Mmmm Kahlua Chocolate Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

(sm) Kahlua Chocolate Cupcake with Kahlua Buttercream FrostingThe beginning of my friendship with Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan, the powerhouse behind wildly successful culinary blog The Kitchn, was steeped in Kahlua.  She was probably in the fifth grade.  It’s a fun story.

My boutique PR firm had Kahlua as a client for many years.  Pretty yummy work; our best PR efforts were culinary-focused.  Over time, our library of Kahlua food recipes grew to more than 500.  I still have the whole collection (and promise to share plenty), but I wasn’t the person who developed them.  Part of my job included dreaming up Kahlua recipe concepts and themes.  I then hired the incredibly talented and calm Karen Gillingham, Sara Kate’s mommy, to bring the ideas to life.  And she had lots of ideas herself.

Before freelancing, Karen was a food editor with the LA Times.  We are both home economists, so I knew her from that circle of food pros.  Karen was perfect to work with after I first endured a nut case of a recipe developer and stylist inherited with the account.  Quickly, I disinherited that whack job and landed Karen because I was in awe of her ability and style.  Did I mention she was calm?

Long hours together results in lots of family talk.  Little Sara Kate was an engaging, freckle faced cutie patootie.  Seeing her now as a businesswoman and mother, Karen should probably write a parenting book.

Besides creating recipes, Karen and I shot volumes of food photos together.  On occasion, Sara Kate was there; her mom claims I gave her a straw hat prop which she hung on the wall in their family cabin.  If she still has that hat, I won’t tell the Kahlua people.

Time to think about baking oooey chocolaty Kahlua things.  Here is a Karen-created recipe, great for grownup fun like a Hollywood Bowl picnic.

Kahlua Chocolate Cupcakes with Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

Please note the comments, below.  A few readers felt these came out TOO Kahlua-y, so if you are seeking a subtle Kahlua essence, you may be disappointed in this particular recipe.

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup strong cold coffee
  • 3/4 cup Kahlua
  • Kahlua Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a medium bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites until frothy; then beat in sugar until stiff peaks form.  Set aside.  Cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks one at a time.  Sift flour, cocoa and baking soda together.  Add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and Kahlua; blend well.  Fold egg whites into batter.  Fill prepared cupcake cups to 2/3 full.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove cupcakes from tins and cool on rack completely before frosting.  Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp. Kahlua
  • 2-3 Tbsp. hot coffee

In large bowl, cream together butter and powdered sugar.  Add cocoa powder, Kahlua and hot coffee.  Beat until smooth.  Frosts 2 dozen cupcakes.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Allaiyah Weyn July 22, 2016 at 9:05 pm

1lb of sugar????? I’ll be cutting that down by 3/4ths.

2 Tricia September 12, 2015 at 10:42 am

My friend had a booze-themed housewarming party, and the guests were each told to bring a snack or dessert that incorporated alcohol. I made these cupcakes and the icing– it turned out great! I’m not really sure why others seemed to have issues, because the icing was delicious and the cupcakes were also. The recipe was so easy to follow and used ingredients that most cooks have on hand. Thank you!

3 Worth The Whisk March 9, 2014 at 7:35 pm

It would be OK to bake the cupcakes a day ahead, wrap them tight once cooled. But don’t frost them until the day of your event.

4 Tango March 9, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Thanks so much for the response! Just one more question- if I am making this for tomorrow evening, how are the cupcakes best stored and served (i.e. served cold, room temperature, are they ok to be kept out all day?, etc). Thanks again!

5 Worth The Whisk March 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Jaquielyn – the coffee melts the butter a bit and blends better. Just zap your cold coffee in the microwave to make it hot.

6 Jaquielyn March 9, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I am excited to try and make these for a girl’s night! Quick question, why does it matter if the coffee is hot or cold? Can I just use use some of the cold coffee for the frosting? Thanks again for the recipe!

7 Worth The Whisk February 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

Oh dear, Jenna, I am sorry!

8 Jenna February 1, 2013 at 10:13 am

This is a soupy mess. NOT butter creme frosting.

9 Worth The Whisk December 12, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Hi Jane, the 1986 cookbook was a combo of longtime Kahlua recipes and new ones created by my friend.

10 Jane Van Horn December 4, 2012 at 6:14 am

Did your friend create recipes for the Kahlua cookbook that was published in 1986? I was looking for a chocolate Kahlua cupcake recipe and found your site. I then went to my Kahlua cookbook and this exact recipe was there. Even the frosting was identical. If the answer is yes, does that mean she created more of the recipes in the cookbook? I am making alcohol based desserts for a fundraiser and will test these to see if I want them for the event.

11 Melissa September 18, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I made the Kahlua frosting last weekend and it was delicious. The only change I made was I thinned it with milk instead of hot coffee. I hate coffee (but LOVE Kahlua – go figure!) so I used milk. It avoided the bitter taste of coffee. Thanks for a yummy recipe!

