These Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes are delicious at any time of the year, but they’re dressed to impress for the holiday season! The combination of a rich chocolate cupcake base, peppermint buttercream frosting, and crushed candy canes make them impossible to resist.
One of the things I love most about baking is how the flavors change through the seasons. Because while you can certainly eat cupcakes year round — and I do! — you’re probably more likely to enjoy a strawberry cupcake in the summer and a chocolate peppermint cupcake in the winter. Not that there are really rules about these things. Buuuuut while I am not a fan of the cold — seat heaters are a must in my car and I live in Los Angeles – winter flavors are some of my favorite. Gingerbread, chai, and cardamom are tops, but the combo of chocolate and peppermint is really where it’s at.
Back when I lived in New York (where it was actually cold, versus LA cold, which trust me is plenty chilly), I used to have a habit of going to Starbucks almost every day in December and getting a Peppermint Mocha Latte after work or on my lunch hour. I think one day I got two of them! Then, I’d wander around the city, admiring the lights. New York is pretty magical in December. These Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes remind me of those days.
But, not only do these peppermint cupcakes remind me of one of my favorite NYC moments, they also combine two of my favorite flavors, and have a great texture. Because you mix crushed candy cane into the frosting and top it with a little extra, in every bite you get the rich, pillowy chocolate cake, luscious peppermint-studded buttercream frosting, and crunchy peppermint candy cane sprinkles.
How to Make Peppermint Cupcakes
For these Peppermint Cupcakes, I like to use my favorite Chocolate Cupcake recipe for the base, but you can use any cupcake recipe that you love. (You could even use a box cupcake mix if you’re really in a hurry.) If you don’t like chocolate cake, swap in vanilla! But, I would, however, caution against using a cupcake recipe that has an intense flavor profile (like gingerbread), since you want something that will complement, not compete with, the peppermint.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and place 24 liners in two cupcake pans. I think the red and white liners look pretty against the chocolate brown of the cupcake and the candy cane peppermint frosting, but if you can’t find them, don’t stress.
The trickiest part of making these peppermint cupcakes is timing the chocolate cupcake base properly. I’ve made this cupcake base at least 100 times and I can tell you timing matters. Like, really matters. Like, you’re going to end up with sunken or flat cupcakes if you don’t follow the timing. But, follow it (and make sure your oven temp is accurate) and you should be good to go!
First, place all of the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl of your stand mixer (this KitchenAid mixer is my go-to. It’s one of their mid-range ones and I’ve been using it regularly for more than two decades). Simply add the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder to the bowl. Don’t mix or stir them.
Then, place one ounce (about 2 tablespoons) of chocolate (I prefer the 53% dark, but milk is ok) in a small bowl and set aside. Boil about a cup of water on the stove. You’re only going to use three ounces, but some will boil off and this will give you enough. Once the water is boiling, carefully measure 3 fluid ounces and pour it on top of the chocolate. Whisk the two together until the chocolate and water have combined. Set this aside.
Next, whisk together the egg, vanilla extract, buttermilk, and vegetable oil in a medium bowl. Set this aside.
Ok, are all your ingredients prepped and ready? Let’s make some chocolate peppermint cupcakes!
Set the timer for two minutes and turn the mixer on on low speed. When the timer goes off, stop the mixer. Set the timer for another two minutes. Turn the mixer on low speed and immediately add the chocolate. Then immediately add the egg mixture. When the timer goes off, stop the mixer. Scrape down the sides to make sure everything has combined.
Use a size 12 disher or a 1/4 cup measuring cup and fill your cupcake liners. The chocolate batter will be very liquidy. This is normal. Bake the cupcakes for 24 minutes or until they bounce back just slightly when you touch the tops. Remove and let cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove liners from cupcake tins and let cool fully on the cooling rack.
How to Make Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
To make the Peppermint Buttercream Frosting, combine 1/2 cup room temperature butter with 3 cups of powdered sugar and let the mixer run on high until it looks like small pebbles. Then, reduce the speed and add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Add one tablespoon of milk at a time, until the mixture looks fluffy. Add the crushed candy cane and let it all come together. Taste the mixture to see if it needs more peppermint.
I used 1/2 teaspoon of the Nielsen-Massey peppermint extract in my Peppermint Buttercream Frosting, but how much you add really depends on your palate and the intensity of the extract you use. If you find the mixture is too dry, add a little more milk. Too wet? Add a little more powdered sugar until it’s just right.
Once the Peppermint Cupcake bases have fully cooled, top each with a swirl of peppermint buttercream frosting using an open star tip, and sprinkle more crushed candy cane on top. If you really want to go for it, add a shard of Chocolate Peppermint Bark and a drizzle of dark chocolate.
Rich dark chocolate, fluffy peppermint buttercream frosting, and crushed candy canes combine to create a festive holiday dessert!
Peppermint Cupcake Batter
- 1 cup sugar
- 4.1 ounces all-purpose flour or just shy of 1 cup
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. coarse kosher salt
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 Tbsp. chocolate chips
- 3 fl. oz. boiling water
Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup butter room temperature
- ½ tsp. peppermint extract add more as needed to taste
- 1 Tbsp. whole milk
- ¼ tsp. peppermint extract
- ¼ cup + 1 cane crushed candy canes divided
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake tin with 12 cupcake liners.
Place sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder in bowl of stand mixer. Set aside.
Whisk egg, buttermilk, vanilla, and oil together in medium bowl. Set aside.
Place chocolate chips in small bowl. Bring one cup of water to boil and pour 3 fl. oz. over chocolate chips. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
Set timer for 2 minutes. Turn stand mixer on low. Stop when timer beeps.
Set timer for 2 minutes. Turn stand mixer on low. Add egg mixture and chocolate mixture. Stop when timer beeps.
Use ¼ cup scoop or measuring cup to fill cupcake liners with cupcake batter.
Bake for 24 minutes or until tops bounce back slightly when touched.
Peppermint Buttercream Frosting
Add butter to mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar. Cover bowl.
Turn speed to medium and mix until mixture looks like pebbles.
Add peppermint extract and milk. Turn speed to high.
- Add ¼ cup crushed candy canes.
- Add powdered sugar and/or milk as needed until you reach desired consistency. Add additional extract if needed.
Use open star tip to decorate peppermint cupcakes with peppermint buttercream frosting. Top each with remaining crushed candy cane.
Here are a few more delicious peppermint dessert recipes to try this holiday season!
Peppermint Bark Crepe Cake – i am a food blog
Peppermint Oreo Truffles – Just Add Sprinkles
Homemade Peppermint Patties – Dinner at the Zoo
Instant Pot White Chocolate Peppermint Cheesecake – Simply Happy Foodie
White Chocolate Candy Cane Macarons – The Little Blog of Vegan