Mocha Cupcakes With Espresso Buttercream

Mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream

Smooth, creamy, deeply flavored, luscious, and heavenly -- that is how I describe espresso buttercream. And I am rightfully incredibly obsessed with it. It has made some appearances on this blog already -- in dacquoise and in macarons -- but today I am sharing it with you in the form of cupcake frosting. Simple, uncomplicated. All you have to do is whip up cupcakes and then whip up this espresso buttercream. Put the two together, and you'll immediately be in your happy place. At least it works for me.

I made mocha cupcakes to pair with the espresso buttercream, but even chocolate or vanilla cupcakes would complement the heavily coffee-scented frosting. Make sure to use the best instant espresso you can get your hands on. I highly recommend Medaglia D'Oro.

Mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream

Mocha Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)


2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted (I used King Arthur Flour's Queen Guinevere Cake Flour)
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream at room temp
3/4 cup freshly brewed espresso
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line mini or standard muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together cake flour and cocoa powder.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed until smooth and light. Add brown sugar and eggs, and beat until fluffy. Add in the vanilla, baking soda, and salt, and beat to combine.

Reduce speed to low, and add flour in three batches alternating with two additions of sour cream. Beat until just combined.

Mix together brewed espresso and espresso powder, and add to batter, beating until smooth.

Divide batter among lined cups, and bake cupcakes, rotating halfway through, until toothpick inserted in center comes out with only moist crumbs attached. Standard size cupcakes should take about 22 minutes, and minis will take about 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

Espresso Buttercream (adapted from Flour)


3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


In a small saucepan, stir together granulated sugar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook without stirring for 3 to 4 minutes, or until syrup registers 238 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile, in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk together eggs and egg yolk on medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes.

When syrup is ready, remove from heat. With mixer running on low speed, slowly drizzle the syrup into the eggs. Whip on medium-high speed for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the mixture becomes light and pale and is cool to the touch.

Turn down the speed to low, and add the chunks of butter a few at a time. The mixture will look curdled at first, but don’t worry. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 to 4 minutes until the buttercream is smooth. Add the espresso and salt, and whip until combined.

Buttercream may be used immediately or stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Remove from fridge about 3 to 4 hours before using, and using the paddle attachment of the mixer, paddle the buttercream until it becomes smooth enough to use.

Mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream

I found those adorable cupcake liners at Crate & Barrel and decorated the cupcakes with chocolate flakes from King Arthur Flour.

I wish I had some of these left because I know around 2 p.m. today I'm going to be wishing for an afternoon pick-me-up!

What is your favorite cupcake and frosting flavor combo?


Onion And Thyme Frittata

Onion and thyme frittata

And just when I thought I couldn't come up with another use for my extra onions, The New York Times came to the rescue with a recipe for an onion and thyme frittata. I'm honestly not sure why I didn't think to make a quiche or frittata before this recipe appeared in my Google Reader. As the recipe even says, frittatas are "terrific lunchbox fare." On top of currently looking for ways to use up my onions, I am always looking for creative lunch ideas, and it's been a long time since I made quiche for lunch and even longer since I made a frittata.

I got home from work last Monday and was excited to whip up this frittata to take for lunch the rest of the week, having just eaten a boring salad for lunch that day. This frittata is protein-rich and carb-lite, making it just the thing to fill me up but keep me going for the rest of the day. Those after-lunch hours can drag sometimes, and a carb coma doesn't help them go by any faster.

Onion and thyme frittata

Onion And Thyme Frittata (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman/The New York Times)


1 large white onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
6 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Kosher salt and pepper


Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in ovensafe 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add the onions, and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Season with salt, and stir in garlic and thyme.

Cook about 5 more minutes, until onions color slightly but don't brown. Remove from heat, transfer onions to a plate, and let cool while you prepare the eggs. (Clean and dry the skillet to use again.)

Whisk together eggs, salt and pepper, and cream in a large bowl. Stir in the onions.

Over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet.

Pour in the egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to lift the set egg away from the edges and let the uncooked egg run underneath.

Turn heat to low, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Uncover and loosen the frittata with the spatula occasionally so it doesn't stick. After 10 minutes, the bottom should be golden brown, and the egg should be mostly set. Cook for a few more minutes if this isn't the case.

Preheat the broiler. Uncover the pan, place it under the broiler (not too close), and cook for 1 to 3 minutes. (Mine needed 3 minutes.) The top will get just slightly golden.

Let the frittata cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then loosen the edges, and slide or flip it onto a plate.

Cut it into wedges, and serve it immediately, or let it cool, and pack it up for lunch.

Onion and thyme frittata

If I had more vegetables on hand, I definitely would have spruced this up a bit, but I really enjoyed eating it cold for lunch with some salad greens and leftover steak last week. It has just enough flavor from the onions and thyme, one of my favorite herbs.

