High Country Baking: Coffee Cupcakes with Kahlua Filling
High Country Baking
Heads up coffee lovers … this one’s for you! A moist, tender, coffee-flavored cupcake, filled with Kahlua-spiked cream cheese, is crowned by rich buttercream frosting with another dose of your favorite beverage. Three hits of java, what could be better? To ensure their success, carefully measure the ingredients, slight changes in the amount of flour or baking powder can result in disaster. Make sure the butter is at room temperature (softened until it holds an indentation when you press it lightly — but not squishy or shiny … that’s too soft).
The coffee flavor is more pronounced after about 24 hours, so feel free to make these a day in advance.
Coffee Cupcakes with Kahlua Filling
Makes 8-10 standard cupcakes
Adjusted for elevations of 7,000 feet and above
Active time: 45 minutes, total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
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- 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, preferably superfine
- 3 tablespoons Kahlua
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 2 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and at room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar, preferably superfine
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter, very soft
- 3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
- 3-4 tablespoons strong brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature
- 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
- Chocolate-covered coffee beans, optional
Preparation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line the cupcake pan with paper liners and lightly spray the liners with a a baking spray that contains flour.
Make the filling: Cut the cream cheese into eight pieces, place them in a small bowl, add the sugar and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Don’t overbeat or the cream cheese will get watery. Add the Kahlua and stir until the mixture is well combined. Give it a taste and add more sugar or Kahlua to your liking, making sure the filling stays firm enough to hold its shape. Set this aside. Wash the beaters of your mixer.
Make the cupcakes: Heat the milk in a small bowl in a microwave or in a small saucepan on the stove until very warm but not boiling. Stir in the instant coffee until thoroughly dissolved and set the mixture aside to cool to room temperature.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk until combined and free of any lumps. Set this aside. With an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat the room-temperature butter, vanilla, and sugar until fluffy and light, scraping the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated after each addition. Beat for two minutes after adding the last egg.
The mixture may look curdled — it will smooth out when you add the flour. By hand, or with the mixer at its lowest speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the coffee-milk mixture in two additions, starting and ending with the flour. Stop stirring as soon as each addition is absorbed into the batter. Scrape the bowl when necessary.
Bake the cupcakes: Spoon the batter into the paper-lined cups, filling them just below half-way.
Place a little less than a level tablespoon of cream cheese filling in the middle of the batter in each cup. Add more batter, covering the filling completely, until it is about a quarter inch from the top of the paper liner. Smooth and level the top. Place the pan in the oven and bake only until the tops of the cupcakes spring back lightly when touched and a cake tester comes out dry, from 18-24 minutes. Don’t overbake or the cupcakes will be dry.
Cool the cupcakes: Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. After 15-20 minutes, when the cupcakes have firmed up, remove them, in their liners, from the pan to the rack and let them cool completely. They may develop a dimple on top, due to the sinking of the filling; that’s normal, and the imperfection will be hidden by the frosting. If you aren’t frosting them as soon as they cool, store them in an airtight container until you do.
Frost the cupcakes: First, make the frosting: Cut the butter into pieces and beat them with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add a half cup of the confectioners’ sugar and beat until combined, add another half cup and repeat. Add 3 tablespoons of the coffee and the vanilla and mix. Add more confectioners’ sugar, a half cup at a time, until the frosting reaches a good consistency for piping or spreading. Taste and add more coffee and/or sugar, as desired. Pipe or spread the frosting decoratively on the cupcakes and, if you like, top with a chocolate-covered coffee bean. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.
The frosting recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens.
Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at email@example.com.