• Yield: 18 cupcakes

  • Time: 1 hour prep, 60 minutes cooking, 2 hours 10 minutes total

Smoked Black Pepper Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Bean Frosting and Smokey Salted Caramel


  • 11.25 ounces sugar

  • 2.5 ounces cocoa

  • 10 ounces flour

  • 3/4 tablespoon baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons ground smoked black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 11 ounces water

  • 2 ounces coffee

  • 3 ounces oil

  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar

  • 2 teaspoons ground smoked black pepper

  • Vanilla Bean Frosting (recipe below)

  • Carmel Sauce (recipe below)

  • Smoked Salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a standard cupcake pan with 18 cupcake liners. Stir the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, smoked black pepper and salt into a medium-size bowl. Set the bowl aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, coffee, oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just incorporated. Add the vinegar and incorporate. Do not over mix the batter.

Fill the 18 standard cupcake cups 3/4-full and bake for 19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into each cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely.

Vanilla Bean Frosting

Yield: 2 quarts


  • 8 ounces non hydrogenated vegetable shortening (recommended: Earth Balance)

  • 8 ounces non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (recommended: Earth Balance)

  • 2 pounds 10x powdered sugar

  • Seeds from 2 vanilla beans

  • 3 teaspoons vanilla paste

  • 1/3-1/2 cup soymilk, as needed


In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip shortening and margarine until completely combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure that all ingredients are mixed thoroughly. On low speed, slowly add sugar a little at a time. Once the sugar is incorporated, add the vanilla bean seeds, vanilla paste and soymilk and mix on low until the liquids are incorporated. Scrape the bottom of the bowl, and mix on medium-high speed until all ingredients are combined and frosting is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Put the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

Caramel Sauce

Yield: 2 cups 


  • 2 cups sugar 

  • 1/2 cup water 

  • 2/3 cup soy creamer or coconut milk 

  • 2 teaspoons non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (recommended: Earth Balance)


In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, stir together sugar and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Let boil until mixture starts to turn brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir with a whisk. Add creamer and salt and continue stirring. Once bubbling stops, add margarine and whisk until melted and distributed. Let cool completely and pour into a clean squirt bottle

To assemble: Pipe a dollop of Vanilla Bean Frosting on top of each cupcake. Drizzle the top with Caramel Sauce and sprinkle with Smoked Salt to garnish.

Recipe courtesy Sticky Fingers Bakery, Cupcake Wars, 2011