavy butter. Overly melted butter and you may find that the cupcakes shrink in the cases.
Mix it enough, but not too much…
If you are using a stand mixer then you want to mix on a medium to medium-high speed for around 1 minute before adding the coffee and vanilla and then a further 40-50 seconds. If you are using a hand mixer then increase the total mixing time by 10-20 seconds or so to account for the fact you’ll need to chase the batter a little around the side of the bowl more
If you undermix the batter, then you simply aren’t incorporating enough air into the mixture. Your cupcakes will end up dense and again you’ll have peaks in the middle. Conversely, if you overmix the batter you’ll end up with a batter that is far too light and fluffy – so much so that they can’t hold their shape during baking and will rise like crazy and then shrivel when cooling.
Don’t overfill the cases…
You want the cases to be around half full with batter. This may be a little tough to judge because of the space around the thick batter on all sides but take your best judgement call. For a standard-sized cupcake, this is around the size of an ice cream scoop of batter.
Overfilled cases will, of course, overspill in the oven.
Make sure to use the right measure of espresso
I’ve given the measurements by ml and tablespoons to be explicitly clear since a serving or a shot may mean different things to different people or in different countries. The more espresso you use the more liquid you are adding to the batter which will affect the result. If you want a stronger coffee taste then use a stronger coffee but don’t increase the volume of coffee.
Can I make them in advance?
Cupcakes are great to make in advance, but few people tend to take advantage of that fact! Whip yourself up a batch, freeze some and pop one out whenever you have the urge.
Freshly baked and frosted cupcakes will keep on the counter (covered) for up to 2-3 days at room temperature. Or you can keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you are keeping them in the fridge then make sure to keep them away from any smelly food as odours can be absorbed by the buttercream.
To freeze the cupcakes then wrap them in clingfilm individually and then line them in a container in the freezer (so they aren’t squashed before they are frozen). They will keep for up to 3 months. The buttercream can also be frozen in a sealed container. You will need to give it a quick mix before topping the cupcakes to fluff it up.
You can also freeze decorated/frosted cupcakes, although I would only do this if needed as the buttercream will lose some texture after thawed (and you can’t simply remix it if it’s already on top of a cupcake). Place them in the freezer where they won’t be squashed, until they are frozen solid. Then wrap in clingfilm and place upright in a container to stop them from being knocked around.
For a full list of ingredients with weights and volumes jump to the printable recipe card.
For the batter
- Plain (all purpose) flour
- Baking powder
- Light brown sugar
- Unsalted butter – I like to use unsalted butter in most cases and then add a little salt if needed so I can control the amount.
- Espresso – you can use espresso from a coffee machine, or use instant espresso powder. If you only have standard instant coffee powder then use around 1 tsp for every 15ml (tbsp) of water.
- Vanilla extract
- Walnuts, roughly chopped
For the buttercream topping
- Icing sugar
- Espresso (see above section for notes)
- Cocoa powder
How to make them
For more detailed steps with recipe tips jump to the printable recipe card.
- Preheat the oven to 170C/350F.
- Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar together in a large bowl.
- Add the butter and eggs to the flour and beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer for around 1 minute.
- Add the espresso and vanilla extract and continue to beat for a further 40 seconds.
- Line 12 cupcake lines in a cupcake tray and divide the batter between the cases.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20-22 minutes until springy on the top (if you place your finger on the top the indent left should spring back rather than staying). Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
- While the cupcakes are baking make the buttercream. Beat the butter for 5-6 minutes until it turns pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the icing sugar, a little at a time.
- Add the espresso and cocoa powder and mix until evenly distributed.
- Pipe or spoon the buttercream on top of the cupcakes.
Looking for more great cake recipes? Try:
- Dark chocolate flapjack
- Individual yogurt cakes
- Date and walnut cake
- Individual carrot cakes
- Vanilla mug cake
- Freezable Yorkshire parkin
Products that work well for this recipe:
Set of 3 Emma Bridgewater Cake Storage Tins
Hand Mixer with Beaters, Whisk and Dough Hooks
Kenwood kMix Stand Mixer
A beautiful mix of rich espresso & nutty walnuts topped with velvety buttercream. These coffee and walnut cupcakes are perfect for an afternoon coffee break.
The default recipe makes 12 cupcakes
- 125g / 5oz plain/all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 125g / 5oz light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 125g / 5oz unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (see note 1)
- 2 tbsp espresso (see note 2)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 50g / 1.75oz walnuts, roughly chopped
For the buttercream: (see note 3)
- 140g / 5oz butter, softened at room temperature (see note 1)
- 280g / 10oz icing sugar, sifted (see note 4)
- 1 tbsp espresso (see note 2)
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder (this just adds colour and can be omitted if preferred)
- Preheat the oven to 170C/350F. (see note 5)
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar until evenly combined.
- Create a well in the middle of the flour and sugar and crack in the eggs. Add the butter and beat using a food mixer or hand blender for around 1 minute.
- Add the espresso and vanilla extract and beat for a further 30-40 seconds until just combined.
- Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases and spoon the mixture evenly into the cases. An ice cream scoop gives a good measure for each case.
- Place the cupcakes into the oven for 20-22 minutes. When they are done you should be able to place a skewer or toothpick into the middle of the cupcake and it comes out clean when pulled out. The surface should be springy and not depress when lightly touched also.
- Turn the cupcakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
- While the cupcakes are baking make the buttercream. Start by beating the butter for a good 5 minutes until it turns pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar spoonful by spoonful, letting each addition fully incorporate before adding the next.
- Once all the icing sugar is fully combined with the butter add the espresso and cocoa powder and mix until evenly distributed.
- Use a piping bag to top the cupcakes with buttercream. Alternatively, you can use a spoon to dollop the cream on top. Make sure the cupcakes are fully cooled first to prevent the buttercream from melting down.
- Decorate with chopped walnuts or dusted cocoa powder
- Make sure the butter for the cupcakes and buttercream is very soft. You should be able to stick your finger into it easily. However, it should hold its shape a little and not be oily or have any fully liquid parts. Leaving it for around 2 hours at room temperature should give you the right consistency. In a pinch, if you need to warm the butter faster it is best to place it in a bowl over hot (not boiling) water and keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t liquify. Microwave with caution – as this won’t heat it through evenly and you may end up with liquid parts and solid parts.
- You can use either coffee machine espresso or instant espresso powder. If you only have standard instant coffee then use around 1 tsp per 1 tbsp of hot water.
- This gives a very generous amount of buttercream so you have ample amount to use a lot of frosting. If you have any leftover then it can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. After defrosting remix a little to fluff up before using.
- Make sure to sift the icing sugar for the buttercream. This will help to make sure you don’t end up with any lumps and will give you a lighter buttercream.
- The temperature of your oven will have a big effect on how well the cupcakes turn out. If you aren’t sure how accurate your oven’s temperature runs then I suggest using an oven thermometer to make sure it’s at the right temperature.
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap in clingfilm before freezing in a container where they won’t get squashed.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: British
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 375
- Fat: 21g
- Carbohydrates: 42g
- Protein: 3g
Keywords: cupcake, dessert, sweet, snack, coffee, espresso, walnuts, vegetarian, indulgent