The first I ever heard of adding spice to hot chocolate was when I first watched the 2000 movie, Chocolat. Juliette Binoche added so much allure and sexiness to the art of making chocolate, and I fell under the spell of chocolate whenever I watched her work her magic on the rigid townspeople.
But it took years before it actually occurred to me to try it, so last winter I made hot chocolate with a pinch of cayenne, and it really does add something special that takes it beyond just a sweet, chocolaty drink to a concoction that’s a little more mysterious.
In the same way that a pinch of salt makes sweets so much better, a little spice adds intensity to chocolate.
To create my hot chocolate cupcake, I started with a chocolate cake batter with a little cayenne and cinnamon. I thought the cayenne was a little too light, and would have liked to taste the spice more, but not knowing how other people would like it, I played it safe. My advice is to start with a little, taste the batter, and then increase to taste before baking.
After cooling the cupcakes, I scooped a little cake out of the center of each and filled them with barely sweetened whipped cream.
To top them off, I whipped up a fluffy chocolate buttercream, spiced with cinnamon and vanilla, then lightened it up by folding in more whipped cream, for a very light and airy swirl of frosting that tasted just like a creamy cup of hot chocolate.
Mini marshmallows and candy canes were the final touch.
For the photo shoot, I set up a mirrored cake stand next to our Christmas tree, and I loved how the mirror captured the reflection of the pretty lights and sparkling ornaments. I can hardly believe Christmas is less than two weeks away!
Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1 Devil’s Food Cake Mix
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup milk or buttermilk
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Filling and Chocolate Whipped Cream Buttercream:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons meringue powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 48 Mini Candy Canes
- Mini Marshmallows
Preheat oven to 375. Line pans with 24 paper cupcake liners.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cake mix, cocoa, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Add the eggs, milk, sour cream, oil and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine then on medium for 2-3 minutes, scraping the bowl down a few times, until well blended. Divide batter between the paper liners.
Bake for 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Use a cupcake corer to remove a little bit of cake out of the center of each.
Pour the whipping cream into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip for 3 minutes, then sprinkle in the ¼ cup powdered sugar. Continue whipping until medium/firm peaks form that can hold their shape. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
To make the buttercream, place the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, meringue powder and cinnamon. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix to combine. Add the vanilla and milk, then increase speed to medium/high and whip for 4-5 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally, until the buttercream is very light and fluffy.
Scoop about a cup of the whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe the cream into the center of each cupcake, filling the hole just to the top. Squeeze any whipped cream left in the piping bag back into the bowl.
Fold the remaining whipped cream into the chocolate buttercream in three additions, folding gently just until combined. Fit a piping bag with the Wilton #2D tip and fill with the whipped cream chocolate buttercream. Pipe onto the cupcakes. Garnish the frosted cupcakes with the candy canes and marshmallows.
Because the frosting contains whipped cream, cover the cupcakes and refrigerate if not eating right away. Take out of the fridge about an hour before serving.
Yields 24 cupcakes.
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen