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Friday, September 21, 2012

Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes

FINALLY, another cupcake recipe...right?  I know, it's been a long time since my last post, let alone my last cupcake recipe.  I haven't had much time to cook or bake lately now that I'm so busy in school, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to bake some cupcakes for my supervisor, Paulette's, birthday!  Rather than my usual large cupcake batches, I made a simple dozen for Paulette and I to enjoy, so it only took a couple hours out of my day.  After school yesterday, I was able to run home and whip up these birthday treats, and still make it to Starbucks in the afternoon to catch up on studying.

So before I dive into the details of the cupcakes, let me catch you up on the happenings in my life.  Let's see...since the last time I posted, we learned a lot of things in nursing school; things as simple as making an occupied bed, bathing, and checking vital signs to more complicated procedures such as changing sterile dressings (for wounds) and inserting a nasogastric tube.  And that's only been 3 weeks...I can't imagine what the next 3 will bring.  We also had our first exam already!  I'm happy to report my FIRST grade in the nursing program is an A!  Hopefully I can manage to keep it up throughout the semester...I do know that things are not going to get any easier, only harder and more complicated!

Also, on September 8, Tony and I went to a concert together.  We went to the Verizon Wireless Ampitheatre in Irvine to watch one of Tony's favorite musical performers, The Dave Matthews Band!  Although I'm familiar with their music, I wouldn't claim myself a DMB fan, but I have to say, I really did enjoy the concert and seeing Tony fulfill something he's always wanted to do. 

Pre-concert tailgating in the parking lot!  FYI Budlight is not my first choice of beer, but in this case, that's what we had!
Now, as I type this second half of the post, my supervisor and I just finished one of these cupcakes and I have to tell you, they are SO good! 

This cupcake recipe is actually a special recipe from Joy of the well known blog, Joy the Baker, the popular and hilarious Joy The Baker podcast and the recent author of a best-selling cookbook, Joy The Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.  I tried searching for the recipe on her website so I could link to it, but she doesn't have it posted.  I actually received this recipe from Joy herself, in a special "surprise" gift box. 

You see, Joy has this really cool subscription-based gift program set up with Lost Crates where you can purchase a gift for $25 plus $5 shipping on either a monthly or quarterly basis, and receive a special suprise gift box picked out by Joy The Baker herself!  It could contain anything she chooses, such as things for your home or awesome foodie gifts, and the majority of the time, the contents in the gift box actually exceed the $25 price you pay!  I love Joy's food taste and quirky interests and personality, so I always know that I will be pleased with the surprises I receive. 

I've received several gifts through Joy's Lost Crates subscriptions, such as a Rifle Paper Co. gift box which included a notecard set and paper floral coasters, a delicious vanilla-themed box, with high quality vanilla extract, whole vanilla beans, gluten-free flour, and a recipe card for "Banana Breakfast Dumplings with Vanilla Bean Maple Butter," but I think the gift including this cupcake recipe card was my favorite, by far!

This particular box included items from the famous King Arthur Flour Company, focusing on their premium chcoolate ingredients!  The box included double-dutch process cocoa, REAL Guittard chocolate sprinkles (jimmies), espresso powder, colorful cupcake liners, a $10 gift card and catalog for King Arthur Flour, AND best of all, a recipe card for these amazing cupcakes, signed by Joy!

Front of recipe card
Back of recipe card

 If you like cute, quirky things for your home and anything food-related, you would LOVE receiving these surprises from Joy.  If you're interested in trying it out, you can read more about it and sign up here.

I am so glad I made the time to try this cupcake recipe because the flavor is perfect!  I'm a huge coffee lover, so this new recipe is perfect to feed my coffee addiction (yes, I have an addiction, even more so than usual and I blame school for it!).  At first I wasn't sure if the coffee flavor would be strong enough when paired up with the rich chocolate cake, but I think the flavor balance is just right.

