Special equipment: 12 chemistry pipettes
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and eggs into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whip the ingredients for 8 minutes on high speed. Scrape down the bowl, and add the liquid shortening and milk. Mix 8 more minutes at medium speed. Gently fold in the instant espresso granules. Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until golden brown and baked through, about 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely.
For the caramel filling: Stir the dulce de leche, toffee bits and instant espresso granules together until fully combined. Place in a pastry bag with a round tip large enough to allow the toffee bits to pass through without becoming lodged.
For the buttercream: Bring the sugar and 2 ounces water to a boil in a medium saucepot. Place the egg whites into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. When sugar syrup reaches 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer, begin whipping the egg whites. Cook the sugar syrup to 250 degrees F, and slowly pour the syrup into the whipped meringue. Whip on high speed until the meringue cools and stiff peaks are formed. Mix in the softened butter and coffee extract. Place into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
For the pipettes: Bring the sugar and 2 ounces water to a gentle simmer. Remove from the heat and stir in the instant espresso granules. Fill 12 chemistry pipettes with the syrup.
To assemble: Using an apple corer, remove the center core of the baked cupcakes and fill with coffee-toffee Cuban caramel filling. Pipe espresso swirl buttercream generously on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle coffee and milk crispies on top of the cupcakes. Insert 1 Cuban coffee syrup pipette into each cupcake and place a chocolate plaque on top.
This recipe was created by a contestant during a cooking competition. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy Casey Shiller, Jilly's Cupcake Bar and Cafe