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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Mocha Cupcakes w/ Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting + How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue {book tour}

How to Eat a Cupcake: a novel

Author: Meg Donohue
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: TLC Book Tours
soft cover: 320 pages

"foodie" elements:  yes

random excerpt: Jake was silent for a moment before his eyes brightened.  I could practically hear his dimples clamoring for release.  "I ate a cupcake the other day, and it wasn't one of yours," he said.  "I was at a party.  Everyone was doing it.  I promise I didn't enjoy it." p.174

summary/synopsis (from TLC):  Free-spirited Annie Quintana and sophisticated Julia St. Clair come from two different worlds. Yet, as the daughter of the St. Clairs’ housekeeper, Annie grew up in Julia’s San Francisco mansion and they forged a bond that only two little girls oblivious to class differences could—until a life-altering betrayal destroyed their friendship.

A decade later, Annie bakes to fill the void left in her heart by her mother’s death, and a painful secret jeopardizes Julia’s engagement to the man she loves. A chance reunion prompts the unlikely duo to open a cupcakery, but when a mysterious saboteur opens up old wounds, they must finally face the truth about their past or risk losing everything.

my thoughts/review:  Friends, family, food, and a hint of mystery all wrapped up into one can't-put-down novel.  I really enjoyed this book.  From the irresistible descriptions of cupcakes with the occasional chocolate croissant thrown in for good measure to the love-hate (thin line...) relationship between Julia and Annie to the suspense of a mysterious man, a lost treasure, and mysterious bad things happening to the shop-in-progress, I found a little bit of everything I loved.  And it kept me glued to the pages.  I found myself carrying the book around with me when I went to pick up my daughter after school or in the kitchen so I could read between stirring and chopping.  Lover's of foodie novels, chick lit, and mystery/suspense will all find a little something for them lurking in these pages.

The following cupcakes were inspired by Julia's "hidden pantry cupcake".  She talks about how she's perfected the act of eating a cupcake.  And then proceeds to describe something that had my cheeks tingling in anticipation...  Back to that very first bite of hidden cupcake in the pantry: a soft cap of vanilla buttercream giving way to light, creamy mocha cake.  I kept eating, turning the cupcake slowly in my hand.  This was not rich, one-bite-and-you-couldn't-possibly-have-more chocolate.  This was refined, complex chocolate cut with a hint of coffee and what else... Currant?  Salt?  A grown-up, masterful cupcake.

So I added Balsamic vinegar to hint at that currant (or raisin-esque) flavor and espresso sea salt along with cold espresso in the batter for those hints of coffee and salt.  I went with a vanilla bean honor of that soft cap of vanilla buttercream.  But if I'm being completely honest, I enjoyed both parts separately, but didn't think these two particular tastes matched all that perfectly.  I think a soft cap of Best Chocolate Buttercream (with malt) Frosting would complete the package to a T.  My oldest son loved them just the way they were, though.  Personal preference!

Mocha Cupcakes w/ Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 17-20 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert chocolate butter vanilla beans coffee cake American

Ingredients (12 cupcakes)
    • 1½ c. all-purpose flour
    • 1 c. superfine sugar
    • ⅓ c. cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp. baking soda
    • ½ tsp. espresso sea salt (or regular)
    • ½ c. espresso or strong coffee, at room temp.
    • ½ c. coconut oil, melted & cooled a bit
    • 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
    • 1 Tbs. pure vanilla extract
    • 2 large eggs, room temp.
    • 4 oz. butter, soft
    • 1½ c. powdered sugar, sifted + more as needed
    • 1 Tbs. whole milk
    • seeds scraped from ½ of a vanilla bean
    • big pinch sea salt
    making the cupcakes:
    Preheat oven to 350° F. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

    Add remaining cupcake ingredients to a large mixing bowl and beat with mixer until well blended. Gradually add in the dry mixture until everything is combined and no more flour is visible. Turn up the speed to high and beat for 1 minute. (You can do this by hand, you'll just have to beat a bit longer - until it looks fluffy.)

    Fill lined cupcake tins (or greased and floured) ~¾ of the way full. Slide into oven and bake for ~17-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

    making the frosting:
    Beat or whip the butter until light and fluffy, ~2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the mixture comes together. Add milk and vanilla bean seeds. Beat on high for about a minute. Mixture should be thick, fluffy, and spreadable. Adjust consistency by adding a bit more powdered sugar or milk, as needed. 

