These coffee cupcakes with vanilla coffee buttercream are fluffy, moist, and super easy to make! With instant coffee powder and vanilla bean paste, they have a ton of coffee flavor. These cupcakes are one of my favorites for dinner with friends, holidays, or parties!

A white plate of coffee cupcakes with vanilla coffee buttercream on a pink counter next to a Chemex and coffee beans.

If you’ve been here for a while, you may know that I spent my 5-9s in college slinging espresso and frothing milk at a local coffeeshop. After I graduated, I also did marketing for a roasting company where I had the privilege of meeting some of the coolest people!

Needless to say, my love for coffee has never wavered. But now my creations involve a lot less latte art and a lot more desserts like coffee crème brûlée and chewy coffee cookies. And now, these lovely little cupcakes!

If you are a diehard coffee lover like me, it’s time to make this recipe ASAP. These little cupcakes are fluffy, rich, cozy, and have vanilla latte vibes. Let’s bake, friends!

These cupcakes are the best

Fun fact – back when I was in pastry school, I had a side gig making cupcakes for weddings and parties. It taught me 1. how to make bakery-worthy cupcakes, and 2. that I never want to own a bakery lol. But, I do love sharing all my old recipes with my internet friends!

  • These little cakes have a good dose of coffee and vanilla bean.
  • This recipe is quick to make and easy to whip up.
  • You can add different fillings or buttercreams to switch up the flavor.
  • Serve them for dinner parties, holidays, & get-togethers with friends!

Pro tip

For high altitude instructions, check out the notes in the recipe card! I’ve listed high-altitude adjustments for up to 5,000 feet.

The ingredients

White and brown bowls of eggs, powdered sugar, sour cream, sugar, flour milk, coffee powder, and oil next to butter on a white counter.
  • Flour – all-purpose flour will make up the base of the batter. For a more tender crumb, you can also use cake flour.
  • Baking powder – a bit of baking powder will be the leavening agent in this recipe. It will help the cupcakes come out light and fluffy!
  • Salt – a pinch of salt will offset the sweetness in the cupcakes and buttercream. I use Morton’s Kosher salt.
  • Butter – unsalted butter creates richness and makes the cake more tender.
  • Sugar – to add sweetness to the cake, you will want regular granulated sugar.
  • Eggs – the eggs add structure to the batter and help the fats and liquids combine.
  • Sour cream – for a little bit of tang, richness, and moisture.
  • Neutral oil – this will also add moisture. You can use canola or vegetable oil.
  • Vanilla bean – for the most vanilla flavor, I like vanilla bean paste. It’s more affordable than vanilla beans but more intense than extract.
  • Coffee powder – for the most coffee flavor, you’ll want to grab some instant coffee. Look for a good-quality coffee powder since it’s the main flavoring agent in this recipe.
  • Milk – a bit of whole milk will loosen up the batter for a light and fluffy crumb. You’ll also need a splash for the buttercream.
  • Powdered sugar – to sweeten the buttercream. Powdered sugar is very fine so it will lead to super fluffy frosting!
  • Cocoa powder – I like to add a bit of cocoa powder to the frosting for color. You won’t taste it but you can also leave it out if you prefer.

Variations & substitutions

  • Coffee powder – you can also use instant espresso if you prefer. Instant espresso is typically stronger than coffee powder, so start with less and add more to taste.
  • Sour cream – whole milk Greek yogurt is a great replacement for sour cream.
  • Vanilla – try vanilla extract instead of paste. It won’t be as intense but still delicious!
  • Buttercream – top the cupcakes with marshmallow buttercream or chocolate buttercream for mocha vibes.
  • Fillings – fill the cupcakes with chocolate mousse or salted caramel sauce.

Pro tip

Instant coffee is the secret ingredient for adding lots of coffee flavor to this recipe. Don’t skip it! You can find coffee powder in the coffee or baking aisle of the grocery store or online. Unfortunately, brewed coffee just won’t do the trick. Not only does it add too much liquid to the batter but the flavor won’t shine through.

