917-604-7591 [email protected]


“We’re making this,” Suzen announced. We had a family dinner to attend and, as usual, our contribution was dessert. I had a Roasted Banana Bread Pudding in mind, because I always bring chocolate and I was feeling guilty about that “always” stuff. Time for something new.

So what does my not-so-fond-of-desserts wife hone in on? Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, really luscious, glossy chocolate frosting, well cocoa-coffee to be exact. The picture in Home Made Winter is worthy of any museum of art.

We made the cupcakes together, but then Suzen changed into shorts, picked up her iPad, and headed to our basement gym. “You’re the frosting man. You frost them.”

“But, the recipe?” I began. “It says cornstarch. What do I do?”

“You are the frosting man.” Door shuts, she’s gone, and I’m on my own.

The cupcakes are wonderful with a secret ingredient, nutmeg. It’s another of the fabulous twists that author Yvette van Boven weaves into her recipes. But, like Suzi, I was intrigued by the frosting. So perfectly glossy, so radiantly beautiful, yet the recipe called for cornstarch, not corn syrup. A mistake? A misprint? A ¼ cup of cornstarch, more than I ever used before in my life.

In using Yvette’s books, Home Made Summer and Home Made Winter, I have learned one big thing: trust the recipe. I did and the picture you see is my perfectly frosted cupcakes. The book picture is wonderful but my picture is pretty darn pretty, too.

The cupcakes are grand but this technique for making frosting — and applying it by turning each cupcake upside down and dipping it into hot frosting — is the essence of this recipe. It’s a technique I’ll use forever. Yes, you dip the cupcakes in, turn them right up, and watch the hot frosting gracefully slide into that sheet of perfect cocoa-coffee frosting.

We took a dozen cupcakes to the family feast for six people. There were none to bring home.

The measurements here are both in English units and metric. I truly recommend you invest in a scale that measures to the gram and prepare this recipe to that standard. It makes a delicious difference.

Chocolate Nutmeg Cupcakes & Glossy Coffee Frosting

Yield: 12 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 g) butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 g) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups (150 g) self-rising flour
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 packet (2 teaspoons) vanilla sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) milk or buttermilk
  • 4 ½ ounce3s (120 g) dark chocolate, chopped small enough to mix easily into the batter (optional, for cupcakes with intense chocolate nuggets inside)

For the frosting:

  • ¾ cup (150 g) packed dark brown sugar
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (50 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (50 g) cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (50 g) butter


Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (i8o°C). Position the rack in the center of the oven. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a big bowl until the mixture is light and airy. Beat in the eggs one at the time. In another bowl, combine the flour, nutmeg, cocoa powder, vanilla sugar, and salt. Alternate beating the flour mixture and the milk into the butter mixture until just incorporated; don’t mix for too long.

Add the chocolate chunks, gently folding them into the batter.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out dry. Let cool for 5 minutes, then lift the cupcakes out of the tin and let cool completely on a rack.

Make the frosting: In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, salt, espresso powder, and vanilla sugar. Stir in ¾ cup (200 ml) water. Over low heat, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture begins to boil, stir continuously to prevent it from burning.

Boil the frosting for 1 full minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Dip the top of each cupcake in the frosting, twist slightly, lift up, and let cool until set.

Source: Home Made Winter by Yvette van Boven [Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4.5 for 1/50th second at ISO‑3200