12 Worth The Whisk January 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm

THANK YOU Martha May, I appreciate your “working with the recipe” to come out OK for you. Strangely, the comments are 50/50 on whether this is a workable recipe or not. God Bless your family friends welcoming home their soldier!

13 Martha May Fink January 23, 2012 at 10:54 am

I tried these cupcakes for the first time yesterday, and although I try to avoid giving away cupcakes that I’ve never made before, these were for a family who was welcoming home their soldier, and the Father loves Kahlua – so I just had to make them! I’m sorry that I was a little disappointed in the flavor of all things… and they were also dry… (I saw your note about drizzling them, which I should have done, as I think that would help.) Because of your note I did increase the coffee to 1 cup and cut the kahlua to 1/2 cup, but I may add some instant espresso powder to that already-brewed coffee… Also, I noticed that they didn’t call for salt! So – I would add at least 3/4 of a teasp. next time. Also, I think there is a typo in the frosting, as it was not coming together with only 6T of butter. I doubled the butter to 12T, and it was just perfect. The frosting was amazing! I will definitely make these again with these modifications. It made 28 – perfect to try and to give away!
Thank you—-
Manchester, NH

14 Worth The Whisk December 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm

CMR, I feel bad for your experience, and edited the post to include right up front how Super-Kahlua these are. My apologies for an unhappy out come.

15 cmr December 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

These were a complete waste of time and ingredients!!! Too much Kahlua!!!! Ruined the whole thing!!!! Get your recipes straight!!!!

16 Elicia August 1, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Just made the frosting to use on my own chocolate cake recipe. The frosting is fabulous! I think the Kahlua flavor is perfect, didnt change any part of the recipe! Going to try putting some mocha chips on top of my cupcakes. Yum-O! Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

17 britMonster July 22, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I used the Kahlua buttercream recipe, but not the cake recipe. The buttercream is TO DIE FOR! I added a little extra Kahlua to taste because I wanted it a bit stronger, but this buttercream is well worth the time! 😀

18 Kelly Morris March 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Seached blogs for a creative cupcake. Yours won, hands down. They were sooo amazing. The flavors were great and the icing was the best!!!!

19 Worth The Whisk February 26, 2011 at 1:46 pm

Hi Chris, sorry you felt that way. Was it the flavor? Some people expect a big wallop of Kahlua flavor in baked goods, but when I worked for the company we always were careful to not knock someone over the head with Kahlua flavor. What would you do differently with the recipe?

20 chris February 26, 2011 at 9:10 am

This recipe was really a waste of my time. So disappointed.

21 Yum June 3, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I made these this past weekend and they were soooooo good! I made the recipe “as is” and they came out great. Once they were done, I added some Heath Bits O’ Brickle on top of the frosting. Everyone at the party loved them!

22 Cyndy May 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I know this is late in coming, but I made these delicious cupcakes and they were absolutely to die for good. They are our newest Post and we’ve linked back to your site. Thank You for the most awesome cupcakes!!

Bunny’s Warm Oven

23 Worth The Whisk May 12, 2010 at 10:32 am

Hi Laura, very sorry about your results AND SOOOOO sorry to disappoint! Kahlua DOES taste great, and sounds like you were hoping for big Kahlua flavor. The recipes we made for the Kahlua company were often subtle in Kahlua flavor because a lot of people rejected hyper-boozy tasting foods. But I thank you for pointing out the silicone cup problem — readers, this recipe was developed before those were available, not tested for those. And I don’t own the silicone cups, either.

One trick I would recommend if, after you taste a cupcake and want MORE Kahlua flavor is to poke the baked goods with a bamboo skewer and drizzle Kahlua right over. NOT TOO MUCH, however (i.e. no more than two teaspoons per cupcake). Then frost.

24 laura May 12, 2010 at 9:10 am

This recipe looked so yummy, but unfortunately the results were very disappointing. I made these for a Mexican feast for 10 people, and we ended up throwing them out and buying a last-minute boxed cake mix instead 🙁

I baked the majority of the cupcakes in silicone cups, and they completely stuck to the cups and could not be removed without falling apart. (The ones that I baked in regular muffin tins came out intact though.)

A bigger problem is that they had almost NO flavor whatsoever. They weren’t’ chocolatey or kahlua-y enough. Very bland. I was able to make the frosting more flavorfull by adding ~3 times as much chocolate, coffee and kahlua as the recipe calls for, and then we used this frosting on the boxed cake…

I wanted to like these cupcakes, but I (and my guests) were very unimpressed. 🙁

25 Jen @ MaplenCornbread July 9, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Kahlua goodness!!! So cute!

26 Cooking with Denay June 9, 2009 at 9:05 am

Wow, these look amazing. I was just reading a white paper on new food trends for 2010 and beyond and it reports an upsurge of chocolate and coffee infused desserts, candies and other baked goods, since consumers are definitely searching for that one product that will fulfill their need for chocolate, energy/alertness. These little jewels would certainly fit the bill.

Thanks for sharing, will definitely try this recipe!

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