Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hot Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes

Somebody got a shiny new cupcake display for Christmas! (This can only end with me making a different cupcake for each tier.)
Getting in the holiday spirit has been difficult the past few years because it's been far too warm in California and Texas for it to feel like Christmas. This year, I was determined to battle this by baking myself into a merry mood (and by watching the Chrismukkah episode of The O.C. as i type this). Since I received a wonderful cupcake display and cupcake corer from Alexis (who surely wins most mentions on this blog), I had no choice but to make a batch of cupcakes for our weekly Top Chef viewing (and with the cupcakes she got to take, her gift already paid for itself). Most of the recipes I saw for Christmas cupcakes were about taking simple cupcakes and decorating them with ridiculous trees or Santa faces. Since I'm not the most artistically inclined, I decided to forgo this approach and instead try to emulate a holiday staple: hot chocolate.

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Servings: 18 cupcakes
Time: 90 minutes (including filling and frosting)
Be prepared for a thin batter

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp hot chocolate mix
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
3/4 cups hot water
Mini Marshmallows
Marshmallow Cream (recipe follows)
Peppermint Marshmallow filling (recipe follows)
Chocolate Marshmallow frosting (recipe follows)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  2. Sift the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a stand mixer over medium speed.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients while mixing at low speed. This should form a thick batter. Do not overmix.
  5. Slowly add the hot water at low speed until it is just combined. This will yield a very thin batter, so do not be alarmed.
  6. Line a cupcake tin and fill the liners 2/3 full with the batter.
  7. Bake for 18-23 minutes or until the toothpick test comes out clean. Be sure to turn halfway through.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack. Once cooled remove the cores with a knife or corer and fill with peppermint marshmallow filling.
  9. Spread chocolate marshmallow frosting on top then garnish with mini marshmallows and serve with hot chocolate (preferably with more mini marshmallows).
  10. Get into the holiday spirit.

I've made quite a few chocolate cupcakes, and I'd have to say that as a cake by itself this resides toward the top. The cake was nice and moist with a hint of bounciness that I always look for. It wasn't overly dense, and it had just the right amount of chocolate to serve as the base for our hot chocolate cupcakes. One thing that I changed from the original recipe is that I substituted some of the cocoa powder with hot chocolate mix (Swiss Miss). This was a great addition, and I would definitely think about upping the ratio in its favor next time.

Marshmallow Fluff

2 large egg whites
1 1/3 cups light corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Despite the uncontrollable urge to do so, I highly discourage sticking your hand in the super sticky (and awesome) marshmallow fluff.
  1. Beat the egg whites, corn syrup and salt together over high speed using the whisk attachment until it thickens and doubles in volume (about 5 minutes).
  2. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar at low speed until fully incorporated.
  3. Add in the vanilla extract and mix.
  4. Set aside for frosting and filling.
Confession Time. I've never actually had marshmallow fluff before (unless you count sticking a peep in the microwave and eating the resulting destruction). It always seemed like the most incredible treat possible (I kind of thought of it like the filling inside the giant cookie in Honey I Shrunk the Kids), so I jumped at the chance to make my own and thus make my life complete (world's saddest bucket list done!). Despite a lifetime worth of build up, this gooey delight managed to live up to all the self-induced hype, and it served as a wonderful base for the filling and frosting (and as sugar provider while I waited for everything else to cool).

Peppermint Marshmallow Filling

1 1/2 cups marshmallow fluff (recipe above or store bought)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and chopped
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Looks shockingly like the marshmallow fluff. Maybe next time some food coloring is in order.
  1. Beat the marshmallow fluff and butter together with the whisk at medium speed until smooth.
  2. Mix in the peppermint extract. If you want it to stand out, add some red food coloring for that candy cane feel.
  3. Cover and chill for 30 minutes until slightly firm.
Brand new cupcake corer for Christmas!
A peppermint treat that doesn't taste like toothpaste. It's a Christmas miracle!
Since I got a fancy cupcake corer, I figured I should put it to use and make some cupcakes with fillings (Not that I needed a reason. You know my stance on filled cupcakes by now). I don't know if you've ever dipped a candy cane in your hot chocolate, but it's kind of awesome (and manly). I wanted to have something break up the chocolate overload that was coming from the frosting and cake, so this seemed like just the right fit. The mint comes out nicely without being overpowering or tasting like something 4 out of 5 dentists recommend. It also serves as an amazing surprise for your guests as they finish off their bite with some magnificently minty notes.

Chocolate Marshmallow Frosting

1 cup marshmallow fluff (see above)
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
4 one oz squares semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 tub Cool Whip

That's one mountain I'd like to climb. Unfortunately, after eating so many cupcakes I can no longer physically do so.
  1. Heat the fluff, marshmallows, baking chocolate and milk together in a medium saucepan over low heat stirring frequently.
  2. Let cool for 30 minutes then stir in the Cool Whip.
And now we hit marshmallow overload territory (is there even such a thing?). Marshmallows are the key to a successful hot chocolate (seriously, why do they even sell the packets without marshmallows, are they for people who hate fun? ok and understandably for vegetarians.), so they had to be a prominent player in my cupcake. Each marshmallow layer is so different, though, that you won't be bored by their three uses. This frosting elicited a harmony between the marshmallow and chocolate components that really brought home the idea of hot chocolate. It also served as a smooth transition from the filling.

I was immensely proud with the finished product (and Heather and Alexis were incredibly thankful that they know me). This accomplished everything I hoped it would to make one outstanding wintery treat that's both fun and delicious. Most importantly, however, it felt like I was dashing through the snow on a one horse open sleigh (or I think it did since really when have I ever seen enough snow to command even a zero horse sleigh) when I paired it with its namesake. If only it were a little colder in Houston so I could be curled up on the couch in several layers of blankets while enjoying this, I would be a truly happy man.
The perfect end to a hard night of baking (and start to the holidays). 
And now time for a new blog feature:

Faces of Cupcake Eaters!

Alexis looks totally natural.
Heather shows us how it's done.
I find the cross-eyed approach works best (just like in baseball, always keep your eyes on the cupcake). Ladies, feel free to leave your phone number in the comments after seeing this hot pic.
And in case you have extra marshmallows, here's some advice on how to use them (and how to be a full fledged adult) from Parks and Rec:

Have a Happy Holiday! Stay tuned for more exciting adventures of My Mess Their Kitchen from my original training field- my sister's kitchen (L.A. here I come).

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