The onions are all gone now. In addition to this frittata, you saw the onion strings and the onion gratin, which took one onion each. And then I sauteed one of the remaining two and served it with steak, and I used the other in some slow cooker chicken quesadillas. I know it's not terribly difficult to use up onions, but I was proud of myself for finding interesting ways to incorporate some of them and for not letting any of them go to waste.

What would you put in a frittata? 


Onion Gratin

Onion gratin

When you have an onion surplus, you need to get creative. Onion soup? Check. Onion strings? Check. Onion...? Onion...? What else can I make with onions?! (Yes, I was talking to myself about the onions.) I finally thought of onion gratin. A creamy dish of soft, baked onions with a hint of cheese sounded like just the thing to pair with some crispy fish for dinner.

I searched for recipes and finally decided on one from Closet Cooking. It was on this blog that I found that recipe for maple-dijon vinaigrette for my brussels sprouts, so I knew I could trust the recipe, and it sounded easy enough to make on a weeknight.

Luckily for Jeff, the onions in this gratin don't need to be thinly sliced, so I cut them into quarter-inch thick slices all on my own and left the mandoline safely tucked in the cabinet. I made a few modifications to the recipe, like leaving out the wine (I know. What was I thinking?) because I didn't have an open bottle and knew I'd end up wasting a lot of it if I opened a bottle midweek. I was really happy with the results, but I think next time I would use a different cheese, maybe Gruyere, so the cheese would get really bubbly and brown on top. Parmesan just didn't cut it.

Onion gratin

Onion Gratin (adapted from Closet Cooking)


1 large white onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (or other cheese)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place onions on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with thyme.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan.

Transfer the onions to a baking dish, and pour the cream over them.

Cover the dish with foil, and bake for another 35 minutes.

Remove the foil, and sprinkle the Parmesan over the onions.

Raise the temperature to 450 degrees, and bake until cheese turns golden brown, about 5 minutes.

I highly recommend serving this luscious and creamy sweet onion dish with fish or steak, so you can scoop up onions and cream with each bite. The onions are also delightful on their own.

Onion gratin

Have you ever bought too much of an ingredient and had to come up with creative ways to use it up?


Onion Strings

Onion strings

Remember how I bought all those extra onions for my onion soup? Well, I've been working my way through them. I started wracking my brain and the Internet for recipe ideas, and suddenly onion rings popped into my head. Only Jeff and I don't really love onion rings because of all the batter and the thickness of the onion slices, so he took my idea for onion rings and suggested onion strings. I needed no convincing!

I put a chicken in the oven to roast and started making the onion strings. They are so easy! First, you just get your sous chef to thinly slice the onions with the mandoline. Then you soak the onions in buttermilk for about an hour, heat your oil, toss the onions in seasoned flour, and fry them up. They're crispy, crunchy, salty, and downright irresistible! Seriously. Couldn't keep my hands off them.

Onion strings

Onion Strings (adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks!)
Print this recipe


1 large onion
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 cups canola oil


Thinly slice the onion, and place the slices in a baking dish.

Pour the buttermilk over the onions, and soak for about 1 hour, turning them occasionally to make sure both sides get coated in the buttermilk.

In another baking dish, combine the flour, salt, and cayenne pepper.

Heat olive oil to 375 degrees. While it's heating, line a large plate with paper towels, and have some salt nearby.

Once the oil is ready, grab a handful of onions, letting the excess buttermilk drip off them, and swirl them around in the flour mixture.

Shake off the excess flour, and drop them in the oil. Use a skimmer or spider to separate them.

Fry for a couple minutes, until light golden brown, and then scoop them out with a skimmer or spider, and place them on the paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Repeat with remaining onions, frying in batches, until they're all gone.

Serve hot. And do try not to eat them all while you're frying them -- I lost that battle.

Onion strings

I thought these were amazing... and even better than what you get in most restaurants because the onion strings were fresh and hot, and we got to snack on them right after they came out of the oil.

I know some of you fear frying, and I admit it can be a little intimidating. For something like this, I use a deep pasta pot. The 4 cups of oil don't even fill it halfway, so I know the oil will stay in there and not really splatter. I also rely on my skimmer, which has a long handle, to reach into the pot and get the onions out. I'd really love a spider, which would be even better for this sort of task, but I just haven't bought one yet.

Onion rings, onion strings, or neither?


Brunch At Russell House Tavern

It was a bit chilly yesterday, but the sun was shining, making it the perfect day to meet friends for some cocktails and brunch down in Harvard Square. Alicia, a former Boston food blogger who now lives in Connecticut, was in the city for the weekend and looking for a tasty brunch and a good Bloody Mary. After checking a few menus, I suggested we head to Russell House Tavern, and she agreed. We thought it would just be the two of us, but Michelle got back into town earlier on Friday than she had expected from a work trip to Martha's Vineyard and had plenty of time to join us for a leisurely Saturday afternoon brunch.