The chocolate cake recipe is ridiculously dark, rich, and sooooo good!  Tony taste-tested one last night, and said that the chocolate cake recipe for this cupcake is one of the best he's tried (and trust me, he's tried a lot!).  The high quality double-dutch process cocoa, espresso powder, and buttermilk, I believe, are the keys to this recipe's success.  You can really taste the difference when using good cocoa powder.  I'm all for cupcakes using Hershey's cocoa powder, but if you want rich, gourmet flavor...you just have to use the good stuff!  Plus, the espresso powder; it really makes the chocolate flavor pop, and then the buttermilk keeps the cake nice and moist!
If you love coffee and chocolate, then this is the recipe for you! 

Deep Dark Mocha Cupcakes
Print this recipe
Yield:  12 cupcakes
Recipe from Joy The Baker

For the cupcakes:
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup double-dutch cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp instant espresso
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the coffee buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp hot water
1 tsp instant espresso
Chocolate jimmies (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla extract.  Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients being careful not to over-mix.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners and bake in oven for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and one cup of the sugar.  Beat until thick and incorporated.  In a small bowl, stir together vanilla, hot water, and espresso powder.  Stir until powder is dissolved.  Add the remaining sugar and espresso mixture to the bowl.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and slightly fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Spread (or pipe, sparingly) onto cooled cupcakes.  Top with chocolate jimmies, if desired.


  • If you wish to pipe on your frosting with a decorating tip and like lots of frosting, you may want to double the frosting recipe.  I used one batch of frosting for these cupcakes, but piped VERY sparingly.  The frosting is sweet so I personally don't think more than one batch of frosting is necessary, but do whatever suits your own taste!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Vegetable Cheese Soup

Doesn't this bowl of soup look good?  I sure think so!  Maybe it has to do with the fact that Labor Day just passed--the unofficial "end" of summer, so I'm beginning to anticipate cold-weather foods.  I don't know about the weather where you are, but here in Southern California, it's been a little too hot for me!  Tony and I did try to make the most of our nice weather over Labor Day weekend.  Our friends from San Diego came up to Long Beach with their family to visit, so we spent most of our time eating good food, enjoying a few "adult beverages" and relaxing at their hotel pool.


Halle, Tony, and I riding the ferris wheel at The Pike in downtown LB

Tony gave Ethan his first set of golf clubs

Even though summer weather has its perks, I can't wait to welcome the autumn breezes and cool nights, and start enjoying the variety of comforting fall foods. In fact, I was absolutely thrilled when I went to Starbucks yesterday to see that the ever-so-delicious pumpkin spiced latte is back!  I usually stick to iced coffees, not the sweet, special drinks, but for a pumpkin spiced latte, I make an exception.  I was a happy camper yesterday, enjoying the (freezing) cold AC in Starbucks, nose stuck in my nursing textbook, with my pumpkin spiced latte in hand. 

This is my life now.  Study study study....

Although it's still warm here in California, I know many others have been experiencing wet weather lately so this soup recipe from Lulu The Baker may come in handy!  Even if it's still hot where you live, the cool weather will be here before you know it.

This Vegetable Cheese Soup is a great recipe for cold weather.  It's easily adaptable to whatever vegetables you prefer, and is a great option for picky eaters.  If you want more protein, feel free to throw in some chicken or any other type of meat.  If you don't like carrots, leave them out, or add another vegetable instead.  I'm sure corn would be great in this soup!  Whatever adjustment you make (or maybe none at all), this is a great base recipe suitable to anyone's tastes.

Vegetable Cheese Soup
Print this recipe
Yield:  6-8 servings
Recipe from Lulu the Baker

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup milk
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large soup pot.  Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium heat until tender.  Add garlic and cook 1 or 2 additional minutes.  Add chicken broth and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes depending on how small they were chopped.  Mix flour with water, add, and simmer until soup is slightly thickened.  Add milk and broccoli and cook until broccoli is just tender and soup is heated through.  Stir in cheese, allow to melt, and serve.