Well you guys, I really blew it this time. My sweet, funny, endlessly patient husband Tony asked for nothing this Father’s Day except for cupcakes encompassing the flavors of coffee, caramel and chocolate. Of course, he got a pair of Nike house shoes and Slapshot shorts…and I did make him chocolate chip pancakes this morning… but as far as the cupcakes went. Um, oops.

What can I say, I crack under pressure. Had I decided on my own to make these I’m sure everything would have come up Milhouse and they would have been delicious. But because they were the only thing Tony asked me for I fucked them up beyond recognition. Alright, first the recipe I attempted and then what went wrong.

For the mocha cupcakes I used:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 Tbs finely ground coffee
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 Tbs instant coffee granules
  • 1 tsp vanilla


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your pan with paper liners. Mix together flour, cocoa powder, ground coffee, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil and egg until smooth. Add flour mixture and beat until combined. In a small bowl whisk together milk, instant coffee and vanilla until coffee is dissolved. Add milk mixture to batter and beat until smooth. Pour or scoop batter into pan and bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in cupcake’s center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes then remove and cool completely.

For the thick caramel I used:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 6 oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 Tbs heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt


Bring the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and condensed milk to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and slowly add the heavy cream. Continue to stir for about 20 minutes until the caramel has reached 248 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Transfer to a bowl and continue to stir for a few minutes, allowing the caramel to cool slightly.

For chocolate whipped cream you’ll need*^:

  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbs powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Then you:

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler and then stir to melt completely. In a microwave this should only take a minute. Allow the chocolate to cool for 3-5 minutes until it’s warm and liquid but no longer hot. Stir 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate. Stir the chocolate mixture, vanilla and sugar into the remaining whipped cream.

*This is a lot of whipped cream- enough for a whole cake, but I’m always paranoid I’m not going to have enough frosting so I go nuts. Tony’s glad to find uses for the extras. Shut up, perverts.

^I wrote that first footnote before ever attempting this recipe. To be honest, I never got this far. I didn’t make any whipped cream. I have a pint of heavy cream in my fridge and I need to think of something to do with it all, actually.

OK, so here’s what happened. I made the cupcakes Friday night because it was my intention to finish them up Saturday during Teno’s nap so Tony wouldn’t have to control the mini beast while I baked for him. When I saw the purple-black batter I was a little worried, but they smelled so good baking I figured I was safe. The recipe calls for Dutch-processed cocoa but I tried to be cool and use dark Dutch-processed cocoa. I think that was mistake number one. Also, it calls for finely ground coffee and intsant coffee. I have an espresso machine and a $400 top-of-the-line grinder so I knew my coffee was going to be ground as fine as it could possibly be. But, upon tasting, there was a grit. I don’t know how yo could avoid this. Also, because of all the coffee grounds and maybe the dark chocolate the cupcake’s structural integrity was a little…questionable. The middles sort of fell in and I know it’s not because my oven temperature is off, my other cakes always come out right. Tony swore they tasted good but I think my doubt tainted the rest of the process.

So then I made the caramel, which was really fun and smelled wonderful. It was quite a process but in the end I had this creamy, perfect caramel. I almost filled the cakes while it was stupid hot but I was too lazy so I left it. The next day I had a bowl of ROCK HARD caramel. I was SO bummed. I pouted about it most of the day and then just melted it back down and poured it into molds. Now I have a pile of caramels… I don’t know what to do with them all. Plus, now there wasn’t going to be any caramel in the cupcakes. I’m glad I didn’t fill them, though, can you imagine biting into a cake and breaking your teeth on hard caramel? Suck.

I was ready to just give up and buy Tony a slice of flourless chocolate cake from Letizia’s (where I learned how to bake, by the way,) but I had one last idea. Ganache. I’d take the paper off the cupcakes, coat them in ganache, let them set up and then write on them with white icing like fancy Hostess cupcakes. Ok, so it’s not AT ALL what Tony asked for, but it was either that or be sad about my failure all night. So that’s what I did. They weren’t anything like I’d intended, but Tony really liked them and I didn’t have to resort to buying him something someone else baked. Oh, here’s the ganache recipe I used:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or chocolate chips if you like it sweet)

Place the chopped chocolate in a metal mixing bowl and bring the whippinh cream to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Stir the cream with a wooden spoon while cooking to avoid scalding. Immediately add boiling cream to chopped chocolate and stir until the chocolate is melted and incorporated. If you’re using hte ganache as a glaze allow it to cool for about 10 minutes and then spoon it over your cakes. If you’re using it as a thick frosting, cool it until it’s thick enough to spread, about 45 minutes. You can also cool it for about 45 minutes and then whip it with an electric blender to make it lighter in color, and transform it into a fluffy, but rich frosting.

So… I don’t have a picture of the finished product because I was pretty disappointed it didn’t go my way and I only ended up making two. Tony inhaled his and I picked at mine begrudgingly because it wasn’t what I’d set out to make.

Never fear, though, the vegan smores cupcakes I sold at Filter Cafe were a hit. So I did something right this week end.

I wouldn’t scrap that caramel recipe, I just wouldn’t try to use it the way I did. It’s better suited for coating or for use as a frosting. The caramel itself is really delicious, it has the perfect amount of salt in it. The cupcakes… I don’t know. Maybe with regular cocoa powder they wouldn’t be so strange. And chocolate whipped cream… well, there’s just nothing wrong with chocolate whipped cream.

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