Iron Cupcake Earth: Coffee I

Don’t let this recipe color your opinion of me.  Yes, it is the fifth Iron Cupcake entry of mine in a row that contains alcohol.  I promise I am not an alcoholic!  In fact, I rarely even drink anymore and would generally much rather bake with any alcohol I do have.  The only reason this cupcake contains alcohol (which is in the batter anyway so the alcohol content bakes away, as opposed to the Ispahan cupcake which has drunkylicious frosting) is because a couple of months ago I acquired a bottle of homemade Tia Maria from my totally awesome mom.  As I’m not a big coffee drinker anymore, I was a little stumped by this challenge and was very glad to have a unique source of inspiration.

Don't you just love the color of that frosting?

Don't you just love the color of that frosting?

I knew I wanted to create a cupcake based on a cocktail, but there aren’t too many drink recipes that use Tia Maria.  Generally, it’s used as a stand in for Kahlua.  No good – I wanted something that was specifically meant to use Tia Maria.  I searched around online for a bit and kept coming up with one recipe on many mixology sites:

The Alexandra

1/4 Tia Maria

1/4 Cream

1/4 Rum

1/4 Cocoa Cream

I wasn’t familiar with Cocoa Cream, so I looked it up.  It’s a liqueur flavored with chocolate and strawberries…that sounded good!

Whatcha doin' back there, cupcake?

Whatcha doin' back there, cupcake?

Since I’ve got a pretty good basic cake recipe that I’ve been working with, I decided to use that.  It’s always light, moist and generally a great vehicle for experimentation, so I flavored it with the Tia Maria.  I chose a basic pastry cream filling flavored with vanilla bean – it’s pretty neutral, but a nice texture contrast in the middle of the cake, and is a good representation of the cream in the original drink.  I left out the rum, not really seeing a need to lushify my reputation further.  Though I considered tracking down a bottle of real Cocoa Cream to flavor the frosting, random liqueurs really aren’t in my budget at the moment so I took advantage of the Florida winter strawberry season and used fresh pureed strawberries and melted dark chocolate instead.  I’m glad I did because the frosting is the best part!

Miss Alexandra! Show some self-respect! BE A LADY!

Miss Alexandra! Show some self-respect!

I’ll admit that I really enjoyed the process of figuring out the best way to translate a drink into a cupcake.  Have I mentioned that I went to bartending school?  Probably.  Well, my interest in mixology and in creative baking are definitely related.  Boozy reputation be damned, I might just keep this kind of thing up.  If I could afford it, I’d love to invent cocktails as a part of this blog as well.  But it’s cheaper to make cupcakes than to keep a well-stocked bar.

A couple notes on this recipe: I slightly overfilled the cupcake papers and got 18 cupcakes instead of the usual 24 for this base recipe.  Because of this, I halved the frosting recipe.  I was a little worried about this not yielding enough frosting, but it was perfectly fine.  I think using a meringue buttercream instead of a French one makes for more volume due to the fluffiness.  What is posted is what I did, so if you are making mini-cupcakes or something then you may have to double the recipe I give.

Alexandra Cupcakes

I'm honestly not trying to make such consistently girly cupcakes, they just come out this way!

I'm honestly not trying to make such consistently girly cupcakes, they just come out this way!

For the Cakes:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft and cut into Tbsp

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 cups AP flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Tia Maria or other coffee liqueur (Kahlua is probably too syrupy)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

4 egg whites

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the Tia Maria and dry ingredients alternately in fourths until fully incorporated.  Mix in vanilla, then add egg whites and mix on high until light and fluffy.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean (edges will be just lightly golden).  Allow to cool fully before filling.

While the cupcakes are cooling, Make the Cream Filling:

1 1/4 cups milk

1 small vanilla bean, split

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

1/8 cup flour

Scant 3 Tbsp corn starch

Sift together flour and cornstarch, set aside.  Combine sugar and yolks, then add the flour mixture and combine well – it will yield a smooth paste when fully mixed.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine the milk and vanilla over medium heat until the milk boils.  Remove from heat and add slowly to the egg mixture, whisking continuously to prevent the eggs from curdling.  Remove vanilla bean and strain mixture, if any lumps have formed.  Scrape remaining seeds from vanilla bean and add them to the mixture.  Place in a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly until it boils.  Keep whisking for another 30-60 seconds, until it is thick and hard to stir.  Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap pressed down on the surface of the cream so that a skin doesn’t form.  Refrigerate until fully cooled.

