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Mocha Cupcakes

Today we’re combining two of my favorite things, coffee and chocolate!! These mocha cupcakes are brimming with a perfect balance of these two flavors.

They’re made with a chocolate espresso cupcake base, an espresso chocolate ganache filling, and an espresso buttercream frosting.

image of mocha cupcakes frosted with espresso buttercream frosting and drizzled with espresso ganache

What more could you want in a mocha cupcake, right?!

The Chocolate Espresso Cupcake Base

This cupcake recipe is based on my classic chocolate cupcake recipe. The original recipe uses a hint of instant coffee, but I upped the ante to include 1 tablespoon of instant coffee or espresso powder.

I prefer using instant espresso powder because I think it gives the cupcakes a stronger coffee flavor. However, instant coffee will get the job done too.

image of chocolate cupcakes baked in a pan

My biggest tip when making these mocha cupcakes is to be sure not to over-mix the batter! Over-mixed batter can lead to dense, chewy cupcakes.

By mixing the batter just until the ingredients are combined you are guaranteed tender, soft cupcakes.

The Espresso Ganache Filling

Now onto my favorite part of these cupcakes, the filling!! The espresso ganache in this recipe is on double duty. It’s used to fill the cupcakes and garnish them.

Ganache is made by heating heavy cream and mixing it with chocolate. Despite its fancy sounding name, it is incredibly easy to make.

image of chocolate ganache ready to be swirled into marble cake layers

Once the mixture cools to room temperature the ganache is thicker and makes the perfect filling. It’s decadent and has a smooth consistency almost like fudge!

After the cupcakes are frosted, we heat the ganache up a bit to allow us to drizzle it over the frosting. This gives the cupcakes a beautiful, finished look without requiring any extra work!

The Espresso Buttercream

Since we already have loads of chocolate in the cupcakes, filling, and garnish, I figured we should highlight the coffee flavor in the buttercream frosting.

The key to incorporating a strong flavor is to mix the instant espresso or coffee with the vanilla extract. This dissolves the instant espresso and evenly flavors the frosting.

image of mocha cupcakes made with espresso buttercream frosting

If you try to add instant coffee or espresso straight into the frosting it won’t dissolve, and you’ll end up with little chunks of coffee in your frosting. The fat from the butter prevents it from properly dissolving.

If you have an espresso machine you can also add in 1 Tbsp of cooled espresso in place of the instant espresso and heavy cream. Just be sure that it’s cooled so that it doesn’t melt the frosting!

Substitutions and Swaps – Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

This mocha cupcake recipe use quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all on hand. Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered.

image of chocolate cupcake batter being scooped into a cupcake liner

Below are some swaps and substitutions that can be made:

  • Chocolate Chips – You can use milk, dark or semi-sweet chocolate to make these chocolate cupcakes! Just be sure it’s a good quality chocolate so it will melt down smoothly.
  • Whole Milk – You can also use full fat yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, or an alternative yogurt or milk (almond, soy, oat) if you’re dairy free.
  • Instant Espresso or Coffee – You can also use 3/4 cup of strong brewed coffee in place of the whole milk and instant espresso to make the cupcake batter.
  • All Purpose Flour – This recipe turns out best with AP flour, but you can use a gluten free flour blend if needed.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or sunflower oil would work great!
  • Eggs – If you have an egg allergy you can try using 2 flaxseed eggs or 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce instead.
  • Vinegar – This recipe needs a bit of vinegar because it uses baking soda as a leavening agent. The vinegar activates the baking soda and helps the cupcakes rise. You can use white or apple cider vinegar.

Substitutions and Swaps – Espresso Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Heavy Cream – Whole milk or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Instant Espresso or Coffee – You can also use 1 Tbsp of strong, cooled espresso in place of the instant espresso or coffee & heavy cream in this frosting recipe.
image of mocha cupcakes frosted with espresso buttercream frosting and drizzled with espresso ganache

Tips for Making the Best Mocha Cupcakes:

  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • One batch of batter can also be used to make one 8×8-inch mocha sheet cake. Bake it at 325 F for 33-38 minutes.
  • Make these mocha cupcakes vegan or dairy free! Use your favorite type of dairy free milk to replace the milk and heavy cream and use vegan butter sticks in place of the butter.
image of a mocha cupcake that's been cut in half to show it's espresso ganache filling and delicious espresso buttercream

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you make these mocha cupcakes, I’d love to hear what you think of them! Please leave a rating and comment below.

Don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets so that I can see your amazing creations on social media.

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 12

Mocha Cupcakes

image of mocha cupcakes frosted with espresso buttercream frosting and drizzled with espresso ganache

These mocha cupcakes are moist, decadent and packed with coffee flavor. They come together in a flash are will be gone before you know it!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 19 minutes
Additional Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 14 minutes


Mocha Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup whole milk (180g)
  • 1/3 cup milk or dark chocolate chips, melted (60g)
  • 1 Tbsp instant espresso or coffee (6g)
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour (98g)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (30g)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (2g)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature (112g)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (70g)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar (4g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)

Espresso Ganache Filling & Drizzle

  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate (90g)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (80g)
  • 2 tsp instant espresso or coffee (4g)

Espresso Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature (113g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 2 tsp instant espresso or coffee (4g)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt (1g)
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (190g)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream (15g)