How to make this recipe

Six steps to making batter. In photo 1, a pink bowl has flour and baking powder. In photo 2, a whisk is stirring the flour. In photo 3, butter and sugar is in a metal bowl. In photo 4, the butter and sugar is whipped. In photo 5, the butter has an egg in it. In photo 6, the butter has sour cream, vanilla, and oil.

Make the batter

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until it’s very light and fluffy. Add then eggs one at a time.
  3. Then, add the sour cream, vanilla bean paste, and oil. Mix well.
Three steps to making coffee cupcake batter. In photo 1, a white bowl of milk and coffee powder is on a white counter. In photo 2, a metal bowl of cake batter is topped with flour. In photo 3, the batter is mixed together.
  1. Next, whisk the milk and coffee powder together until it’s very smooth.
  2. Add half of the flour and coffee-milk mixtures to the batter. Stir well.
  3. Lastly, add the remaining flour and coffee-milk mixtures. Mix just until combined.

Quick tip

Don’t over-mix the batter or the cupcakes will come out dry and dense. You want to mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until there are no more streaks of flour.

Two steps to baking mini cakes. In photo 1, a muffin tin has liners and batter. In photo 2, the mini cakes are baked.

Bake the cupcakes

  1. Line two muffin pans with liners. Then, using a scoop, divide the batter evenly between the liners.
  2. Bake the cupcakes just until they’re cooked through and an inserted toothpick has a few moist crumbs.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Six steps to making buttercream. In photo 1, a metal bowl has butter and powdered sugar. In photo 2, the buttercream is whipped and has vanilla in it. In photo 3, a wire whip has vanilla buttercream. In photo 4, the frosting has espresso powder and cocoa powder. In photo 5, the espresso frosting is mixed. In photo 6, two white bowls have vanilla and espresso frosting on a white counter.

Whip the buttercream

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and powdered sugar until it’s thick and well-combined.
  2. Then, add the milk and vanilla bean paste. Whip the frosting until it’s very fluffy.
  3. Save about 1/3 of the vanilla buttercream for later.
  4. Add the coffee powder and cocoa powder to the rest of the buttercream.
  5. Mix the buttercream together until it’s fully combined.
Three steps to frosting cupcakes. In photo 1, a piping bag and tip is on a white counter. In photo 2, the piping bag is filled with frosting. In photo 3, a white plate of cupcakes is on a pink counter next to a Chemex and coffee beans.

Frost the cupcakes

  1. Fit a reusable or disposable piping bag with your favorite large tip.
  2. Then, fill about 1/3 of the bag with vanilla buttercream and 2/3 of the bag with coffee buttercream.
  3. Gently “squish” the bag to fill in any pockets of air. Lastly, pipe the cooled cupcakes with the two-toned frosting and enjoy!

Pro tip

For the two-toned frosting look, use a rubber spatula to scrape some of the vanilla frosting into 1/3 of the piping bag. Then, use another rubber spatula to fill in the rest of the bag with the coffee frosting.

Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, we’re going for a rustic look here lol. Plus, the pretty tips will help give us a gorgeous, swirly effect and mask any imperfections!

Serving ideas

Cupcakes are honestly the perfect party dessert. There’s no slicing, passing out plates, or making sure you have enough forks. We love a handheld dessert situation, and these cupcakes are one of my go-tos! They’re always a hit.

  • Make these cupcakes for a birthday party or get-together.
  • Serve them for dessert after a dinner party or holiday.
  • Bring them to a potluck, picnic, or BBQ.
  • Bake them for friends. They’re lovely for Galentine’s Day or girls’ night in!

Storing, freezing, & make-ahead

To store leftover cupcakes, place them in an airtight container. They can sit at room temperature for up to 2 days. I don’t recommend putting them in the fridge, because they tend to dry out.

You can also make these cupcakes in advance and freeze them! Just bake the cupcakes, let them cool completely, and place them in an airtight container. Cover the cupcakes with a layer of parchment paper, cover, and freeze for up to 3 months.

When you’re ready to eat the cupcakes, let them come to room temperature for about 2 hours. Then, make the buttercream and frost the cupcakes. Enjoy!