Once both the cupcakes and the cream filling are cooled, you can fill the cupcakes.  Using a small round cookie cutter (about 1″…I didn’t have a round one and a half-moon shape worked great, I just had to twist it a little), press into the center of each cupcake, removing a little “cap” from the top.  Set aside and use a small spoon to hollow out the cupcakes a bit more.  Spoon enough pastry cream into each cupcake to almost fill the hole, then firmly press the “caps” back into place.  Keep refrigerated.

Now Make the Frosting:

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and divided into Tbsp

2 oz. dark chocolate, melted

1/4 cup pureed strawberries

1/8 tsp red liquid food coloring

Combine whites, sugar and cream of tartar over a double boiler with simmering water.  Whisk to combine, then continue whisking intermittently as you cook the mixture, about 5-7 minutes or until it reaches a temperature of 160 (to kill any bacteria).  Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip on high for 6-8 minutes, or until stiff peaks form. Switch to the beater attachment and beat on medium high, adding the butter one piece at a time.  Wait until each piece is fully incorporated before adding the next, and if at any time the mixture should appear to “curdle” just wait it out; the beating motion will smooth everything out in a few minutes.  Once all the butter is mixed in and the frosting is light and fluffy, add the chocolate, strawberries and food coloring, beating until everything is an even color.  Scoop into a pastry bag fitted with your choice of tip and frost the cupcakes.

If I made these again, I might try adding a little espresso powder to either the cream or the cupcakes to heighten the coffee flavor.  The Tia Maria has good flavor and makes the cakes sweet and interesting, but not as coffee-ish as some might prefer.  I’m sure they’d turn out a little differently if you used commercial Tia Maria as well, but if you have the inclination to make homemade liqueurs, you’d have more control over the flavor in general.  I probably won’t make this whole recipe again, but the frosting is amazing and would be fantastic for Valentine’s Day, on a simple chocolate cake with a strawberry filling perhaps, or even on a plain white cake.

Since this is an Iron Cupcake entry, here’s the obligatory shtuff (and don’t forget to vote for me in the first week of March! Link will be posted once voting is open):

Our February ETSY PRIZE-PACK is from artists:

As an added bonus for February, SWEET CUPPIN CAKES BAKERY AND CUPCAKERY SUPPLY will be tossing in a variety of cupcaking supplies,

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS,, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson,, JESSIE STEELE APRONS; TASTE OF HOME books,; a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers, .

16 responses to “Iron Cupcake Earth: Coffee I

  1. That sounds yummy! And I love the color of the frosting.

    I drink occasionally… but every bottle of liquor I own was bought for the purpose of baking and truffle-making. Mixing a drink with it is usually sort of an afterthought…

  2. Oh my god, I LOVE the way you frosted these. So stealing the idea!

  3. That frosting is a really unusual and gorgeous shade indeed and I love the voluptuous folds of the frosting too! 🙂

  4. The color of that frosting won me over – it looks absolutely delicious!

  5. OMG, just look at that icing! Forget the cupcake, give me a bowl of that icing lol. Love it!

  6. absolutely gorgeous… yumm!

  7. informalblathering

    The frosting is definitely as good as it looks! I was thrilled to discover that tip in a box of ancient ones that were in with my pastry bag – I’ve always loved ribbony frosting!

  8. I LOVE the idea of strawberries in the frosting. Yum! And your pics look great!

  9. oh i am exceedingly confident that you will do brilliantly on your first macarons, sans doute! that little heart confection in your banner looks perfect, and i see that you are a marshmallow fan, so you already have the qualifications. macarons are put on a pedestal–and while yes they are hard to make, the only trick is to make sure you are thinking about the right thing while you make them. as strange as it sounds, if you are not thinking about who/what makes you the most happy in the world, they crack and come out feet less. true true c’est la vérité!! eheheh.

  10. I thought the icing was folds of bologna when i saw this on tastespotting…

  11. Gorgeous! I love the way you applied the frosting. It looks like a pink dress!

  12. I do love the look of that frosting! You mentioned that they needed a little more coffee flavor, I wonder if they might be good with a thick coffee syrup drizzled on top, kinda mimicking strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

  13. I actually think the frosting color looks like bologna…
    Bet they tasted great though!

  14. smallkitchenbigideas

    I think the frosting looks great. I don’t really get a bologna vibe from it…

  15. Това изглежда вкусно!Браво!

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