Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes are a riff on my favorite winter beverage. Warm, creamy hot chocolate spiked with a splash of peppermint schnapps turned into bite-sized cupcakes. Perfect for holiday parties or sharing with friends and neighbors.
I stuff my feet down into my boots, with two pairs of thick socks and grab my heaviest winter coat. My sock monkey hat on my head, gloves shoved in my pockets and scarf slung over my shoulder ready to protect my face from the biting, bitter cold that awaits outside my door.
A splash of peppermint schnapps in my cup, topped with hot chocolate from the pot on the stove and I’m ready. Camera in one hand, boozy cocoa in the other. This is Christmas Eve.
Every year, I would trek out in the very late night hours around my neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights. Our neighborhood was infamous. People came from all over to tour the houses, photographing nearly every single one… And I lived there. I would wait until the throngs of people no longer blocked every inch of sidewalk, the crowds had all gone home, the tour buses no longer clogging up the streets. I waited. Finally, when the night was quiet and the only sound was the snow and ice crunching under my boots, I made my annual rounds.
There was some sense of comfort in that routine. The houses were always decorated the same, there were no surprises except for the occasional addition to an already existing display. I knew every house, and had planned my route accordingly to hit my favorites.
There was a house just up the street that wasn’t as flashy as some of the others, nor as big, but something about it drew me in year after year. I would stand outside their gate and gaze, getting lost in the soft green glow of lights. It was beautiful. Everywhere else, the houses were over the top, entire Christmas scenes, characters from books, cartoon figures coming to life shouting “Merry Christmas” from speakers hidden in trees. This house was simply decorated in green lights, but they were everywhere. It was breathtaking. In the sea of larger than life displays, loud music and strobe lights, this house offered a calm and quiet place to lose oneself in the beauty of glowing lights and the silence of the wee hours of the night.
Spending my first Christmas in Florida has been quite a change for me. There are no neighborhoods like my old one in Brooklyn, no more boots and heavy winter coat. Christmas shopping in shorts and flip-flops feels a bit strange to me and while I have never been a fan of winter, there is something about getting bundled up to look at Christmas lights that has always appealed to me. The crispness in the air, seeing your breath as you exhale, cold cheeks and red nose, that feeling of shedding the boots and coat, coated with snow by the kitchen door… I am lucky to have had it, I loved those quiet moments by myself taking snapshots of my neighborhood.
Of course I will still have my “schnappsy cocoa” this year, but those flavors are also going into these little cupcakes. Perfect for packing up and taking to friends or snacking in the car while driving around to discover new favorite houses.
For the Cupcake
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 oz (dutch-processed)
- 3/4 cup brewed coffee, hot
- 3/4 cup bread flour, 4 1/8 oz (I used King Arthur)
- 3/4 cup sugar, 5 1/4 oz
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla
For the Peppermint Buttercream
- 4 extra large eggs whites
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 sticks room-temp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp pure peppermint extract
- Garnish: crushed candy cane, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, etc.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
- Place chopped chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl and pour hot coffee over mixture. Let it sit for about 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth and chocolate has completely melted. Set bowl in refrigerator to cool.
- Whisk flour, sugar, salt and baking soda together in medium bowl. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into cooled chocolate mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Using a scoop, divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, bake until just set. For minis: about 10 minutes, regular size roughly 18 minutes.
- Let cupcakes cool in tin for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Place egg whites and sugar in a bowl that will fit snugly on top of a pot of simmering water. The water must not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk egg whites and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Transfer egg mixture to bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment and whisk until you have stiff, glossy peaks. Slowly add in small pieces of butter, making sure they are fully incorporated before adding in more. If the mixture looks like it is breaking and curdling, fear not... Keep beating, it will fluff up in no time. Add vanilla and peppermint extracts and continue whipping until buttercream is fluffy.
Dip mini marshmallows in melted chocolate, then roll in crushed candy cane for a cute garnish to use for cupcakes and peppermint hot chocolate.
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