Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

{ Baking photos by Galie Photography }

Images of IrelandA few years ago we went to Ireland for a big family reunion: Nearly 100 relations gathered from all over Ireland, from the U.S., from England and elsewhere. We converged on a small town in County Clare — in the West, barren but scenic — and our gang stayed in these thatch-roofed cottages.

The kids loved feeding donkeys, sharing meals with cousins, and exploring the countryside. Until the next trip, we keep up with the culture as much as possible, reading Irish legends, watching Irish movies (like this one), and noting great Irish achievements.

Speaking of which: Guinness, am I right? A drink, but also a technological marvel (read all about it) and even a wonder drug.

Yep, turns out there’s science behind the 1920s advertising slogan, “Guinness is good for you.” More than a decade ago, a team of researchers found that old-time doctors weren’t crazy to prescribe a daily pint of the black stuff: Guinness works as well as aspirin to prevent blood clots.

And what happens when you bake it into a cupcake, you ask? I have done this research myself and, as I hope Lola’s customers remember, the result is wonderfully smooth: Baking removes the stout’s bitter edge, leaving a mellow taste that’s the perfect complement in a rich chocolate cake. Top it with cream cheese icing — to evoke the creamy head on your “pint” — and a dusting of cocoa, and it’s just grand.

Guinness Cupcakes: IngredientsGuinness Cupcakes: Sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla in mixerGuinness Cupcakes: SiftingGuinness Cupcakes: Guinness in measureGuinness Cupcakes: ScoopingGuinness Cupcakes: Icing in mixerGuinness Cupcakes: Icing bagGuinness Cupcakes: IcingGuinness Cupcakes: Dusting with cocoaGuinness Cupcakes: Dusting with cocoaGuinness Cupcakes: On plate

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 21
  • 10½ oz granulated sugar (~1½ cups plus 1 Tablespoon)
  • 5⅓ Tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 7 oz flour
  • ½ cup American process cocoa
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 oz (=1 cup) Guinness stout
  • Extra cocoa powder for dusting
  1. Preheat your over to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again on medium speed for about 1 minute.
  4. Stir in the sour cream on low speed.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Add about a third of this flour mixture to the mixer and stir it in on low speed.
  7. Add half of the Guinness and stir it in.
  8. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the Guinness, and finish with last third of the flour mixture, stirring at low speed after each addition.
  9. Scrape down the bowl when everything is mixed, then run the mixer once more.
  10. Scrape the bowl down a last time and scoop the cupcakes into pans. I use a yellow-handled #20 scoop for standard-size cupcakes.
  11. Bake for 23-25 minutes at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean.
  12. Once they are fully cool, ice with softened Cream Cheese Icing (I use a pastry bag with a big round tip) and dust with cocoa powder.
Used in this recipe: Cream Cheese Icing

Coconut Cupcakes

Coconut Cupcakes

{ Photos by Galie Photography }

It’s a cupcake world now: We accept that. We embrace it.

But cast your mind back, if you can, to a time before cupcakes were TV stars, objects of desire, and fashion accessories.

To a time before people first started wondering: When will this cupcake thing end?

All the way back to 2007, in short — less than a year after I opened my bakery.

Ingredients for Coconut Cupcakes

Baking 100% from scratch, as we did at Lola’s, was already pretty revolutionary: Most bakeries were going in the opposite direction, using mixes and adding café fare like soup. My goal, by contrast, was a limited menu of the highest caliber baked goods. That’s why I hesitated to do cupcakes at first, even though I saw that interest was growing. Could I support lots of flavors — cupcake fans love choices — and still maintain quality?

Coconut Cupcakes: Step 1

One of my bakers kept urging me to take the plunge, and eventually I did. (Thanks, Rebekah!) This was still the year before Georgetown Cupcake opened, mind you. Our very first flavor was … yes, coconut. Everyone loved it, so I bought a LOT more cupcake pans.

Coconut Cupcakes: Step 2

It wasn’t long before cupcakes were the headliner at Lola’s, with up to ten flavors made fresh each day — all in that tiny bakery! No matter how many varieties we stocked, however, the Coconut Cupcake remained a top seller. It was one of our “Big Four” flavors, which we kept available every single day we were open.

(Are you fan enough to remember the other three? They were Madagascar Vanilla, Double Chocolate, and Red Velvet.)

Coconut Cupcakes: Step 3

The key to this recipe is full-on coconut: Plenty of moist coconut in the cake, then cream cheese icing rolled in more flakes for a complete coconut experience.

So in every sense, these cupcakes are about committing to the concept.

Coconut Cupcakes: Step 4Coconut Cupcakes: Step 5Coconut Cupcakes on plate


Note: Usually I don’t recommend specific brands, but I’ve always paid extra for Baker’s coconut. I think it is worth it.


Coconut Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18 cupcakes
  • 1½ sticks butter, cut into chunks
  • 8½ oz granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ tsp almond extract
  • 7½ oz flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 T buttermilk powder
  • ½ cup water
  • 3½ oz sweetened, shredded coconut
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and sugar on low speed until the chunks are broken down. Then increase speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time on medium speed, beating for about 30 seconds after each one is added.
  4. Reduce speed to low and add the extracts..
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and buttermilk powder.
  6. Add about ⅓ of the flour mixture to the mixer bowl and stir it in.
  7. Add ¼ cup of water and stir it in.
  8. Stir in another ⅓ of the flour mixture, then another ¼ cup water, then the final ⅓ of flour mixture.
  9. Finally, add the coconut and stir again.
  10. Scrape down the mixer bowl and the paddle, making sure you have no pockets of batter that are not fully mixed. Then run the mixer one last time for 90 seconds or so.
  11. Now you're ready to scoop your cupcakes. I use a yellow-handled #20 scoop so that I get cupcakes of equal size that will all be done at the same time. Use a baker's spatula or similar to level the scoop each time.
  12. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
  13. Let the cupcakes sit in the pan for a few minutes after you take them out of the oven, then move them to a rack.
  14. Allow the cupcakes to cool fully before icing with softened Cream Cheese Icing.
  15. To ice: Use a palette knife to spread softened icing into a nice dome on top of each cupcake. Then hold the cupcake by its base and roll it in a bowl of sweetened coconut flakes until the icing is covered.
Used in this recipe: Cream Cheese Icing

Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread Cake

This is my new favorite holiday cake — and I love the creative process that inspired it.

It started last year when a former Lola’s employee made a paper snowflake with “Ho Ho Ho” cut into it. It looked great, so this year I urged my daughter to make something similar for our windows. And when she did, I realized this wasn’t just a snowflake: It could be a powdered-sugar stencil, too, perfectly sized to cover … a cake!

I chose to make a Gingerbread Cake because — well, because Christmas! At the bakery we used this same recipe for Gingerbread Cupcakes, a huge holiday hit. I like lemon cream-cheese icing because citrus brings out the flavor of gingerbread: I always add lemon to the royal icing for gingerbread men, too.

A few details on this cake:

  • I baked mine as two 6-inch layers, each of which I trimmed flat and sliced horizontally for a four-layer cake. That looked great and allowed me to boost the icing-to-cake ratio — (important, since there’s no icing on top or sides as I did it “naked” style). If you want to try this, use a long serrated knife and a rotating decorating stand (a must-have for cake bakers) and get yourself at eye level with the cake. Or just use two trimmed, unsliced seven-inch layers, so they’re thinner, and be generous with the icing.
  • Using the powdered-sugar stencil isn’t hard, but you should practice a few times on the counter top to get the hang of it. Make a snowflake or stencil of whatever you like and check it for size. I laid the stencil — just regular paper is fine — directly on the uniced cake-top, then used a sifter to spread a very light coating of powdered sugar over the design. The tricky part is removing the stencil without disturbing the sugar. If the paper overhangs both sides, just lift very slowly from two sides at once. Otherwise, use two sets of tweezers to pick it up carefully from the edges.

