Best Mocha Buttercream

For the past three years, I have taken part in the MAWA “Over the Top” art auction and cupcake party. As in the past, as soon as I heard that they were looking for donations, I had them put me down for 4 dozen, which is a) exactly two batches worth and b) as many as I can carry at once.

My past years’ cupcakes have been fairly standard – dark chocolate cake with white seven minute frosting and orange/pink sprinkles. I think I made little “MAWA” flags for the first year, too, but otherwise, I kept them pretty simple. This year I decided to step-up my game and do something befitting the “Over the Top” theme. When inspiration struck for my “Coffee & a Donut” cupcakes, I knew I had a winner.

I kept the cupcake itself basically the same because my “go to” chocolate cake is one that has never failed me. And, really, who has the time to be testing new cake recipes? I wanted a mocha taste, though, so I added 2 packets of Starbucks VIA instant coffee to the dry ingredients. As far as the icing was concerned, I knew that I had to use a slightly sturdier icing; especially if I was planning to perch a mini-donut on top! (Seven minute frosting, as tasty as it is, has a tendency to “flop” at room temperature.)

My requirements were pretty specific, so I turned to the power of Google to find me the perfect mocha frosting. After giving it some thought, I decided that I needed an Italian Meringue-based buttercream that called for cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate, to minimize the potential for disaster. I knew that there would be something suitable somewhere and, thanks to the powers of the internets, I found it. It’s a good thing that I wrote it down, though, because I can’t find it again. My apologies to the creator/author of this recipe, as I am posting it uncredited at the end of this post. My only tweak to the original recipe was the use of 2 packets of the Starbucks VIA coffee in place of the 1 Tbsp of instant; otherwise, it was perfect as-is.

It wasn’t the quickest icing to make, but it was probably one of the tastiest I have ever had, so it was definitely worth the extra steps. After whisking the egg whites and sugar over simmering water, the mixture was whipped until it reached stiff peaks; after a quick change from whisk to paddle, soft butter was beaten-in until it began to sound like…well…bodies slapping together. (Seriously!) Once I was sufficiently scandalized, I added the vanilla, cocoa and coffee. Then, after an exhaustive search of the kitchen drawers to locate the offset spatula, the mochawesomeness was ready to be applied to the waiting cakes, and the beater was ready to be licked.

I had intended to top all 48 cupcakes with a powdered mini-donut, but after a few donuts went missing, I decided to do 36 with donuts and 12 with dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. I think that when I make these again, I will use the beans to decorate, unless I have a specific request to once again go “over the top”.

Amazing Mocha Buttercream
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cups white sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup butter, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 pkts Starbucks VIA coffee (or 1 Tbsp instant)
Place the bowl from stand mixer over simmering water. Add egg whites, sugar and salt; whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm. Return mixer bowl to stand and whisk on high for about 7 mins, or until mixture has cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Switch to paddle attachment and beat in butter at med-low speed, 1-2 TBSP at a time. Once all butter has been added, increase speed to med-high and beat for 3 mins (you’ll know it’s ready when it starts making a slapping sound). Reduce speed to low and beat-in vanilla, cocoa and coffee powder.
Generously frosts 24 cupcakes, or less-generously* 48.

*Not because you’re stingy, but because you’re putting a freaking DONUT on top.

One Comment Add yours

  1. shadling21 says:

    Ohhhh man that sounds delish! Love the idea of using VIA in the recipe. So smart.


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