I gave up drinking caffeine about 9 years ago for health reasons. Occasionally I'll have a bit of white tea in the morning if I need a little bit of a pick-me-up, but mostly I avoid any caffeinated beverages. The only reliable source of caffeine I've have are the super dark chocolate squares that I keep stashed in my desk drawer at work.
Even decaf coffee will keep me awake if I drink it in the evening.
So when the theme for this month's Cupcake Hero was coffee, I thought I might use coffee flavoring or decaf coffee as my themed ingredient. Instead, I went all out.
I decided to use chocolate covered espresso beans. I figured, hey, this fits with my "I don't drink caffeine" pledge. I had a few ideas for how to use them and ended up testing them all.
After sampling four cupcakes and snacking on I-don't-know-how-many chocolate espresso beans from the bag, I started to feel funny...and very alert. Not just white tea alert. More like all-night-college-caffeine-fest alert. And jittery. And thoughts racing. And heart beating out of my chest.
My racing thoughts and taste buds told me that the winning coffee cupcake would not have crushed beans in the batter, crushed beans on top, or whole beans in the center... It would have all three! Of course!
Then I scrapbooked for, oh, about five hours and worked a ton of sudoku puzzles at lightening speed.
When things started settling down, I realized,"Oh, shit! These cupcakes don't even have frosting!" Normally I wouldn't even consider something this shape to be a cupcake without frosting. I'd call it a muffin.
But don't even think about calling these muffins. With rich, moist vanilla cake and so much chocolate and coffee beans you'll vacuum the stairs twice, these are not muffins. If you're craving a topping, I recommend a classic coffee drink topping, whipped cream (or Soyatoo whipped topping).
So here's the recipe:
Chocolate Espresso Bean Cupcakes
Makes 24 mini cupcakes or 12 regular
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup nondairy milk
1/3 cup oil
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 cup chocolate covered espresso beans (I like Sunspire)
Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Reserve enough espresso beans to fill each cupcake cup. Put the remaining espresso beans in a baggie and smash them with a rolling pin, hammer, or baseball bat until they are in little pieces, but not powder (I suppose you could use a coffee grinder, but this is great therapy). Divide the smashed beans into two piles. Then combine dry ingredients, including 1/2 of the smashed espresso beans, in a mixing bowl. In a separate jar, combine wet ingredients. Then quickly stir together the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed. Spoon enough batter into each cupcake liner to fill 1/2 full. Then lay an espresso bean on top of the batter. Top each cup with a few more tablespoons of batter so that the beans are covered and cups are 3/4 full. Then top with remaining crushed beans. Bake for 10 minutes (mini cupcakes) or 15 minutes (regular sized cupcakes).
Let cool just a bit and then taste them while still gooey. So good! Let cool fully and then taste the firm chocolate bits and crunchy beans. So good! Top with whipped cream if you like, or serve them just as they are.