Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes and Happy Birthday

October 12th, 2007 · Tags: Chocolate · Culture · Dessert · Food · Italy · Me · Recipe

It all started with Nicole’s yummy Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes. Mi era venuta la voglia di CUPCAKES….I wanted cupcakes, immediately. I hadn’t made cupcakes in Italy, for many reasons, least of all that I didn’t have a muffin pan. After Nicole’s cupcakes, I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday, even if I had to make them myself!

No, wait. It actually started way back with World Nutella Day. I had bought a bottle of Caffe’ Borghetti espresso liquor and used it for the Mini Nutella Tiramisu. The recipe didn’t call for very much, so I was left with almost a full bottle. Then recently, a girlfriend of mine gave me another bottle of Caffe’ Borghetti, so I knew I needed to start using it up!

I started with the Espresso and Cappuccino cupcake recipes from Nigella’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, but I wasn’t impressed with the recipe and the fact that I would need self-rising flour and espresso powder (what?). Feel free to defend her, but I passed. Luckily, I have baking soda and powder, and plenty of regular flour, so I looked around some more.

Instead I remembered David’s Devil’s Food Cake recipe, which after I tasted some homemade cookies of his (Robyn has a picture of the crumbs here) and all the testing I did with his ice cream book, I know he is to be trusted!

PS: If you’re confused why I’m making my own birthday cake, read last year’s explanation of how Italians celebrate their birthdays.

Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes

Adapted from David Lebovitz’ Devil’s Food Cake

9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup Borghetti espresso liquor, or other coffee liquor
½ cup whole or low-fat milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Mix all dry ingredients well with a spoon in a bowl. In a measuring cup (I used my 1-cupper) mix the milk and liquor together, set aside.
  2. In a (separate) mixing bowl, beat the sugar and the (softened) butter together. If it’s too hard, put the butter in the microwave (first) for 10 seconds to soften it. Mix in an egg at a time until well-blended.
  3. Add half of the dry ingredients, mix well and then add the milk/liquor mixture and mix. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. If you were hand-mixing before (me), I recommend using the electric one (or lots of caffeine) to do the final mix as it gets really fluffy.
  4. Pour into (lined) cupcake pans, about 3/4 of the way full, or a little more. Bake for 20 minutes, and pull out to test with a toothpick. Because of the alcohol, they take less time to bake as the alcohol evaporates pretty quickly. Make sure not to overcook!

I knew when I couldn’t stop tasting the batter, I had had an excellent idea. While my cupcakes were cooling down, I noticed the tops were a bit crispy, and I “accidentally” broke a piece off into my hand. Mmm…

I am a buttercream (it’s all about the vanilla!) frosting fan with my devil’s food, but you are welcome to use a chocolate ganache as David explains in his recipe. This is what I crave at birthday time: Mom’s Buttercream frosting.

Mom’s Buttercream Frosting

1 stick (4oz/125g) butter, softened
1 lb. (450g) powdered sugar
Fresh milk
1 t. Vanilla extract

Cream the butter with 1/4 of the powdered sugar with a hand mixer. Add more sugar, alternating between the milk and the powdered sugar to get the desired consistency (I use very little milk, like 1/4 cup). Towards the end, add the vanilla, and spread on your cupcakes.

The muffin/cupcake pan I found only had space for 6 cupcakes (argh, small ovens!) so instead of doing 3 rounds of using the same pan, I also poured some of the mix into some mini-crostata pans I had bought. They were perfect making a little, two-layer cake. ALL FOR ME.

My mini birthday cake

While I didn’t have the much-coveted candy corn (also my favorite!) I did have some Belgian chocolate from Jeff de Bruges my recent travels, and they were perfect. Espresso-flavored dark chocolate in the shape of coffee beans.

I don’t mind making my cake, and eating it, too.

Happy Birthday to Me.

Happy Birthday to Me

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29 responses so far ↓

Comments on older posts are closed automatically

  • 1
    Jennifer // Oct 12, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Hi Sara
    Happy Birthday!
    That is my favorite icing recipe too, buttercream on chocolate cake…YUM.

  • 2
    Nicole // Oct 12, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Happy birthday!! These sound like a perfect way to use up some of the massive amounts of Kahlua we have in our liquor cabinet. I have no idea how I ended up with so much but it’s something I don’t use very often.

    I might use cream cheese frosting though…I’m addicted :-)

  • 3
    David // Oct 12, 2007 at 8:39 am

    happy birthday too! And since I couldn’t make the cake, glad you found someone local to do it for you.. xx

  • 4
    Barbara // Oct 12, 2007 at 8:56 am

    I don’t even have any espresso liquer, but for this recipe it would be worth buying a bottle! Maybe one batch with buttercream frosting, one with cream chesse frosting, just to be fair!