I am so happy with how this came out. Ho Ho Ho!


Gingerbread Cake (or Cupcakes)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
  • 1 stick butter, cut up into chunks
  • 8 oz granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups molasses
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 13½ oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup water
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set on low. Run the mixer for a minute or two until the big chunks of butter are broken down a bit, then switch the mixer to medium speed and run it for 3 minutes. The butter and sugar should be light and fluffy now, with no chunks of butter left.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, then add the molasses and stir in at low speed.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time to the mixer, beating for ten seconds after adding each one, then stop the mixer.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, spices, baking soda, and baking powder. Add one half of this to the mixer and stir it in on a low speed. Once it is fully incorporated, pour in the water and stir again. When that is mixed in, add the rest of the flour mixture.
  6. Scrape down the bowl, then run the mixer one last time.
  7. Now you can scoop the batter into either two prepared 6-inch cake pans (for taller cakes that can be cut into four layers) or 7-inch cake pans (for wider, thinner layers) -- or into cupcake pans (will make about 24 cupcakes).
  8. Either way, bake at 350 degrees. Cupcakes will take about 24 minutes, cakes will take about 45 minutes. Always use a cake tester to determine "done-ness." :)



Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Use this for Gingerbread Cake or Gingerbread Cupcakes
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 12 oz cream cheese
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (or possibly a bit more)
  • 1 lb confectioners' sugar, sifted (possibly a bit more)
  1. Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and run first on low speed for about a minute, then on medium speeduntil the butter is completely smooth and creamy.
  2. Scrape down the bowl, then add the cream cheese and beat again until the two ingredients are well blended.
  3. Now turn the mixer down to low again and add the vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and about ⅓ of the confectioners' sugar. Stir these together.
  4. Once those ingredients are blended, add the rest of the confectioners' sugar bit by bit, continuing to blend, until it is all well-mixed.
  5. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula or bowl scraper to turn the frosting over and make sure it is truly all mixed. If it's not, run the mixer one more time.
  6. Check the consistency. If the icing is a bit stiff, add another teaspoon of lemon juice and mix again. If it's not stiff enough, add a little more powdered sugar.


Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Thanksgiving in America has always meant a few things:

  1. Turkey;
  2. Family & Friends; and
  3. Pumpkin pie.

But times change. Now we can have vegetarian and vegan Thanksgiving, blended families, and friends from different backgrounds who add a twist to tradition.

I have nothing against tradition. Thanksgiving is a perfect holiday in many ways: Inclusive of everyone, gift-free, food-centered, and always on a four-day weekend — what better recipe?

But … but let me propose, quietly, that adding modern elements is how we keep things fresh.

And that maybe it’s time to push aside the pie and make room for Pumpkin Cupcakes at the holiday table.

Or maybe you just want to eat one regardless of what day it is.

These are the bomb.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 11 oz granulated sugar
  • 11 oz light brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lb pumpkin purée
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 14 oz cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat eggs and both sugars in a stand mixer on medium for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add oil, pumpkin purée, milk and vanilla. Set on low speed and mix until blended.
  4. Sift together the remaining ingredients, then add them to the mixer and run it on low until everything seems combined.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape down the sides and the blade, then run it again to make sure everything is evenly blended.
  6. Now scoop it into standard-size muffin/cupcake cups and bake for about 22 minutes. Use a cake tester to check done-ness.
  7. Let cool completely before icing with Pumpkin Icing (recipe below). I like to add a candied pecan on top, but of course, that is optional.
Pumpkin Icing
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36 cupcakes
What goes on pumpkin cupcakes? Pumpkin Icing!
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks of about 1 Tablespoon each
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 8 oz pumpkin purée
  • 3 lbs 2 oz confectioner's sugar
  1. Put chunks of butter with salt in the bowl of stand mixer and run on low speed until broken down, then increase speed to medium and beat it until 100% smooth and creamy. (This will take a few minutes.)
  2. Scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl.
  3. Stir vanilla into the pumpkin purée, then add half of mixture into the mixer. Stir on low speed.
  4. Add half of the confectioner's sugar and stir until combined.
  5. Add the rest of the pumpkin/vanilla mixture; stir it in again.
  6. Add the rest of the confectioner's sugar; stire it in again.
  7. At this point you need to asses if this icing is thick enough for your use. If you'll be applying it with a pastry bag, you don't want it to be too "loose" — you need it to hold its shape. You may need to add just a bit more confectioner's sugar to get your ideal.
  8. Another trick: chill the icing a bit before icing with it.


Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Caramel apples are a wholesome symbol of fall, timeless and delicious. But it’s murder finding a good one: The apple must be fresh and crisp; the caramel must be soft but not drippy; the coating must be smooth and even.

Homemade caramel apples are no cinch, either. I tried to make them years ago and found it surprisingly difficult. The caramel must be just so, or it won’t coat well. Very frustrating!

My solution: Caramel Apple Cupcakes.

I remember the day I invented these beauties. I was at the bakery making Apple Spice Cupcakes — another fall classic — and I realized I could put Salted Caramel Buttercream on top. It was my Edison moment, resulting in one of my all-time favorite cupcake recipes. Lightbulbs went off for my customers, too: These cupcakes were instant best sellers.

National Caramel Apple Day is coming on October 31st. I know how I’ll be celebrating!

(P.S.: Ideally you would make your own applesauce from local apples; it’s the perfect time of year. Alternatively, buy local applesauce at the farmers’ market. At Lola’s we finished these off by drizzling them with our amazing Caramel Sauce. Give it a try. )

Apple Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 31
  • 7½ oz turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw) — about 1 cup
  • 7½ oz light brown sugar — about 1 cup
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb all-purpose flour — about 3¾ cups
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups applesauce
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer set to low speed, mix together the sugars and butter until butter is broken down.
  2. Turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 3 minutes. Then scrape down the bowl and paddle.
  3. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
  4. Sift together the dry ingredients into a separate bowl -- flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt.
  5. Add a third of the sifted ingredients into the mixer bowl. Set the mixer to low and stir until incorporated.
  6. Add half of the applesauce and mix, again until incorporated.
  7. Repeat with another third of the sifted dry ingredients, then the remaining half of the applesauce, then the final third of the dry ingredients.
  8. After everything is in, scrape down the bowl and the paddle. Then run the mixer one more time to make sure it's all evenly mixed.
  9. Now you can scoop the mixture into cupcake cups.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
Salted Caramel Buttercream Frosting
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 31
This recipe takes a little extra work, but it is so worth it. It is seriously amazing.
  • 4½ sticks of butter, cut up into chunks
  • 2¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup fresh-made caramel (ingredients and instructions below)
  • 2 lbs 9½ oz confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar) — about 10½ cups

  • 3½ oz granulated sugar — about ½ cup
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. First off, you'll need to make the fresh caramel: Put the granulated sugar, light corn syrup, and water in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally as it heats up.
  2. Bring the sugar mixture to a low simmer. Let it bubble gently as it simmers for 15-20 minutes. Don't wander off: Keep an eye on it!
  3. After about 20 minutes the mixture will turn a nice caramel color. When it does, add ⅓ cup heavy cream (some steam will billow up, which is fine) and 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract; stir until smooth.
  4. Let the caramel cool to room temperature before using it in the icing — it should still be pourable, but no longer hot.
  5. Meanwhile, start the icing: Put the butter and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and run it on low speed until the butter bits are broken down.
  6. Now turn the mixer to medium and keep beating. When the butter looks pretty smooth, stop the mixer, scrape it down, and beat it some more. You want that butter to be completely smooth. The whole process may take up to 7 minutes.
  7. Once you're sure the butter is really smooth, slowly add ¾ cup of your fresh-made caramel and stir it in at low speed.
  8. Now add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time, while the mixer runs at low speed.
  9. When the powdered sugar is all incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl to make sure you got all the lumps. Then run it again briefly.
  10. Now you're ready to use a pastry bag to apply this frosting to your cupcakes. This batch size should work well for Caramel Apple Cupcakes.


Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake

In the psychedelic era, simple things could blow people’s minds. Listen to Mick while you’re baking and get inspired: Vanilla cake needn’t be vanilla — it comes in colors.

My vanilla cupcake recipe is a great palette for color, and a rainbow cake is the ultimate trip: When you cut the first slice, you’ll alter reality for your party guests.

This cake takes some planning and a lot of bowls, but it’s not exactly hard: In fact, it was pretty much invented by a teenager. At bottom it’s just a vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream frosting. Beyond that it’s all about layers and logistics, so you’ll want to get comfortable with the techniques of trimming/levelling and stacking, plus the basics of crumb-coating and icing.

The recipe below fits into a 5-quart stand mixer and makes three layers for a 7- or 8-inch cake. Make a six-layer cake over a few days: Bake three layers on the first day, let them cool, wrap them in plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge. The next day bake the remaining layers, cool and chill them, and make your buttercream. On the third day (or later on the second day), level, stack, and ice.

Level each layer so it’s fairly thin: Six layers add up quickly, and this cake can turn into a tower. (On the other hand, a tower can be cute: I’ve used a single batch of this recipe to make six 3″ layers. I then sliced those in half and made two mini cakes. Fun–but tricky to slice!) You don’t want to  make the layers so thin that they’ll tear when you try to stack and ice them.

A word about colors: Butter and eggs make this cake taste great, but they also make the batter yellowish. Most colors will work fine, but your blue layer may look a bit green (because, of course, yellow + blue = green). The solution is to add some white coloring. It’s absolutely worth buying professional-quality colors: A basic set from AmeriColor, plus white, will take you far.

And how exactly do you add color? Once the batter is ready, I divide it equally (by weight) into three bowls, then fold in each color by hand using a spatula. Use as little color as possible: Start with two drops and see how it looks — adjust by adding one small drop at a time. The color of the batter is a decent guide to the final cake color. (The final color will be more vibrant but also a little darker.)

Ready? Dive in!

Vanilla Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
You'll need to make this recipe twice for a 7" or 8" rainbow cake; each batch will yield three layers.
  • 2 sticks butter, cut up into chunks
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 15½ oz all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup whole milk
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter and granulated sugar and stir at low speed until butter is broken down.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 10 seconds after each one, then reduce speed to low again.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add ⅓ of this to the mixer and stir until combined.
  5. Add ½ cup of the milk to the mixer and stir until incorporated.
  6. Add another ⅓ of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, then the final third of the flour mixture, stirring between each step.
  7. Scrape down the bowl and paddle, then run mixer for another minute -- make sure you get the last lumps out of there.
  8. To make three layers of a rainbow cake, divide batter by weight into three bowls, add color, then scrape each color into a 7" or 8" pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

Vanilla Buttercream
Prep time: 
Total time: 
This yields enough to ice a six-layer cake. Decorate the top as you please; I have found that covering it completely with a smooth layer of rainbow sprinkles is simple and appealing.
  • 4 sticks butter, cut up
  • 3 lbs 4 oz powdered sugar
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir butter on low speed until chunks are broken down.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat until completely smooth.
  3. Scrape down the bowl, reduce the speed, and add half of the powdered sugar. Stir at low speed until combined.
  4. Add the milk and vanilla and stir again.
  5. Slowly add the rest of the powdered sugar; stir until combined.





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