chocolate espresso guinness mini-cakes.

I hesitate to call these ‘cupcakes,’ for fear it would imply some whimsey-ish kid-party thing. Mostly, I don’t want you thinking that I’m making beer cupcakes for toddlers. Because I’m not: these are clearly adult cakes. They don’t even look young child-appropriate, unless your little one adores swanky dinner parties and Irish pubs from time to time. Hopefully, they don’t.

This is the small version of my Chocolate Espresso Guinness Cake from last week; as it turns out, I was still miffed I didn’t get a proper piece. So miffed, in fact, that I was bound and determined to find a way to make these in a smaller format more appropriate for every day use. Why? Because I want to eat them more often, and baking cupcakes to share with others and accidentally keeping a few for yourself is so much less obvious than baking a giant cake and not sharing.

Did this require a separate post? Normally, no. If this were a normal cake-to-cupcake recipe, I would have just given you the alternative times in the original post. But this is a special recipe, and one that requires some coddling and special attention. You don’t want to ruin them. Here are my tips.

You will need:

  • A standard size muffin tin
  • An even batter-measuring cup (may I suggest a self-ejecting ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measure)
  • Some time to stand by your oven
  • The original recipe for my chocolate espresso Guinness cake.

Tips for baking mini-cakes:

Grease your muffin tin using actual butter and not cooking spray. I’m serious, people; for these it makes a difference. If you take the time to butter the sides and the bottom of your muffin cups, you’ll be rewarded with a buttery, chewy little outside to them. If you use cooking spray, you’ll be rewarded with whatever you imagine oil tastes like on the outside of chocolate cake. Yum.

Don’t be tempted by the allure of cupcakes liners. May I repeat; these are not cupcakes, and shouldn’t be treated as such. No liners, unless you want some gooey, ugly mess. Part of the charm here is the smooth, buttery edges, not to mention that baking things in liners versus flat against the pan gives you a completely different inner result. If you use cupcakes liners, I take no responsibility for your results.

Fill them only somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 full; no fuller. You can stuff as many as you want to in your mouth once they are finished, but don’t get greedy when portioning them into the tins. These don’t puff like regular cupcakes or muffins, and keeping them on the shorter side makes them look more like tiny cakes and allows for the most even cooking, edge to center.

Watch your cakes carefully at the end. Coddle them. check them 39 times if you need to, because they go from liquidy centers to fully baked centers in under a minute, and you want to be there at the exact moment that happens. This was originally a Springform pan recipe, and and there’s much more room for error there. If you want a moist cake, you bake them for approximately 8-11 minutes, checking at the 7 minute mark and hovering over them until they are finished.

Don’t get antsy and try to dig them out of the pan too early. It will be difficult, because they will smell unbelievably, almost comically good. You will swear you see scent wafting off them like in the old cartoons where the cat really wants to eat the fresh-baked pie. Resist this temptation, because they need to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes on top of a metal rack. Once some time passes, unearth them carefully with a thin-bladed knife, being careful not to disturb the sides.

Don’t over-sugar your frosting. Everyone makes this mistake at some point in their baking lives, but i urge you not to do it at this particular juncture. These cakes are fabulous sans frosting, but you can kill the flavor easily by adding too much confectioners’ sugar to your frosting. My recipe measurements are ideal for flavor, but it does require you to chill your frosting thoroughly prior to using. It’s a cream cheese-based one, after all, and it needs to firm back up. This also gives your espresso powder a chance to melt into the frosting a bit, so when you stir it post-chill, the flavor will be even more coffee-like. Make your frosting the day before the cake, if you like, and then you won’t have to wait.

Make these ‘day-ahead’ treats. Don’t feel bad about making these a day before you plan to serve them. On the contrary, I think these are an excellent make-ahead option because provided you store these in a tightly-sealed container overnight at room temperature, giving them a chance to sit actually deepens their flavor and makes them even more impossibly dense and chocolatey. I highly recommend it, but obviously you won’t frost them until the day of.

Go forth and make mini-cakes. Use the original recipe for both cake and frosting, and heed the instructions above (and below; there’s a recap). You won’t be disappointed.

To recap: make both recipes exactly the same, then grease a standard size muffin tin and fill your cups only 1/2 to 2/3 full, doing your best to portion them evenly and not drip any on the sides. Bake for 8-11 minutes (this is oven and type-of-muffin-tin-dependent), checking in at the 7-minute mark and watching like a hawk after. You’ll take them out at the just-done mark. Let cool in the tins for about 15 minutes, then gently lift them out using a thin-bladed knife to let finish cooling.

Remember, when you make your frosting, to let chill for at least a few hours until firm, or overnight. You can make the cakes the day before you serve them, also: keeping them stored in an airtight container over night will deepen the flavor.

If you fill these cups as I say, you should have exactly 24. Which is awesome for those of us who don’t like empty muffin tins. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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  • Reply Ashley October 4, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I’m quite guilty of adapting a cake recipe to cupcake format simply so I can keep some for myself. Well, that and decorating cakes usually results in a less than pretty cake for me. But it’s mostly so I can have some too. Thank you for your considerate adaptation! I can’t wait to try them!

  • Reply movita beaucoup October 8, 2012 at 5:38 am

    So… that’s 23 mini-cakes for me, and 1 for 2.0? That sounds about right.

    At school, we make a “greaser” for our muffins, cakes, etc. Butter, shortening and flour are creamed together and then we brush it all over our loaf pans, etc. It’s about the only thing we’ve made that I don’t want to eat – but it works really, really well!

    Also, just so you know, your blog posts are exactly like my baking school notes – very thorough and totally awesome (if I do say so myself).

    • Reply shannon October 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      that’s how i did the math here, yes. It’s some sort of rule that since you make the mini cakes, no one is entitled to more than one (sample) from the batch. unless you choose to hand yours over, which you will not choose to do.

      a greaser! i just had a little visual of a guy with pomade in his hair and a leather jacket – like The Fonz – brushing loaf pans with butter for you to bake things in…like a “resident greaser.” MAN i wish that were a thing that happened. I bet that works SO well for the pans! i never thought of mixing it all together like that; baking school is gonna teach you all sorts of nifty things i feel.

      i bet your notes are the BOMB. i can hear the scribble-scribble from here. flour marks all over the paper, sweating…i’m so envious. and thank you for thinking i’m thorough; i think i ramble, but it can’t be helped. 🙂

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