  • 5
    Giulia // Oct 12, 2007 at 9:06 am

    Happy Birthday! The BIG THREE O, eh? How’s it feel? I wish I would have done something like this for myself back in April when I turned 30. I was too busy wondering if I should get all worked up over turning 30, or not! lol Looks like you’re celbrating this birthday without any worries at all. ;)

  • 6
    Stef // Oct 12, 2007 at 11:52 am

    These sound awesome and I love the 30 in beans. Very fun! Happy birthday!

  • 7
    sognatrice // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:23 pm

    AUGURI!!!!!! Hmmm…maybe I’ll have to make these for my birthday too (only I’d have to make a 1 instead of that 0) ;)

    My Internet hasn’t worked today until about thirty seconds ago, and I swear to you that I just kept thinking “I knew I should’ve just wished Sara a happy birthday yesterday!”

    Hope you have a great day :)

  • 8
    Kalyn // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Happy birthday! Your cake looks just great.

  • 9
    miriam // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Wow!!! I didn’t know you had a B-Day coming up? Happy Birthday and best wishes for a great year! Let’s celebrate sometime.

  • 10
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Oct 12, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    @Jen, thanks!
    @Nicole – Yes, Kahlua would probably be great, too!
    @David – Thanks for the inspiration….I am already thinking of another tweak :)
    @Barbara – I think I’ll try some chocolate frosting next time…or maybe cream cheese :)
    @Giulia -I’m faking it online pretty well. 3-0 is hitting me in the head.
    @Stef – and the “beans” are chocolate, which is even better! Thanks for the comment.
    @sognatrice – Thanks, Michelle…I’m glad the Internet gods were smiling down us today.
    @Kalyn – Thanks!

  • 11
    Shelley, At Home in Rome // Oct 12, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Auguri! Cupcakes sound so good right now. Too bad you can’t mail one down to Rome.

  • 12
    Rachael // Oct 12, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Happy Birthday! I’ve read your blog for quite some time, though I have never commented; but since it’s my birthday today as well, and its fun to find people who share your day, I thought I would comment to wish you the very best of days. And I understand the whole number issue as well . . . today I turn middle-aged — 40.

  • 13
    Robyn // Oct 12, 2007 at 5:23 pm


    What a cute cake!

  • 14
    Maryann // Oct 12, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    awww..happy birthday to ya, sweety! Many more fun and adventurous year! Salute!

  • 15
    Frank // Oct 12, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    happy birthday to a wonderful daughter…

  • 16
    Susan from Food Blogga // Oct 12, 2007 at 10:41 pm

    That’s the kind of cake that birthdays were meant for–rich, chocolatey and spiked with espresso liqueur. Mmmm, it’s heavenly (and so are Nicole’s cup cakes!) Happy birthday! :)

  • 17
    Farfallina... a roam to Rome // Oct 12, 2007 at 11:26 pm


    May your day (and year) be as sugary sweet as those pretty cupcakes! :)

  • 18
    nyc/caribbean ragazza // Oct 13, 2007 at 4:51 am

    Happy Birthday!!

    Don’t worry about being 30. Let’s talk when you hit the big 4-0. haha

  • 19
    Anita // Oct 13, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Happy Birthday! I think it’s great you get to make exactly the birthday cake you want and then eat it! Hope all your wishes come true!

  • 20
    Yan // Oct 13, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Happy Birthday!

    I’ll be waiting on the other side of the hill for you.

    Yan & Yuhri

  • 21
    Jerry // Oct 14, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Looks so good, if only i had coffee liquor.

  • 22
    Jessica // Oct 14, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Auguri, Sara!

  • 23
    jackie // Oct 15, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    Happy Birthday! Tanti Auguri! These cupcakes look so yummy, and the frosting looks delicious too! I hope that you had a wonderful day.


  • 24
    Cenk // Oct 16, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Happy Birthday!! 30 is hard.. I wish I had these on my 30th!

  • 25
    Jennyth // Oct 22, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    Happy Birthday! This recipie sounds amazing and I was thinking some chocolate covered espresso beans would make a lovely topping to this recipie. I was wondering anyone has tried it or if in theory brewed and cooled espresso would make an adequate subtitute if baking for an AA crowd. Sounds like a good excuse to experiement….

  • 26
    Laura Rebecca // Oct 30, 2007 at 12:54 am

    Your cupcakes look delicious! (And happy 30th! I turned 30, too, on Oct 11!)

  • 27
    meg // May 25, 2009 at 8:01 am

    what kind of flour? :) cake flour or all purpose flour? thanks! looks great! :)

  • 28
    Monique // Jun 12, 2009 at 4:12 am

    I couldn’t resist! I made these and they were fabulous. I got 18 cupcakes out. I used half chocolate and half coffee liquor and it worked out beautifully. I accidentally left the last six in the oven an extra couple of minutes and they really dried out. Good recipe – great site – thanks!

  • 29
    LacyHolly // Mar 24, 2011 at 8:52 am

    I have made these a few times now! My last two batches have sunk in the middle…my fault for doing something dumb, I’m sure! I actually used a frosting with Baileys in it for them. It was the perfect combo! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

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