Kahlua Coffee cupcakes

Kahlua + cupcakes.
Really.....
Need I say more? 

To be honest, I'm embarrassed by how late in my adult life I discovered Kahlua. Until a few months ago, I'd heard the word before and knew it was a liqueur of some kind, but that was about all that I knew. Curiosity got the better of me one day, and I bought a bottle to try a Kahlua cheesecake recipe I found on Pinterest. And since that day......hooked. 

That much said, I'm now pretty sure the only thing better than straight-up Kahlua......is Kahlua and cupcakes. Add in some more coffee, a swirl of buttercream frosting....ohhhh yeah. 

I filled these with vanilla bean pudding flavored with eeeeeven more Kahlua.....but coffee or chocolate filling would have worked well into the flavor profile also. 😉 Creative liberties encouraged if (::cough::when::) you try these in your own kitchen! 😉 

To frost these cupcakes, I made a batch of cream cheese buttercream, split it in half, and flavored half with coffee and Kahlua. I was hoping the icing swirls would resemble the diffuse swirl effect I love seeing when cream or light iced coffee is mixed with dark Kahlua liqueur - it didn't come through as dramatically as I wanted, but I didn't want the coffee to overpower the Kahlua flavor just to get a darker frosting color. Decided I got close enough 😉 

And now to business - the recipe! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Like I've mentioned in other posts...I have yet to find a scratch white cupcake recipe that I'm *really* in love with. They've all been too dense and buttery for my liking - I feel like a white cupcake especially should be moist but light. If you find a scratch recipe you love, send it my way.....but in the meantime, I'm running with my boxed-mix standby 😉 

ingredients: 

CUPCAKES: 

  • 1 boxed white cake mix  (I used Duncan Hines) 
  • 1/2 c water 
  • 1/2 c Kahlua 
  • 1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1-2 T instant espresso granules (don't add these yet!! Also, make sure to use fine espresso granules - not large instant coffee crystals - or they won't dissolve when you swirl them into your batter!) 

FILLING: 

  • 1 small box vanilla bean pudding mix
  • 1 c milk (yes, less than the box calls for) 
  • 1/2 c Kahlua 

FROSTING: 
1 package (8oz) cream cheese
1 stick (8T) butter
6-7 c powdered sugar
1-2 T milk 
2-4 T Kahlua liqueur (to taste)
2-4 T instant espresso powder (to taste)

TOPPINGS: 

1-2 T instant espresso powder (to taste)
1-2 T cocoa powder (to taste) 
12-20 plastic straws (color of your choice 😉  )

OTHER SUPPLIES: 
2 cupcake pans (12 cupcakes each)
24 cupcake liners
Piping bags and tips of your choice (I use a large piping bag and closed-star tip)

 instructions: 
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cupcake pans with paper wrappers.
Combine water, Kahlua, melted butter, and eggs in a bowl, and blend in packaged cake mix. (Essentially you're making a boxed mix but replacing 1/2 c of the water with Kahlua and the oil with melted butter. And adding an egg. Feel free to adjust based on the box's recipe if it doesn't seem to match mine.) Beat for about 2 minutes, until well blended. Divide into cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 full. Sprinkle 1/8-1/4 teaspoon espresso granules over each cupcake (to taste), and swirl the granules in with a toothpick. 

Bake for time specified on box; mine took about 15-16 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks.
Meanwhile, make your filling. Combine pudding mix with cold milk and beat with a wire whisk until combined (usually about 2 minutes). Whisk in Kahlua and refrigerate until firm. 

Once the cupcakes have cooled, you're ready to core them. There are a few ways you can do this....you can buy a cupcake corer, you can try using the non-business-end of a large piping tip, or....you can do what I do and cut a
cone-shaped core out with a plastic knife. Up to you 😉 I haven't the foggiest idea why cupcake crumbs don't stick to plastic knives like they do regular knives, but the plastic knife's been working too well for me to feel the need to invest in any fancy corers 😉 Pipe your ganache into your cored cupcakes - I think I used a piping bag in the video, but it doesn't have to look pretty, so I often use a zip-lock bag for this part. ðŸ˜‰ 

To make the frosting, beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in six cups of powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired taste, color, and consistency. Divide the frosting in half, and mix Kahlua and espresso granules into one half of the frosting, adjusting amounts to taste. You'll likely need that extra cup of powdered sugar to offset the Kahlua and keep your frosting at a pipe-able consistency. 
Transfer your frosting to your piping bag. Not going to lie....this part always tries my patience slightly. As best you can, add one color frosting to each side of your piping bag - I usually turn the bag almost all the way inside out and start adding frosting near the piping tip so I don't have so much extra bag to fight with. :/ 
Pipe in large swirls
onto your cupcakes (or however you feel like icing them). 😉 Combine espresso granules and cocoa powder in a small bowl, and sprinkle each frosted cupcake with a little bit of the mixture. Cut straws to desired sizes  and push into the top of each cupcake. Done and done! Enjoy! 🙂