Hot Cocoa Cupcakes | December 1, 2016

Holiday baking blew into my kitchen this weekend like a strong wind. I usually take a longer transition between Thanksgiving and Christmas but this year I jumped right in! It was a cold, damp weekend in Seattle and that definitely helped fuel my festive, holiday baking mood.

I saw these cute cupcakes on Pinterest, where all cute ideas live, and decided I really needed Hot Chocolate cupcakes in my life.  There are two essential elements to these cupcakes being irresistible.  One, the cupcake liners really make these look festive as well as mug-like. Secondly, the marshmallow frosting continues the illusion of light, creamy whipped cream. It is glossy, fluffy, and gooey. I used vanilla flavoring in the frosting but you could also pop a little bit of peppermint oil and a drop of pink food coloring to make pink peppermint cupcakes, which would be a big hit as well. The little candy canes make an excellent mug handle and a tasty peppermint crunch.

For the cupcakes, I used my favorite Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe but decide to see if I could impart the Hot Cocoa flavor, by actually making hot cocoa using the 1 cup of milk called for in the recipe.  I thought that the scaled milk would make a difference. It didn’t; if I close my eyes and use my imagination, just maybe I can taste it. Regardless, the cake was moist, deeply cocoa-y, and airy. Perfect.

Be patient with the frosting. I still have not totally mastered it. It isn’t difficult but it does take time and an attention span that I lack. Make sure you have stiff peaks otherwise your frosting won’t hold up.  I used a piping bag to make the swirls on the top of the cupcakes. This frosting it STICKY so the pastry bag and warm water nearby are necessary. One thing I like about this frosting is that it is very smooth and strangely not too sweet.  It complements the cocoa cupcakes really nicely.

Best of all, these adorable little cupcakes of cocoa have put me in the holiday spirit which still feels magical to me.  There is much more baking to be done; gift guides to be curated, trees to decorate with small spatula heads, and secret Santa gifts to wrap.


YIELDS 16  |  PREP TIME  1 hour, 15 minutes  |  PRINT PDF



2 cups sugar

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk + ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa (boil milk and stir in cocoa until dissolved)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use Olive Oil)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup warm water


1 3/4 cups sugar

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

16 mini candy canes



Heat oven to 350°F.

  1. Stir together sugar, flour, ½ cup cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, oil, vanilla, and water.  Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the milk (about 2 minutes) add ¼ cup cocoa and stir until cocoa is dissolved.
  2. Add to mixing bowl slowly while mixer is on low until incorporated then beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Batter will be thin. Pour batter into prepared liners.


Prepare the frosting: In a large heatproof bowl, combine sugar, 1/4 cup water, egg whites, and cream of tartar. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Beat on high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12 minutes; frosting should register 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla, and beat for 2 minutes more until frosting thickens.