    Spread on cooled cupcakes (enough to frost 12 cupcakes). Frosting adapted from the Joy the Baker Cookbook.
    Powered by Recipage

    about the author:  Meg Donohue has an MFA from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she now lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughters, dog, and a weakness for salted caramel cupcakes.

    further info: website | facebook | twitter

    Plus, check it out: Meg will be joining Book Club Girl on Air on Tuesday, April 24 at 7pm ET.

    *I received a free copy of this book to review from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% mine.

    I am sharing this post with:
    tlc-tour-host fr2button crazy sweet tuesday Tasty Tuesdays 33 shades of green TastyTuesdayBB hearthnsoul150 a little birdie told me rook no. 17

    Would you like to comment?

    1. I would love to have a cupcake with that perfect balance of sweet, not too cloying. It looks like you have mastered it Heather.

    2. I'll just take a big bowl of that frosting, please!

    3. This sounds like a book that I would enjoy too.  Going to pin it for when I finish the stack I have sitting on my desk...h ha!
      Those are some gorgeous cookbooks.  Glad to see you are still baking with Joy :)  I'm still walking around with her cookbook too. 

    4. I read this book last week and could NOT put it down. It was truly a great book. I read it on my Kindle, so I worried that I missed recipes in the book. But... alas... no recipes. HOWEVER... check out Meg's website! You will find a wonderful recipe that I plan to make this weekend to share at a birthday party for me. YES! that's how good the recipe sounded: I am going to make my own birthday cake.
      RUSH OUT RIGHT NOW and buy this book. It is a keeper.

    5. Mmmm... qué ricos!!! me llama la atención que llevan vinagre balsámico, debe de quedar un sabor exquisito!!

    6. Nope, no recipes in the book.  I just knew I needed to make a cupcake inspired by one of the many mentioned that had my mouth watering!! I did see that Meyer Lemon Cupcake recipe - YUM! =

    7. This one isn't actually a cookbook...and doesn't have recipe in it - just plenty of delicious descriptions! And yes, haven't stopped cooking with Joy. I've made like 6 more things since the Spotlight ended and see no signs of stopping ;)

    8. cupcake looks so moist


    9. Thank you so much for this lovely review and the book-inspired recipe! These cupcakes look DELICIOUS!!! Would you mind if I posted this on my website (linking to you and of course including your name/site front and center)? - Meg Donohue (

    10. Hi Meg!!  I don't mind one little bit (in fact, I'd be honored).  Thank you so much - and thanks for the fantastic read. I'm passing it on to my sisters next :)

    11. What a perfect little cupcake :) The flavor combo sounds fantastic.

    12. What a beautiful cupcake! I love your recipe. I would never have thought to add Balsamic vinegar to a cake, but it's an inspired idea. I can just imagine the wonderful flavour it adds. The vanilla buttercream sounds wonderful too. 

      I have to try these, and How to Eat a Cupcake is now at the top of my 'to read' list! 

    13. lovely cup cake...

    14. I REALLY want to read this a major way.  And you put balsamic vinegar in a CUPCAKE! you're my hero.

    15. Velva-Tomatoes on the VineApril 3, 2012 at 9:03 PM

      Love to read books where food plays a central theme. Awesome.


    16. great review, a torn friendship... hmm intriguing, and balsamic ~cool and I love that your son loved them!

    17. Sounds like this book was the perfect fit for you! So glad you enjoyed it - thanks for being on the tour.

    18. What a great recipe and a great book! I'm adding it to my to-read list now. :)

    19. I have been wanting to read this book--glad to hear how good it is. Such pretty cupcakes too--although you just made me want another batch of Joy's Best Chocolate Buttercream. Darn you! ;-)

    20. this recipe is OUTSTANDING!!!!! my only critique is that i put the batter into 12 cup cake cases and they totally overflowed. I had to cut off the tops (but I am loving eating all of the scraps!) I think it's more like a 18 cupcakes recipe. Anyways the flavour is incredible. you would never know there is vinegar in it, it just tastes more sophisticated then most cupcakes!

    21. Oh, thanks so much. I'm sorry about the overflow situation. I sometimes wonder if my cupcake pans are larger than others...they're pretty old-school and I think the newer ones are a tad smaller. Or not. Either way, I'm happy that you enjoyed them! Thanks for the feedback :)

    22. great review, a torn friendship... hmm intriguing, and balsamic ~cool and I love that your son loved them!