These cupcakes are totally amazing but were definitely a labor of love! I went off a recipe found on pinterest (found here) that had several comments about people having trouble with various elements of the recipe, so I knew there was a good chance this would turn into an epic adventure, which it did! But in the end there were chocolate bourbon pecan pie cupcakes, so yeah…definitely worth it!
These certainly have a lot going on in the recipe, but they’re actually pretty straightforward. Given these were only my second attempt at cupcake making ever and they ended up amazing, I feel confident anyone can make them.
If you’re not keen on bourbon pecan pie, or simply don’t want bourbon in the recipe, you can substitute more coffee for the bourbon in the cupcake portion of the recipe. I would still use the bourbon on the candied pecans, though, since I don’t know for sure how it would work using coffee there instead because I didn’t try it.
I made these cupcakes this weekend as a trial run. I want to make them for Thanksgiving this year but didn’t want to be making them for the first time on Thanksgiving, since I make the full Thanksgiving dinner for our family and need recipes that I know work and won’t give me any grief! Also, I made 2 different cupcake bases using the same filling and frosting – these chocolate cupcakes and some pumpkin pie spiced cupcakes as well (recipe for the Pumpkin Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes is found here).
It’s impossible to choose a favorite out of the two of them because they’re both so delicious in their own ways! These satisfy the chocolate lover inside of me, but the pumpkin version is like a dream for the pumpkin spice maniac side of my tastebuds. Luckily, since I made both I don’t have to choose. 😉
Luckily, my coworkers are always happy to eat my recipe experiment leftovers, so I know I’ll be able to get most of them out of the house so I don’t eat all of them. Good thing, because they’re so delicious I want to eat all of them right now!
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes
For the Cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
- 1/2 cup coffee (regular or decaf, at room temperature)
- 1 cup vegetable oil (I like using safflower oil since it doesn't leave an oily taste)
- 2 large eggs
- 2/3 cup plain greek yogurt (or sour cream)
- 1+1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey Special Dark which gives a more intense chocolate flavor)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1+1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3/4 tsp. salt
For the Pecan Pie Filling:
- 1 cup whipping cream/heavy cream (cannot be 1/2 and 1/2, milk or light cream. Must be whipping cream/heavy cream)
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
- 1 cup corn syrup (dark variety)
- 4 large egg yolks (must be only the yolks or else it won't work)
- 1+1/2 Tbsp. bourbon
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (doesn't have to be softened, but it's easier if it's softened)
- 1+1/2 cups chopped pecans (plain pecans, not candied)
For the Frosting:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened almost to room temperature, but you don't want them super soft)
- 6 cups (720g) powdered/confectioners sugar
- 1 batch caramel (see below for caramel ingredients)
- 1 cup candied pecans (chopped - see below for candied pecan ingredients)
For the Candied Pecans for the Frosting:
- 7+1/2 oz pecan halves
- 2 Tbsp. bourbon
- 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar (packed)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
For the Caramel for the Frosting:
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1+1/3 cup whipping cream/heavy cream
- 2+1/4 cups light brown sugar (packed)
For Pecan Pie Filling: *See Recipe Notes at end of recipe*
- Whisk together the heavy cream, cornstarch, brown sugar, corn syrup and egg yolks in a large nonstick saucepan/Dutch oven (using a silicone whisk). Heat the mixture, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it begins boiling. Once boiling, continue cooking, whisking constantly, for ~4-5 minutes until thick.
- Then, remove the pan from the heat, add in the butter, vanilla and bourbon and whisk until the butter completely melts. Add in the chopped pecans and stir until mixed in evenly, then place mixture in a heatproof, airtight container in the refrigerator and allow to cool for several hours (or overnight).
For the Caramel for the Frosting: *See Recipe Notes at end of recipe*
- Place the butter, cream and brown sugar in a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Heat while stirring with a heat-resistant spatula, until the butter is melted. Once the butter is melted, stir only occasionally until the mixture reaches a full boil. Once it reaches a full boil, stop stirring (and do not stir again while it's heating) and continue cooking for 3 minutes longer.