Quick tip

You can also freeze the frosted cupcakes for up to 3 months, but the buttercream will not be as fluffy after it defrosts. For the best flavors and textures, I recommend making the frosting fresh!

Espresso cupcakes on a white counter next to a white plate of cupcakes and white bowl of coffee beans.

Decoration ideas

I like a nice simple cupcake decoration but you can get as elaborate as you like! These are just a few ideas to dress these cupcakes up a bit.

  • Top the frosting with chocolate covered coffee beans.
  • Dip the edges of the frosting in chocolate cookie crumbs.
  • Decorate the cupcakes with chocolate candies or chocolate curls.
  • Use a variety of piping tips for different frosting designs.
  • Drizzle the cupcakes with salted caramel sauce.
  • Finish the cupcakes with gold sprinkles – so pretty!

Quick tip

To easily fill a piping bag with buttercream, place the bag into a tall drinking glass and fold the opening of the bag over the rim of the glass. The glass will help keep the bag in place while you fill it with frosting. And, it keeps the frosting inside the bag for less mess and stickiness!

Helpful tools

Pro tip

It’s very important to properly measure the ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. Adding too much flour can make the cupcakes dry and dense. If you don’t have a scale, then make sure you’re measuring the flour the right way. First, fluff the flour with a whisk or fork. Then, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off without packing it in.

Coffee cupcakes with coffee vanilla buttercream on a pink background next to a Chemex and white bowl of coffee beans.

Tips & tricks

  • Always use room temperature ingredients like butter, eggs, milk, & sour cream. It helps the batter mix more smoothly so you don’t end up with streaks of unmixed ingredients.
  • Make sure you cream the butter and sugar for at least 3-4 minutes, until the butter is fluffy and pale yellow. This will make the cake light and fluffy!
  • Don’t over-fill the muffin tins or you’ll end up with a big puddle of batter at the bottom of your oven. The tins should be about 3/4 of the way full.
  • The cupcakes are done when an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it. If the toothpick has liquid batter on it, bake the cupcakes for a few more minutes.
  • If you don’t want two-toned frosting, you can make all coffee buttercream instead. Just skip the step of saving the plain vanilla frosting.

Recipe FAQs

Can I use brewed coffee instead of instant?

Sadly, brewed coffee will not work in this recipe! It will add too much liquid to the batter and not enough coffee flavor. A good quality coffee powder is key in this recipe!

What is coffee/espresso powder?

Coffee powder is simply brewed coffee that has been dehydrated so that it easily dissolves in water. Espresso powder is the same but uses brewed espresso which is stronger than brewed coffee. It’s not the same as coffee grounds which are the solids of the ground coffee beans!

What is the secret to moist and fluffy cupcakes?

The key to cupcakes that are light and fluffy actually comes down to a few things. To make sure the cupcakes come out perfect every time, here are a few tips!

  1. Use fresh baking powder. If the baking powder is old, the cupcakes won’t rise.
  2. Weigh the ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. It’s the only way to make sure the cupcakes come out accurate every time!
  3. Cream the butter and sugar for at least 3-4 minutes. It adds lots of air to the batter which makes the cake soft and fluffy.
  4. Don’t over-mix the batter. If you do, it will pop all the aforementioned air bubbles and make the cupcakes dense.
  5. Bake the cupcakes just until they’re cooked through. If the cupcakes over-bake, they’ll end up dry.

Can I make a cake instead?

Yep! This recipe makes enough batter and frosting for a three-layer, six-inch cake. Just divide the batter between three six-inch cake pans and bake at 350°F for 18-21 minutes.

Vanilla coffee cupcakes on a pink background next to a Chemex and white bowl of coffee beans.

More coffee desserts

Cardamom Cake with Coffee Buttercream
Irish Coffee Brownies
Caramel Coffee Ice Cream Sandwiches
Coffee Almond Ice Cream

If you make this recipe, I would love it if you left a star rating and review! I read every single comment and love hearing what you think about my recipes. Thank you for supporting Sunday Table!


