These rich, dark chocolate cupcakes are made with real hot cocoa in the batter and topped with a snow white swirl of fluffy peppermint frosting. Sprinkled with crushed candy canes, these fun and festive peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes are the perfect last-minute holiday treat!
This post is sponsored by C&H® Sugar. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Browned Butter Blondie possible.
Just three more sleeps until Christmas and we may not really NEED another holiday dessert, but one more can’t hurt, right. More is always better, especially at Christmas. Anything chocolate and peppermint is always a winner in my book and if you too are a fan of this quintessential holiday duo, you’ll definitely want to keep reading.
Why you’ll love these cupcakes
- Easy to make. These peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes come together in about an hour with ingredients you probably already have on hand. The perfect last-minute holiday treat!
- 10 out of 10 for taste and texture. The cupcakes are made with melted chocolate, oil, eggs and sour cream which makes these cupcakes ultra chocolatey and incredibly moist. These might just be the best chocolate cupcakes I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.
- Make ahead. Serving up dessert has never been easier. You can freeze the cupcakes unfrosted for up to 30 days. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and frost just before serving.
- A delicious holiday treat. These easy, festive cupcakes feed a crowd and everyone will love the chocolate + peppermint combo. I can’t think of a sweeter way to celebrate the holidays.
Ingredients you need for hot chocolate cupcakes
This recipe calls for all the usual ingredients for chocolate cupcakes plus peppermint extract and candy canes. Here’s what you’ll need…
- Flour. We’re using regular all-purpose flour for this recipe. I highly recommend measuring the flour with a kitchen scale. Too much flour is the reason many recipes fail. If you don’t have a digital kitchen scale, use the spoon and level method to measure the flour.
- Eggs. Two eggs give these cupcakes flavor and moisture. For best results, make sure your eggs and sour cream are both at room temperature before mixing the batter.
- Sugar. These cupcakes get all their sweetness and flavor thanks to C&H® Granulated Sugar. It makes the cake extra soft and fluffy and helps create a light and airy Swiss meringue frosting that swirls like a dream. I’ve been using C&H® Sugar ever since I was a kid, baking chocolate chip cookies with my mom after school. If a recipe calls for sugar, I reach for C&H. Now, in my own kitchen, my pantry is always stocked with C&H® Granulated Sugar so that I can whip up my favorite baked goods at a moment’s notice. And I love that I can order C&H® Sugar for delivery to my doorstep through Amazon or Chicory. Use the “Get Ingredients” tab on the C&H® site to order the ingredients for this recipe and select pickup or delivery. It’s that easy!
- Chocolate. Melted chocolate gives these cupcakes a rich, fudgy flavor and adds moisture. For a not-to-sweet cupcake, use bittersweet or dark chocolate. If you prefer a sweeter cupcake, go for semi-sweet chocolate.
- Cocoa powder. We’re using Dutch process cocoa powder to give the cupcakes a rich, dark chocolate flavor that pairs perfectly with the peppermint frosting. Always sift your cocoa powder before mixing it into the batter.
- Baking soda. Just a pinch helps give the cupcakes texture and rise.
- Peppermint extract. A little goes a long way here. Make sure to use real peppermint extract, not “mint” extract.
- Candy canes. Leave them whole, crush them with a rolling pin or crumble them to tiny bits in a food processor. Whatever you do, don’t leave off the candy canes. They add a delightful pop of peppermint that makes these cupcakes so very holiday-ish.
How to make chocolate cupcakes
These cupcakes are my favorite Christmastime dessert because they stay moist for days, are ready in under an hour and talk about a crowd pleaser! This is a pretty straightforward recipe but let’s walk through it step-by-step before you get started.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
Step 2: Melt the chocolate over a double boiler (or use the microwave at 50% power in 30 second increments) until smooth and shiny. Set aside to cool slightly.
Step 3: Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
Step 4: In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and C&H® Granulated Sugar until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
Step 5: Stir in the melted chocolate, followed by the sour cream. Whisk until completely combined.
Step 6: Using a spatula, fold in half of the flour mixture. Add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing only until a few streaks of flour remain. Add the hot cocoa (it should be almost boiling) and stir until combined. Do not over mix.
Step 7: Use a cookie scoop or ¼ measuring cup to divide the batter evenly in the prepared muffin pan. Fill the liners about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 17 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with a few crumbs remaining. Remove the pan from the oven and cool completely before frosting.
How to make the best peppermint frosting
True story. I used to be T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E at making Swiss meringue buttercream. Somehow, someway, I managed to fail every single time. But, like everything else, practice makes perfect and I’m here to tell you that Swiss meringue is not nearly as intimidating as it might seem. Here’s a few tips and tricks to help you ace it on the first try:
- Wipe down the bowl and whisk. Before you add any egg whites and C&H® Granulated Sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer, wipe both the bowl and the whisk attachment with lemon juice or vinegar. The acid helps to remove any fat or grease on the surfaces which will ruin your buttercream before you even get started.
- Heat the eggs and sugar to 150°F. Use a candy thermometer or instant read thermometer to test the temperature of the eggs as they heat over a double boiler. We want the sugar to dissolve in the eggs – if you test this with your fingers the mixture should feel smooth, not gritty.
- Beat until stiff peaks form. And when I say stiff, I mean STIFF. The meringue should stand upright when the whisk attachment is inverted. This can take between 7 and 15 minutes. Don’t rush this step or your meringue will not set up properly once the butter is added.
- When in doubt, keep on mixing. Once you’ve added the butter to the meringue, you might notice the mixture become soupy or curdled. Not to worry. Continue beating the frosting on medium high speed and 9 times out of 10 it will come back together. I’ve often been seconds away from throwing in the towel and suddenly the buttercream reaches the perfect light and airy consistency. It’s a thing of magic!
