Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Rich, moist and spicy chocolate cupcakes topped with a cloud of whipped cream frosting. Have your cake and cocoa, too!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 90 minutes (includes cooling time)
Yields: 12 cupcakes
Calories: 270 per frosted cupcake
Happy Eve-of-Christmas Eve! What’re your plans for the holiday? We’re doing a laid-back all-day PJ, bottomless hot cocoa sort of affair this year, and I could not be more excited. We are getting fancy with dinner—Cornish hens and all the usual comfort food fixings, finished off with baked pears. How about you? Let me know what cooking or baking hijinks you’re getting up to this holiday season!
These cupcakes are a long time coming. My first brush with Mexican hot chocolate was Nestle’s Abuelita (who could resist that charming granny on the label? She manages to be warm, sarcastic and mischievous all at the same time). I don’t remember if it was any good, but I do remember being tickled by the combination of cinnamon and chocolate—I had never had the two together, and thought it was a fine match.
Then, this summer my friend invited me to her cat’s quinceañera* and I pondered what food offering I should bring to the event. I remembered Mexican hot chocolate (it’s on my short list of recipes to master), but discarded it, since hot chocolate and hot weather don’t exactly mix.
*Yep. A Latin American debutante party for a cat. I would’ve been totally opposed to the idea (imagining how my own derpy, spastic cat would react to a house full of people, with her the theoretical center of attention…it would not be pretty) but the feline in question was a perfectly gracious hostess—she even wore a dress for the entire event (!) and was as chill as if she did this all the time. Except when someone gifted her with a kitty kibble rosary, which she immediately tried to eat.
After discarding a few other ideas, it occurred to me: why not give Mexican hot chocolate a cupcake spin? With a light, airy whipped cream frosting to balance out the richness of the cake? Seemed like a fine idea, and after some substantial tinkering, this recipe was the result.
The cupcakes themselves are nuggets of intense flavor—sweetened with a dark and mysterious combo of brown sugar and molasses and infused with the warming power of cinnamon, chili powder and a hint of sriracha—these things pack a delicious punch. One thing that I discovered to be critical—melting the brown sugar into the molasses and butter. My usual standby for a tender cake is melted butter, but I found that the cupcakes were dense and dry without also melting the brown sugar. It may take longer, but this step is worth it!
Whipped cream frosting serves the double purpose of nicely falling in with our hot chocolate theme and complementing the sinful intensity of the cupcakes. It comes together very easily; just make sure that your cream is chilled to start. If your home is also very warm, you can chill your beater(s) and mixing bowl, but I generally don’t bother doing that and my whipped creations don’t seem to have suffered for it!
Set oven to 325 F | 165 C | Gas Mark 3 to preheat. Line or grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.
Place a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Add 150 g (3/4 cup, packed) brown sugar, 120 g (1/2 cup) molasses, 60 g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon chili powder and 1/8 teaspoon sriracha.
Heat until the brown sugar has dissolved, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and allow to cool to warm room temperature
While the molasses mixture is cooling, in a medium mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together 120 g (1 cup) all-purpose flour, 40 g (1/2 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder, ¾ teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Set aside.
With your mixer running at medium speed (4 on stand mixer), add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to the cooled molasses mixture.
Add 1 egg and beat for 1 minute. Add a second egg and beat for another minute, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
With the mixer running at its lowest speed, alternate adding the flour mixture and 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until flour is fully incorporated, but not beyond that.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. A large piping bag (or gallon zip-top bag with a corner cup off) can make this task easier.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly.
Allow to cool in muffin pan on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes before popping the cupcakes out. Allow to cool completely before icing them.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat 240 ml (1 cup) heavy whipping cream on medium-high speed until frothy, about 30 seconds.
With the mixer off, add 80 g (2/3 cup) confectioners’ sugar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Beat on low at first until the confectioners’ sugar is mostly combined, then turn up to medium-high, beating until stiff peaks form, about 1 to 2 minutes more
Frost the cooled cupcakes. Optionally dust with cinnamon