Peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes are bittersweet chocolate cupcakes topped with a smooth and fluffy peppermint Swiss meringue buttercream. It is a dreamy little cupcake perfect for the holiday season. The cupcake batter is mixed up in a bowl – no mixer required! Perfect for holiday parties or sharing with friends and neighbors, these peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes are a hit with kids and grownups alike.
I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.
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Why you should make this recipe
- Quick & easy – This cupcake recipe is mixed up by hand, no need for an electric mixer, and the cupcakes are ready in about 30 minutes.
- Make ahead – You can make the cupcakes ahead of time and freeze them. Then, defrost and cover with buttercream when you are ready to serve.
- Perfect for holidays – The peppermint buttercream frosting is the perfect wintery topping for these chocolate cupcakes, and everyone loves the mint + chocolate combination.
Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
These festive little cupcakes have been a holiday staple in my house for over a decade. I started making them to pair with my peppermint hot chocolate years ago. My old neighborhood was known for Christmas lights. We’d walk around the neighborhood, admiring the displays, bundled up from head to toe to brave the bitter cold. Then come home for hot cocoa and cupcakes. It’s a great holiday tradition.
I served mini versions of this cupcake at holiday parties when I had my catering company, and they were always a huge hit. No one can resist a perfectly chocolatey cupcake topped with fluffy peppermint buttercream!
This recipe is a version of a chocolate cupcake from Cook’s Illustrated. The ingredients are common pantry items and the recipe comes together very quickly.
- Bread flour – Higher protein content allows more chocolate to be packed into the cupcake. I suggest using a food scale where possible. It is a more accurate way to measure.
- Baking soda – Provides lift, so the cupcakes rise.
- Sugar – The cupcakes are not overly sweet, it’s the perfect amount of sugar.
- Cocoa powder – Dutch-process cocoa powder is smoother and earthier than natural cocoa.
- Dark chocolate – A chopped chocolate bar (I used a 70% Lindt chocolate bar) works perfectly here.
- Oil – Choose a neutral oil without a strong flavor, like canola, grapeseed or vegetable.
- Eggs – Eggs provide moisture and structure.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla gives baked goods an unmistakable flavor.
- Coffee – Coffee makes chocolate taste more chocolatey. It turns up the volume on the flavor.
- Substitutions: Instant espresso powder is a terrific substitute for brewed coffee.
How to make
Here’s a quick summary of how to make peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes. Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe.
- Prep – Preheat oven to 350°F // 180°C. Whisk dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Melt chocolate with cocoa powder and hot coffee. When the chocolate has melted, whisk wet ingredients together.
- Combine – Next, add flour into wet ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Scoop – Then, use a 2 ounce scoop (1/4 cup) to portion cupcake batter evenly into paper liners. Fill 2/3 full.
- Bake – Bake the cupcakes until they are just set, 16 – 18 minutes.
This is the scale that I own and use daily. It is easy to use, plus it measures in pounds, ounces and grams.
Measuring ingredients by weight, ESPECIALLY in baking, is much more accurate than cup measurement.
Peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes FAQ’s
Yes, you can. You can make them up to 3 months ahead of time, and store the cupcakes in an airtight container in the freezer. Cupcakes freeze very well. Do not freeze with decorations – the color will bleed.
If properly stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they will last for 3 – 5 days.
If you plan to serve the cupcakes right away, no. However, because the buttercream has dairy in it, I suggest storing them in the refrigerator to extend the life of them.
Variations and substitutions
- Pink peppermint – Add a small amount of red food coloring to tint the frosting light pink.
- Spicy – Add a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne pepper to make them into Mexican chocolate cupcakes.
- Peppermint marshmallow frosting – Make my easy peppermint buttercream frosting replacing half of the powdered sugar with 7 ounces of marshmallow Fluff.
You can find all of my Christmas recipes in one place. But here are a few of our favorite holiday drinks to enjoy with these cupcakes.
- Grownups can enjoy a mug of homemade peppermint hot chocolate with these tasty treats to make the holidays extra jolly. You can omit the alcohol to make it kid-friendly.
- A Tom & Jerry is a delicious adult beverage that also pairs nicely with these cupcakes.
- If you’re into a cold cocktail, try my cranberry rosé spritzer.
Helpful tools and equipment
- I use a 2 ounce scoop to portion the cupcake batter.
- These foil cupcake liners come in a variety of colors.
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For the Cupcake
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder // 28g
- 3/4 cup brewed coffee (hot) // 180ml
- 3/4 cup bread flour // 90g
- 3/4 cup sugar // 150g
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil // 80ml
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
For the Peppermint Swiss meringue buttercream (*See note)
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar // 200g
- 3 sticks unsalted butter // 339g, room temperature
- 1 tsp. pure peppermint extract
- pinch of salt
- Garnish: crushed candy cane, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, etc.
Make the cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C degrees and line muffin tin with paper or foil liners.
- Place chopped chocolate and cocoa in a large mixing bowl and pour hot coffee over mixture. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth and chocolate has completely melted. Set bowl aside 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, then add flour mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Using a 2 ounce scoop (1/4 cup), divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, filling 2/3 full.
- Bake until just set, 16 - 18 minutes.
- Let cupcakes cool in tin for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
- Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl that will fit snugly on top of a pot of gently simmering water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl.
- Whisk egg whites and sugar together until the sugar is completely dissolved. (I check this by rubbing the mixture between my thumb and finger - if it's smooth, it's done. If I still feel grains of sugar, it needs to cook longer)
- Let the sugar mixture cool slightly, then transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, and whisk until you have room temperature stiff, glossy peaks.
- Slowly add in small pieces of softened butter, making sure each piece is fully incorporated before adding in more. Add peppermint extract and continue whipping until buttercream is light and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag, or a zip-top bag to frost cupcakes.
If you prefer not to make a Swiss meringue buttercream, here is a recipe for an easy American-style peppermint buttercream frosting.
- Cute garnish idea: Dip mini marshmallows in melted chocolate, then roll in crushed candy cane to top cupcakes and peppermint hot chocolate.
Swiss meringue buttercream tips
- Do not add butter to mixture until it has cooled to room temperature.
- Make sure butter is not cold. It needs to be room temperature.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 370Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 130mgSodium: 352mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 2gSugar: 31gProtein: 6g
Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.
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Originally published December 2014, most recent update 12/7/23.