5 from 6 votes

Coffee Cupcakes with Vanilla Coffee Buttercream

Yield: 18 cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
These coffee cupcakes with vanilla coffee buttercream are fluffy, moist, and super easy to make! With instant coffee powder and vanilla bean paste, they have a ton of coffee flavor. These cupcakes are one of my favorites for dinner with friends, holidays, or parties!

Ingredients

Coffee Cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (210 grams)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened (114 grams)
  • 1 cup sugar (200 grams)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (60 grams)
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil (56 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (120 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons instant coffee powder (6 grams)

Vanilla Coffee Buttercream

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened (228 grams)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (360 grams)
  • 2 Tablespoons whole milk (30 grams)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • 1 Tablespoon instant coffee, plus more to taste (3 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder (for color)

Instructions 

Coffee Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cupcake pans with 18 liners.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time until thoroughly mixed. Then, mix in the sour cream, oil, and vanilla bean paste.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, whisk the milk and instant coffee together until the coffee is dissolved.
  • Pour half the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, followed by half of the coffee-milk mixture. Mix on low just until combined. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and coffee-milk mixture, stirring just until the batter comes together and there are no more dry spots. Don't over-mix! Then, using a #20 scoop, divide the batter evenly between 18 cupcake liners.
  • Bake the cupcakes for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake has a few moist crumbs on it. Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Coffee Buttercream

  • Using a stand mixer or hand mixer with a whip attachment, beat the butter and half of the powdered sugar together until a thick frosting forms. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and beat until combined.
  • Add the milk, vanilla bean paste, and a pinch of salt. Turn the mixer on high and whip the frosting until it's light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scoop about 1/3 of the vanilla frosting into a bowl and set aside.
  • Then, add the instant coffee and cocoa powder to the remaining 2/3 of the frosting and mix until smooth. Taste and add more instant coffee if you want a stronger coffee flavor.

Two-Tone Buttercream

  • Fit a reusable or disposable piping bag with a large tip. Then, use a rubber spatula to fill 1/3 of the piping bag with vanilla buttercream. Use another rubber spatula to fill the remaining 2/3 of the bag with coffee buttercream. Gently "squish" the bag to fill in any air pockets. It doesn't have to be perfect!
  • Twist off the top of the bag and pipe the cooled cupcakes with the frosting, adding more buttercream to the piping bag as needed. Enjoy the cupcakes immediately or store for later.

Notes

It’s very important to properly measure the ingredients with a scale instead of measuring cups. Adding too much flour can make the cupcakes dry and dense. If you don’t have a scale, then make sure you’re measuring the flour the right way. First, fluff the flour with a whisk or fork. Then, spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off without packing it in.
Instant coffee is the secret ingredient for adding lots of coffee flavor to this recipe. Don’t skip it! You can find coffee powder in the coffee or baking aisle of the grocery store or online. Unfortunately, brewed coffee just won’t do the trick. Not only does it add too much liquid to the batter but the flavor won’t shine through.
Don’t over-fill the muffin tins or you’ll end up with a big puddle of batter at the bottom of your oven. The tins should be about 3/4 of the way full.
The cupcakes are done when an inserted toothpick has just a few moist crumbs on it. If the toothpick has liquid batter on it, bake the cupcakes for a 2-3 more minutes.
If you don’t want two-toned frosting, you can make all coffee buttercream instead. Just skip the step of saving the plain vanilla frosting.
To easily fill a piping bag with buttercream, place the bag into a tall drinking glass and fold the opening of the bag over the rim of the glass. The glass will help keep the bag in place while you fill it with frosting. And, it keeps the frosting inside the bag for less mess and stickiness!
For high-altitude (tested at 4,500 feet):
– Use 3/4 teaspoon baking powder.
– Use 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons whole milk.
– Bake the cake at 375°F.
Cuisine: American
Course: Dessert
Serving: 1cupcake, Calories: 347kcal, Carbohydrates: 41.2g, Protein: 2.4g, Fat: 19.3g, Saturated Fat: 10.7g, Cholesterol: 63mg, Sodium: 111mg, Potassium: 92mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 31.3g, Calcium: 37mg, Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @sundaytable.co on Instagram!

xo Sara Lynn

Song of the day – I Could Go by Oberhofer