Tips for perfect cupcakes
These peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes are so easy to make, they’re practically foolproof. Just follow these tips:
- Use room temperature ingredients. Always use room temperature ingredients when mixing cake or cupcake batter. Set your eggs and sour cream out an hour or two before baking. To warm your eggs in a hurry, place them in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes.
- Do not over mix. Cake batter needs a light hand so don’t be tempted to over mix. A few lumps is okay.
- Fill the cupcake liners 2/3rds full. This rule is not meant to be broken friends. If the cupcake liners are filled too high, the batter will rise up and spread over the top of the pan. For perfectly domed cupcake tops, only fill 2/3 of the way.
- Cool completely before frosting. This might just be the hardest part about making these cupcakes. But cool buttercream and warm cupcakes don’t mix. Be sure to cool them completely before swirling the frosting on top. This should take about 45 minutes. In a hurry? Pop them in the refrigerator for a few minutes to speed things along.
Absolutely. Simply double the recipe and bake it in 3 8-inch rounds. I would also double the frosting recipe so you have plenty to add between each layer. More is always better when it comes to frosting, I always say.
I love the flavor of these cupcakes and I know you will too – the hot cocoa makes them extra chocolatey and super moist. If you don’t have hot cocoa on hand, you can substitute with ½ cup freshly brewed espresso or strong coffee for more of a mocha flavor. Feel free to use plain hot water but don’t omit the hot liquid completely as it will alter the taste and texture of the cupcakes.
Yes! I love keeping a stash of ready-made cupcakes in the freezer. That way I can just defrost them before guests arrive and whip up a batch of frosting at the last minute. To freeze the cupcakes, cool completely and then place them in a large freezer bag or container and freeze flat for up to 30 days. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator or leave out at room temperature for an hour before frosting.
Sour cream is my favorite secret ingredient when making chocolate cake – it gives it great flavor and makes the cake extra moist. If you don’t have sour cream, use full fat Greek yogurt.
Of course! If you prefer the sweeter flavor of American buttercream it’s an easy swap. Check out this recipe and substitute the vanilla extract for peppermint. The recipe calls for 3 cups of C&H® Confectioners Sugar. For a silky smooth frosting, don’t forget to use room temperature butter and always sift the powdered sugar before mixing.
I hope you’ll spread some holiday cheer with a batch or two of these Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes. They’re incredibly good with a cup of hot cocoa or a tall glass of milk.
Happy Holidays and happy baking!
Looking for more festive holiday desserts? You’ll love these recipes:
- Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies
- Peppermint Brownie Cookies
- Christmas Sugar Cookie Bars
- Double Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake
- Almond Toffee
Rich, dark chocolate cupcakes made with real hot cocoa and topped with a snow white swirl of fluffy peppermint frosting. Sprinkled with crushed candy canes, these fun and festive cupcakes are the perfect last-minute holiday treat!
- 2 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/4 cup (30 g) Dutch process cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup canola (vegetable) oil
- 1 cup (200 g) C&H Granulated Sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup sour cream (or Greek yogurt), room temperature
- 1/2 cup hot cocoa, made with hot water
Peppermint Swiss Meringue
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 1 cup (200 g) C&H Granulated Sugar
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, softened but still slightly cold
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 cup crushed candy canes, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
- Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. To make a double boiler, fill a small pot with 2 to 3 inches of water. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Do not boil. Top with a heat-safe bowl and add the chopped chocolate. Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate until smooth and shiny. Carefully remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine well.
- n a separate bowl, whisk together the oil and C&H granulated sugar to combine. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to combine well.
- Stir in the melted chocolate followed by the sour cream.
- Add one half of the dry ingredients and use a large spatula to fold it into the oil and egg mixture. Add the remaining dry ingredients and continue folding to combine, stopping when a few streaks of flour remain.
- Add the hot chocolate (it should be almost boiling). Using a spatula, mix to combine until the liquid is incorporated. Do not over mix.
- The batter will be a bit thick. For best results, use a large cookie scoop or measuring cup to transfer the batter into the prepared cupcake liners. Fill each liner ⅔ full. Do not over fill.
- Bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean or with a few crumbs remaining. Do not over bake. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
- To make the swiss meringue frosting, prepare your mixing bowl by wiping down the bowl and the whisk attachment with vinegar (or lemon juice). Be sure that there is no grease or fat on the bowl or whisk or the meringue will not come together properly.
- Separate the eggs and add 4 egg whites to the clean mixer bowl. Make sure there are no yolks. Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk to combine.
- Whisking often, heat the eggs and sugar over a double boiler on medium heat for about 6-10 minutes, or until the mixture reaches 150°F. Carefully remove the bowl from the heat and wipe away the moisture on the bottom of the mixing bowl.
- Set the bowl on the stand mixer and whisk on high speed for 7 to 10 minutes. The meringue is ready when the bowl is cool to the touch and you can invert the whisk attachment and the meringue stays upright. If the meringue droops on the end of the whisk attachment, continue mixing for another 2 minutes and test again.
- Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter to the mixer one tablespoon at a time. Allow about 30 seconds between each addition to let the butter incorporate. Once all the butter has been added, increase the speed to medium high and beat until the meringue is smooth and fluffy.
- Add the peppermint extract and pinch of salt. Mix for one minute more.
- To assemble the cupcakes, transfer the peppermint swiss meringue into a large piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Swirl the frosting onto the tops of the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes or sprinkles.
If the meringue becomes soupy or curdles while mixing, continue mixing on high speed until the mixture comes back together.
Make sure cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting.
Store cupcakes tightly covered in a cool, dry place for 3 days. May be frozen.