- When the 3 minutes are up, remove the pan from heat and allow to sit just until mixture stops bubbling, then immediately transfer the mixture to a large, wide-bottomed heat-resistant glass bowl, cover and stick in the freezer for ~1+1/2-2 hours or until completely thick and not liquidy at all (it will have turned a light color throughout when it's fully cooled/thickened). Once the mixture has thickened, use immediately to make the frosting or, if you won't be making the frosting until later, cover the mixture and refrigerate until you're ready to make the frosting. Note: I have only chilled the mixture in the freezer so I can't say how long it would take in the refrigerator, but I would have to assume it would take at least 8 hours. Freezer is the way to go!
For the Candied Pecans for the Frosting: *See Recipe Notes at end of recipe*
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line a medium-sized baking sheet with foil and set aside. Whisk the bourbon, vanilla extract, brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small mixing bowl until thoroughly combined, then add in the pecan halves and stir until the pecans are thoroughly coated.
- Spread the pecans out on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for ~10 minutes, stopping to stir a few times.
Be careful to avoid burning the pecans. Mine were done right around the 10 minute mark.
- When the pecans are done, move very quickly to scrape them off the foil into a bowl, add in the butter and stir until butter is melted. Set pecans aside to cool and once they're cool, finely chop them. Once chopped, store in a ziploc bag or container until you're ready to use them.
Note: You have to move quickly when the pecans are done baking, otherwise they will stick to the foil and be very difficult to remove.
Note: To chop, I place pecans in a large ziploc bag and beat with a meat tenderizer or roll with a rolling pin.
For the Cupcakes:
- When you're ready to start working on the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line 2 standard muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. (If you want to make mini cupcakes, line a mini cupcake pan with paper mini cupcake liners, but I'm not sure how many total that would make. I did mine as a mix and it made 20 regular-sized cupcakes and 20 mini cupcakes).
- Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
- Beat the bourbon, oil, eggs, yogurt (or sour cream) and sugar in a large bowl using an electric mixer.
I found it was easier making these using my handheld electric mixer than with my kitchenaid stand mixer).
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly, mixing on low speed just until everything is combined. Then, fill baking cups ~3/4 full and bake in the preheated oven for ~16-20 minutes for regular size, ~10 minutes for mini size, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let sit in the pan for ~5 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling racks to finish cooling. Allow cupcakes to cool for at least an hour or so before filling/decorating.
- When you're ready to fill the cupcakes, remove your pecan pie filling from the refrigerator to let it soften a bit.
- Using either a cupcake corer (I have this one) or a paring knife, remove centers of cupcakes.
For mini cupcakes, I find they're easiest to do by hand with a paring knife. I do have a smaller cupcake corer (this one) but I think it's too small and haven't found a perfectly sized cupcake corer for the mini cupcakes.
- Fill cupcake centers with pecan pie filling. Depending on how thick your filling ended up, you may be able to pipe it in (I would just throw it in a ziploc bag, cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag and pipe out of there - just make sure the hole is big enough for your chopped pecans to get out of). If it's too thick for that, spoon the filling in.
For the Frosting:
- Place butter, powdered sugar and caramel into the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and then beat together, starting on low speed (so sugar doesn't go everywhere) and gradually increasing speed until everything is combined and frosting is light and fluffy.
You may have to stop once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl and/or scrape the whisk attachment.
- Add 1 cup of your chopped candied pecans and fold into the frosting with a spatula. If you're not ready to frost the cupcakes or for some reason the frosting isn't stiff enough for piping, stick the bowl with the frosting in the refrigerator for a bit.
For Decorating Cupcakes:
- You can either pipe the frosting on (which is how I did it for the photos), or you can make life much easier and use a large (4.25" diameter) ice cream scoop that has a trigger (this one is the one I have. I used for this technique with my Halloween cupcakes in the below photo). Just scoop your frosting, level it off using a metal spatula (or butter knife), then plop it on top of the cupcake. Then do some minor work after plopping the frosting on there, using the metal spatula or knife to flatten down a bit on top so the frosting reaches out to the edges of the cupcakes, and then to smooth around the sides and on top as needed.
- Once the frosting is on the cupcakes, you can sprinkle more finely crushed candy pecan pieces on top and/or top the cupcakes with whole candied pecan halves, whatever strikes your fancy!