An Upside-Down Cupcake Party & Vanilla Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Caramel-Coffee Icing

I did something crazy last weekend. We were planning to have a casual dessert party this week so I sent out a fun e-vite to about 50 people – but wait, that’s not the crazy part!  I love cupcakes when entertaining a crowd because they’re so easy to serve: I can make a variety of different flavors, being sure to please everyone. So, I decided that it would be a cupcake party.
Well…I couldn’t leave well enough alone and have a regular cupcake party,  oh no……………, I decided it had to be something festive and unique…….. I invited everyone to an upside-down cupcake party. What does this mean, you might ask. I didn’t know myself, I had a vague idea and it sounded like fun – once I pushed the send button on the computer it was too late to turn back! What was I thinking……? I knew I had better figure it out – QUICK! – and start baking ……. PRONTO! Am I loose as a goose, or what?
I had a few “flub-ups” (disasters) but I think the end results are something I’ll do again so I’m going to share one of the recipes as well as the technique with you. Actually, it was easier than those fancy-dancy swirly cupcakes and you don’t need any special tools, just a plastic squeeze bottle. I explain below in more detail but the basic process is this; bake cupcakes without paper liners. After baking, turn them out onto a cooling rack and leave them upside down. When cool, frost with a fairly thin icing in a squeeze bottle. Let the icing dry a bit and then repeat the process. Finish off with a decorative drizzle of the same icing.


The cupcake recipe that I am sharing is awesome!  It is from Cooks Illustrated and it is by far the easiest and the best vanilla cake recipe that I’ve ever made. You simply throw the dry ingredients in your mixer bowl, add the butter, sour cream and eggs and then beat for 30 seconds, yes 30 seconds! Give it quick mix by hand and your ready to go; it is, honestly, as easy as a cake mix! I did add poppy-seeds to mine as we enjoy them when combined with the caramel icing.
The caramel frosting is an old stand-by that I have adapted to work for this method. It needs to be fairly thin to be able to easily cover the cupcakes so I just added more milk. I wanted a deep caramel color so I made one other change to the original recipe and added a bit of espresso. There is a hint coffee flavor which, in my opinion, makes the frosting even tastier!
P.S. The pictures below, for the icing technique, are from my chocolate cream cheese cupcakes but the method is the same for any Upside-Down Cupcake.
Vanilla Poppy Seed Upside-Down Cupcakes with Caramel-Coffee Icing

1 ½ cups (7 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray muffin pans with baking spray such as Baker’s Joy. (Baking spray has shortening and flour to keep the baked goods from sticking.) Spray the individual cups once and with paper towel, rub each cup to coat, then spray lightly one more time. Prepare 18 of the individual cups in this manner.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt. Beat on low just to combine. Add the butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix by hand until the batter is smooth and no flour pockets remain.
3. Divide the batter evenly among the 18 prepared muffins cups, about 1/2 full. Bake until the cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Wait 2 minutes after removing from oven, then turn pan onto a cooling rack and give a slight shake. Remove pan and leave cupcakes upside down. If any of the cupcakes stick to the pan, take a thin, sharp knife and run blade along the sides of the pan, then remove cupcake.
4. Make frosting as directed below and place in a squeeze bottle. (I use a small funnel to transfer from the bowl to the bottle.) If frosting has cooled off and becomes too thick, place squeeze bottle in microwave for 15-20 seconds or until easy to drizzle. Starting in the center, squeeze frosting over first cupcake, moving in a concentric circle towards edge of cupcake (see pictures). Continue moving bottle in a circle around edge of cupcake until frosting has covered the sides. Don’t worry if there are small areas that are not covered as you will be repeating this process and can catch these areas on the next go around.
5. Allow this layer of frosting to dry 30-45 minutes then repeat process (make sure to re-warm frosting in the microwave), this time covering any areas that were missed. Let second layer dry 30-45 minutes, then drizzle icing back and forth to make a decorative pattern, if desired. You can do this last step with your squeeze bottle or with a small 
whisk. If you are running out of frosting, scrape up the drippings
under the cooling rack warm slightly in the microwave, and use to finish up.
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 18 upside-down cupcakes
Caramel-Coffee Icing
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup milk (I use skim)
1 tablespoon espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1 one pound box powdered sugar, you may need a bit more
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
1. Place butter in 2 quart microwaveable bowl. Melt butter in microwave for 1 minute on high. Add brown sugar and milk and espresso mixture and whisk until brown sugar lumps are dissolved. Place in microwave and cook for 2 minutes on high. Mixture will boil furiously.
2. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time and whisk, until well mixed, after each addition. Mixture should be thin enough to drizzle over the cupcakes but thick enough to coat them. You made need to add just a bit more powdered sugar. Add vanilla and almond extract and frost according to directions above.


11 thoughts on “An Upside-Down Cupcake Party & Vanilla Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Caramel-Coffee Icing”

  • Thanks Beth, This is a real compliment coming from you as I have heard you are the “Queen of Cupcakes” 🙂

  • I thought I had seen (and done) it all when it came to cupcakes, but this is a fantastic idea. Can’t wait to try the recipes and techniques myself. I love the idea of an upside-down cupcake party!

  • I just LOVED those treats! The Blue berry version was probably my favorite though I couldn’t try all of them!

  • Thanks for all of your kind comments, I love to hear from you! It’s what makes this crazy blogging worthwhile. Have a blessed weekend. Chris

  • These remind me of petit fours. I bet they woul be great for a shower. Love that you make the caramel frosting in the microwave.

  • You are such a wonderful and generous cook. The food is always beautiful and delicious – thank you for sharing. Kudos to the brilliant photographer.

  • These really look incredible. I’ll wager they are delicious as well. That double icing sounds terrific and is blessedly easy to do. Sincere thanks for sharing this recipe with us. Have a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

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