Orange Espresso Cupcakes

Thank Kori for the idea of this flavor combination in cake form. The original idea was to make this a cake, with layers of espresso & orange buttercream in between flavor-packed cake. That is still something I‘d like to do — but I needed the basic cake recipe first.

And so the orange espresso cupcake was created! Initially, perhaps, this flavor combination seems counterintuitive. After all, chasing orange juice with espresso is a bitter experience. However, when layered with sugar in fluffy cake form, these flavors complement each other beautifully.

The cake recipe is DAIRY FREE! No milk or butter used in the making of the cake.

To best preserve the individual flavors, I’ve created two separate cake batters for these cupcakes; the orange and the espresso. The two are then playfully layered into cupcake tins and baked.

In order to keep this as simple as possible, no mixer is involved for the creation of the cake. Get two large bowls side by side and make your batter at the same time.

The recipe may look intimidating (tables have a way of doing that) but I promise you can do it! As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.

The buttercream frosting is a key component of this dessert, really tying the orange and espresso together in a sweet, creamy finish. I highly recommend taking the time to make the buttercream. It’s simple enough to get done while the cupcakes are baking in the oven. The buttercream frosting is not dairy free.

If you MUST skip the process of making the frosting, go for a vanilla store-bought, and mix in the orange zest, orange flavor and instant espresso as directed in the buttercream recipe.




  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  • 1 tablespoon milk.
  • 3 cups powdered sugar.
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest.
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso.
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange flavor.
Cake Mix in Two Separate Bowls. Layer and Swirl with Toothpick!



1. Preheat oven to 325. Heat the 1/4 cup water for the Espresso Cake in the microwave or on the stovetop. Using a coffee cup keeps this step simple! If you heat more than 1/4 cup water, make sure to measure again before combining with instant espresso. Stir 2 teaspoons instant espresso into 1/4 cup warm water. Set aside.

2. Zest about two oranges into a small bowl. When zesting, be sure to get the bright orange skin, and stop when the white pith shows, as this is bitter and not desirable. Set bowl with zest aside. (It’s helpful to double check measurements at this point to ensure you have enough zest for the Orange Cake recipe.)

3. Slice and juice the oranges you zested in the Step 2. Measure out 1/4 cup of juice and set aside.

4. Use two large bowls for this step, one designated for Espresso Cake and one for the Orange Cake. These cupcakes are constructed with two separate batters. If you are concerned about confusion, grab some painter’s or masking tape and make labels for the sides of the bowls.

5. Using the ingredient chart above, measure the sugar and salt for each flavor and add to their respective bowls. Repeat with flour and baking powder measuring carefully and sifting fully before adding. I like to get a mesh strainer and set it on the lip of the bowl, so I can measure directly into it.

6. In the designated Espresso Cake bowl, measure and sift 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 tsp instant espresso.

7. Get a separate, clean medium bowl. This will be your Wet ingredient bowl. First, let’s assemble the Orange Cake. Add egg, vanilla, orange flavor and canola oil to medium bowl. Measure orange zest and orange juice and add to bowl. Whisk well. Pour into designated Orange Cake large bowl. Whisk batter vigorously until smooth & well combined. Set aside.

8. Using a clean medium-sized bowl, we’ll now assemble the Espresso Cake. Add egg, vanilla and canola oil to the bowl. Measure out the brewed espresso from step 1, to ensure you are only adding 1/4 cup. If the amount comes out to less than 1/4 cup, add water until 1/4 cup is reached.

9. Whisk Espresso Cake wet ingredients well. Add to Espresso Cake dry ingredients in large bowl. Whisk well until smooth and well-combined. Set aside.

10. Prepare your cupcake pan. I prefer to use paper liners. Next, get two silverware teaspoons. I found these work best for layering the Orange and Espresso cake flavors.

11. Beginning on one end of the cupcake tray, scoop a teaspoonful of orange batter into the cupcake molds. Once all twelve molds have one scoop of orange, follow with one scoop of espresso. Repeat the process until the cupcake molds are filled halfway. This part is meant to be fun and interpretive. Layer the flavors however you like. I can tell you from experimenting, using the silverware teaspoons, you get about two layers of each flavor. The most important part is to not overfill the cupcake tin. Stop filling when batter has reached the halfway point in the cups. If you have some batter leftover, you can make a mini cake in any oven safe pan or container or use it in another cupcake tray.

12. For added fun, use a toothpick to marble the flavors together. Get creative!

13. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the tops are firm and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare your frosting!

14. Set on cooling rack to cool before frosting.


1. Cube softened butter. Combine with powdered sugar. You can use a hand mixer or stand mixer for this. Start mixing on low, and be careful powdered sugar doesn’t explode everywhere. My trick for this is to use a food processor! Once the butter and powdered sugar come together and start to become creamy, I transfer the mixture from the food processor to a bowl, where I use a hand/stand mixer for the remainder of the recipe.

2. Add vanilla, orange zest, orange flavor and instant espresso. Continue beating. Add milk. Continue beating until fluffy. If thinner consistency is desired, add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time.

3. Frost cooled cupcakes. Once frosted, store cupcakes in refrigerator until ready to eat.

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