I have been thinking about making a Vietnamese coffee cupcake for a while – really since way back, when I worked on the Thai iced tea cupcake.

When it comes to coffee flavored cakes, what one typically finds are mocha type concoctions (coffee and chocolate) or tiramisu type desserts (sponge or lady fingers doused in coffee). I haven’t found many examples of coffee-flavored cake batter outside of these two options. In lieu of an existing recipe, my approach would be simple – substitute strong brewed coffee for the liquid in a basic cake batter.

And that got me wondering… what cake batter? If you’ve ever taken any baking classes or read any professional baking books, you know that there are basic methods of preparing cakes including the sponge method, creaming method, two-stage method and a bunch of others. My favorite method is the creaming method which is used for many American-style baked goods. You cream the butter and sugar, add eggs, then alternate dry and wet ingredients. The result is a heavy mixture and relatively dense cake. The two stage method involves separating the eggs, following the same basic steps as with the creaming (with the exception that only egg yolks are added), then whipping egg whites to soft peaks and folding in to the batter. The result is something somewhat lighter. The classic sponge method requires heating and mixing the eggs and sugar over a water bath until it is light and fluffy. Then folding in dry ingredients and sometimes melted butter. Which of these (or any of the other) methods will translate to the dense, rich, moist, coffee flavored cake base I was looking for? I decided that the basic creaming method would result in a batter that had the bones to support the rich coffee flavor.

The resulting cake was great – great texture and moistness, but even better, a super intense, coffee flavor – exactly what I was looking for. I made a sweetened condensed milk pudding to fill the cupcakes and decided to top them with lightly sweetened whipped cream. I haven’t tasted the end product (just all the components), so I will need to report on that tomorrow.

VN Coffee Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup strong brewed Vietnamese coffee
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon coffee grounds

1. Beat butter on high until soft, about 30 seconds.
2. Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.
4. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
5. Measure out coffee and milk together.
6. Add about a fourth of the flour to the butter/sugar mixture and beat to combine.
7. Add about one third the coffee/milk mixture and beat until combined.
8. Repeat above, alternating flour and coffee and ending with the flour mixture.
9. Fold in the teaspoon of coffee grounds.
10. Scoop into cupcake papers about half to three-quarters full (depending on whether you want flat or domed cupcakes. Note that these cupcakes will shrink slightly when they cool).
11. Bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.

Tip: Be careful when adding the coffee/milk mixture to the batter. If you add it too quickly the mixture will look curdled. Add small amounts and beat well to incorporate.

cupcake ready for baking

baked cupcake

Sweetened Condensed Milk Pudding

2 teaspoons gelatin
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1. Sprinkle the gelatin over a 1/4 cup of water and let sit for 5 minutes.
2. In a small pan over medium heat, heat the sweetened condensed milk until warm.
3. Add the gelatin and stir over heat until the gelatin melts.
4. Transfer mixture to a bowl set over a pan of ice water. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. It will get very thick and might clump if you stop stirring.

stirring over ice bath

Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

1. Whisk cream on high speed until soft peaks form.
2. Add sugar (more or less depending on your taste) and whip until thick.

cupcakes ready for filling

1. Using a small pairing knife, cut off the top of the cupcake in the shape of a cone. Flip the top over and cut off the cone.
2. Fill the cavity with a teaspoon or so of sweetened condensed milk pudding.
3. Replace top.
4. Top with swirls or dollops of lightly sweetened whipped cream.
5. Dust with finely ground coffee.


Making Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese coffee is made with special grounds that contain coffee and chicory and using a special filter. It is brewed resting on a glass filled with an inch or so of sweetened condensed milk. The result is strong, rich, creamy, and sweet. I prefer mine iced. The melting ice lightens up the drink a bit.

get your filter ready

add grounds

replace filter

screw on tight for strong coffee

fill with water and wait!

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