Optional Decorations

  • 12 chocolate covered espresso beans
  • 1 small chocolate bar to make chocolate shavings


Mocha Cupcake Recipe

  1. Begin by preheating oven to 350°F / 175°C. Place 12 cupcake liners in cupcake pan.
  2. Add 3/4 cup milk, 1/3 cup chocolate chips and 1 Tbsp instant espresso powder into a heat proof bowl. Heat in the microwave at power level 8 for 1 minute or over a double boiler until the chocolate has melted.
  3. Whisk together until the ingredients are combined. Make sure all the chocolate is melted.
  4. Sift 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt into chocolate espresso mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a spatula.
  6. Add 2 large eggs, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp vanilla. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
  7. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.
  8. Let the cupcakes cool for 10 minutes in the pan before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Espresso Ganache Filling & Drizzle

  1. Next, make the espresso ganache! Place 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Stir together 1/3 cup of heavy cream and 2 tsp of instant espresso in a heatproof bowl. Heat in the microwave for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until it's gently bubbling.
  3. If you don’t have a microwave or prefer to use the stove top, you can heat the espresso cream over a medium heat in a pan until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat.
  4. Carefully pour the espresso cream over the chocolate chips. Make sure they are fully covered with cream. Let mixture sit for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Stir the mixture until the cream and chocolate are fully combined and ganache is silky smooth.
  6. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes (or place in fridge for about 10 minutes) until the mixture has thickened and is scoopable.

Espresso Buttercream

  1. While the cupcakes bake and cool, make the espresso buttercream. Beat 1/2 cup of unsalted butter on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a hand mixer until smooth. 
  2. In a small container, mix together 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp of instant espresso until the instant espresso is fully dissolved.
  3. Add the vanilla espresso mixture and 1/4 tsp of salt into the butter. Mix on a low speed until combined.
  4. Slowly mix in 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp of heavy cream on a low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as need with a rubber spatula.
  5. Beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the desired consistency is reached.
  6. If the frosting seems too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it's too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar. To know if your frosting is the right consistency, check out my post on buttercream consistency.
  7. Stir by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth. Place into a large piping bag fit with an Ateco 869 or large French piping tip.

Decorating These Mocha Cupcakes

  1. Use a small knife or 1 inch circle cutter to remove the center from each cooled cupcake.
  2. Fill each cupcake with a small spoonful of espresso ganache.
  3. Pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake with the espresso buttercream using an Ateco 869 or large french piping tip. Chill the cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes to help the frosting firm up.
  4. While the cupcakes chill, heat up the remaining ganache in 10 second intervals until it is thinner and fluid enough to be drizzled.
  5. Remove the cupcakes from the fridge or freezer and drizzle them with the warm ganache.
  6. If desired, top with a chocolate covered espresso bean and some chocolate shavings and enjoy!


Making Mini Mocha Cupcakes

If you want to make mini mocha cupcakes, this recipe can be baked in mini muffin tins! It makes about 40 mini cupcakes, and they only need to bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 F / 175 C.

Tips for Making the Best Mocha Cupcakes

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Once you add the flour, mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a large cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure your cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Seal off the top of your piping bag with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bags easier to use.

Mocha Cupcake Variations

To make gluten free mocha cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for, and be sure to over-mix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results.

Making These Mocha Cupcakes in Advance & Storage Tips

You can make these cupcakes in advance! Frosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature for a few hours or be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days if stored in an airtight container. However, they taste best when they're freshly baked!

These cupcakes can also last up to a month in the freezer. If you plan to freeze them, I suggest waiting to fill and frost them until they're thawed.

You can also make your buttercream ahead of time or save any leftovers. The buttercream frosting will last in the fridge for up to a month.

Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

You can also store buttercream in piping bags in the fridge. I find they keep their consistency well in piping bags and don't require any mixing after they've thawed.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 560Total Fat 28gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 50mgSodium 244mgCarbohydrates 69gFiber 5gSugar 53gProtein 7g

Gwenneth Hall

Friday 1st of September 2023

I made these today using spelt flour. Delicious ?


Monday 14th of August 2023

I have made these gluten free 100 times! But, I moved to a higher elevation and can't get them to rise the same - online it suggests using less rising agent, or increasing the heat - any suggestions?


Wednesday 16th of August 2023

Hi Ana,

So happy to hear that you love this recipe and make it gluten free!! Sadly I've never baked at a high altitude before, so I'm not quite an expert in that area, but here is an excellent guide written by King Arthur:

Hope that helps, happy baking!


Thursday 16th of February 2023

Hi! Do you have a guide for how to convert this to a 3 layer 8” cake recipe?


Tuesday 21st of February 2023

Hi Toni,

Sadly I don't have a guide like that :/ But the texture of these cupcakes is super similar to my moist chocolate cake recipe. You could try making that, adding some espresso powder into the buttercream, and doubling the filling? That'd probably be the easiest route! Here's the link:

Hope that helps, happy baking!


Monday 25th of July 2022

Loved the vanilla cupcakes and I’m about to try out these – can I also use buttermilk instead of the whole milk? Do I still need to put the vinegar if I’m using the buttermilk? Thank you!!


Sunday 31st of July 2022

Hi Violetta,

Great questions! You can totally use buttermilk instead of whole milk, and if you use buttermilk you can omit the vinegar. I hope they turn out great, happy baking!

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