Cake Mix Hack: Mocha Cupcakes

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Hello Cupcake!  Want a cupcake?

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They’re gluten-free!  And super simple (and fairly easy to make dairy-free, as well–just swap in a butter substitute!) A moist chocolate cake enriched with a deep coffee flavor, topped with cool coffee icing and a bite of caramel (or a chocolate covered espresso bean). A few simple additions to Betty Crocker Gluten Free Devil’s Food Cake mix is all that it takes!

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When I started to become interest in baking and cooking (pre-GF, high school years) it was always to make desserts and sweets (except for the occasional pan of Chicken Fajitas).  I think desserts were a bit more special than daily meals, took a little more creativity.  Nowadays, creating gluten-free breakfast, lunch, and dinner is enough to keep me on my toes.  My sweet tooth certainly hasn’t diminished, but I have noticed that I make less sweet treats than before.  Especially this spring, with the move and with both of my jobs at hectic points, quick and simple recipes are a must.  And when I only have the time for cooking the meal or making a special dessert, dinner is going to win out every time.  But when I did have an evening to spare and I wanted something a little bit sweet (and a lot chocolate) I looked back to options with gluten free, store-bought cake mix.  I have yet to try my hand at many homemade gluten-free cakes.  But I have tried several brand of gluten-free cake mix, and most are good enough.  But with a couple of simple twists, these cake mixes go from “Good-For-Gluten-Free” to “Delicious”!  These cupcakes really do provide a lot of bang for your buck.  They’d be perfect to bring along to a birthday, party, or potluck.  I bet no one would guess that they are gluten-free!

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For these cupcakes, I had a box of Betty Crocker gluten free mix that called for water, eggs, and butter to be added to the dry mix.  Substituting the water for strong-brewed coffee and vanilla extract really ups the flavor of the cake.  A simple brushing with coffee and chocolate post-baking soaks into the cake, keeping it moist and giving it a rich, decadent mouthfeel.  Finally, a coffee-flavored buttercream frosting brings the flavor to the forefront and provided the perfect cushion for a cute little bite of chocolate-covered caramel.

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Mocha Cupcakes (from a cake mix)

Serves: 14-18 

  • 1 package Betty Crocker GF Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake mix
  • Wet ingredient called for on the package (eggs, butter, water*)
  • Ground coffee for brewing the water into coffee
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso granules (optional)
  • 1/4 c. (additional) brewed coffee
  • 1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup or 1 Tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 batch coffee buttercream frosting (recipe below)
  • 14-18 mini chocolate-covered caramel bites (or chocolate covered espresso beans)

Preheat oven according to package directions.

Brew a pot of very strong coffee with your preferred coffee blend.  *Measure out the coffee to the amount of water called for on the cake mix box.  Reserve at let cool.  Mix in instant espresso granules, if using.  Empty package of cake mix into a large bowl, add eggs, butter, and water-turned-coffee according to the package directions.  Stir in vanilla extract.  Pour into lined baking cup and bake according to package directions.

Remove cupcakes from oven.  Allow to cool for five minutes. Prick the top of cupcakes with a toothpick or the prongs of a fork.

Mix chocolate syrup or cocoa+sugar mixture into 1/4 c. of brewed coffee until thoroughly dissolved.  Brush mixture onto warm cupcakes.  Allow cupcakes to cool completely while mixing the frosting.

Frost cupcakes and top with single caramel candy/espresso bean.

Refrigerate up to one week.  Return to room temperature or warm slightly before serving.

Coffee Buttercream Frosting

  • 3 Tbsp. brewed coffee (warm)
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso granules
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
  • 2 c. confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Mix warm coffee, espresso granules, and vanilla extract in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Beat softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes at low-medium, until fluffy.  Slowly add confectioner’s sugar, combining thoroughly.  Mix on medium speed for three minutes.  Add coffee mixture, and stir on low speed until incorporated.  Increase to medium speed and beat for 3-4 more minutes, until fluffy.

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