Alicia picked me up in Inman Square, and we drove down to Harvard Square, parking at the Charles Square Garage (which let me tell you charges way too much for parking. We had a coupon for 2 hours at $8, but because we were there 2 hours and 11 minutes, parking cost $18. Are you kidding?!).

We strolled down Brattle Street, crossed to Jfk Street, and entered Russell House Tavern through the door in the courtyard. I'd never been in this way before. When we walked in, the host greeted us and directed us to head downstairs, where we found Michelle happily waiting for us at the bar, sipping a Champagne Squishee (a drink I will be trying on a return visit).

We checked in with the hostess downstairs, who showed us to a corner table just perfect for three people. Our waitress, who was incredibly pleasant and welcoming, came to take our drink orders. Russell House has an interesting Bloody Mary menu with five to choose from (in addition to a variety of champagne drinks).

Somehow, without coordinating at all, we each ordered a different one. Alicia went straight in for the Piggly Wiggly (bacon-infused bourbon, RHT Bloody Mary mix, crispy bacon); Michelle, who likes her spice, got the Mezcal Mary (Serrano pepper-infused Minero Mezcal, RHT Bloody Mix, pineapple); and I tried the Maria Basilico (basil-infused Sobieski Vodka, Meletti Amaro, RHT Bloody Mix, cucumber) -- the basil piqued my interest. We were all very happy with our choices. Mine had a nice hint of spice but nothing too strong to make the drink unpleasant for me.

After sipping and chatting for a bit, we placed our breakfast orders. Michelle got the breakfast pizza, Alicia ordered the Benedict, and I decided on the E.B.L.T. on a croissant. Our waitress asked how I would like my eggs, and I said over easy. She mentioned that usually she suggests people get over medium so they don't end up wearing the eggs, but I maintained that I would like over easy. I am all about the runny yolk.

Unfortunately, my eggs came over hard. I was so disappointed.

But the breakfast sandwich itself was wonderful, yolks aside. The croissant was buttery and flaky, as a good croissant should be. And the crispy bacon, tomatoes, and Vermont cheddar were flavorful and welcome additions.

E.B.L.T on a Croissant
2 Eggs over easy, Vermont Cheddar, Boston Lettuce, Sliced Tomato, Crispy Bacon, Mayo, Hash Browns

Alicia enjoyed her eggs Benedict, with perfectly cooked, runny poached eggs.

The Benedict
Garlic Spinach & Breakfast Sausage, Creamy Hollandaise, Hash Browns

And Michelle made it through half of her pizza, which Alicia and I both tasted a little of. I may have to order that the next time I go. The yolks were runny -- we could even see them wobble as our waitress set down the pizza -- and the cheese and creamy spinach on top were decadent and salty additions to a crisp, buttery crust.

Breakfast Pizza
Creamy Spinach, Smokey Bacon, Baked Eggs

The lower level of Russell House Tavern is cozy but bustling. It's quiet enough to hear each other talk but not so quiet that you forget you're in a restaurant surrounded by other people. Our service was amazing. Our waitress was sweet, helpful, and friendly. I'd definitely go back again for brunch and cocktails any weekend.

Have you ever been to Russell House Tavern? Do you like Bloody Marys?


Cheddar-And-Bacon-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Cheddar-and-bacon-stuffed chicken breasts

I very rarely make things without following a recipe (besides pasta, omelets, and those simple sorts of things), and perhaps this is why. When left to my own devices, I make a meal that could only be less healthy if I dropped it in the fryer. But, hey, it was to die for.

You see, I had some chicken breasts and some random ingredients in the fridge, and while thinking of ways to use them, and after seeing a bacon-stuffed chicken recipe, I came up with the idea to stuff the chicken with some bacon and cheddar cheese.

Cheddar-And-Bacon-Stuffed Chicken Breasts (inspired by this Epicurious recipe)


6 slices bacon
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, if desired
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cook bacon on stove in oven-safe skillet until cooked but not crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Flatten chicken breasts to about 1/4- to 1/8-inch thickness, and lightly season with salt and pepper.

Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on each chicken breast, if desired.

Lay three pieces of bacon on each chicken breast, and top the bacon with the cheddar cheese.

Roll up each chicken breast, being careful to keep the bacon and cheddar tucked inside, and secure each with toothpicks.

Place the chicken rollups back in the pan with bacon grease and cook on the stove over medium heat, turning frequently, just to brown all sides.

Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Feel free to baste the chicken with some of the bacon grease while it's baking. (I warned you this was not diet food.)

Serve hot, preferably with some of these pretzel rolls.

Cheddar-and-bacon-stuffed chicken breasts

This is the ultimate in comfort food. What cold-weather comfort foods will you miss as we move into spring? (Spring weather is coming, right?)