How to Make Festive Holiday Wonderland Chocolate Cupcakes

holiday themed cupcakes

Christmas has been a difficult time for us for the past few years. Once again my daughter is going through difficulty with her mental health. Yet again I find myself helpless to fix it no matter how hard I try. This year is the first that I am unable to call my grandma to wish her “Happy Holidays”.

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The memories of the frantic drive to Ohio last year to visit her in the hospital linger fresh in my mind. Needless to say, I’m doing everything I can to make sure this holiday season is a good one in our house. These easy holiday cupcakes were a great way to bring a little cheer to our house. They are also a fun way to celebrate the beginning of Christmas break. They come together in no time and parts can be made days ahead to assemble together in an afternoon.


holiday themed cupcakes

Holiday Chocolate Cupcakes

These cupcakes come together with my standard chocolate cupcake recipe as the base. You can use a boxed mix if you prefer. I used a standard American buttercream as the icing and topped with sparkling sugar.  
I piped green candy melts over pretzel sticks using a decorating bag to make the trees. A few of the trees are topped with sprinkles to make them a little more festive. I also grabbed a package of snowman marshmallow candies to add a little more color and holiday fun.
If you don’t have a lot of time ( because let’s face it, it’s the holidays) you can make a few things ahead of time. When you are ready you can assemble all of the parts in no time.
The trees will need to set for a while. You can make them ahead of time or use your freezer to help speed things up. Generally, you want to give them at least 45 minutes to an hour for the candy melts to harden.
The cupcakes should be completely cooled before icing. This helps in two ways. One, the icing won’t melt off of your cupcakes. Two, it can help to keep your cupcakes a little sturdier while you are decorating them. Warm cupcakes tend to be a little more crumbly than ones that have cooled completely.
holiday themed cupcakes

Winter Wonderland Holiday Cupcake Recipe

You can make these cupcakes easier by choosing a boxed cake mix to use. The recipe used is the cupcake base for our Wilbur the pig cupcakes with a few simple changes. You can leave the baker’s chocolate and instant coffee out if you want. They will still make the best chocolate cupcakes for holiday decorating.


1/2 C pure cane sugar

1/2 C date sugar (or brown sugar) 

1/3 C coconut oil 

2 oz baking chocolate, melted 

2 eggs 

1/2 tsp vanilla extract 

3/4 C organic flour (or any all-purpose flour) 

1/2 C cocoa powder 

1/2 – 1 tsp instant coffee (vary to taste) 

1/2 tsp baking soda 

1/4 tsp salt 

For the Icing:

1/2 C unsalted butter, softened 

1/2 shortening 

1/2 tsp vanilla 

4-5 C powdered sugar 

holiday themed cupcakes


Combine the sugars and coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add in eggs one at a time and blend until combined. Add vanilla and blend. Pour melted chocolate into sugar mixture and blend until fully combined. 

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and instant coffee. Whisk briefly just to get everything all mixed together. 

Turn stand mixer to low and slowly pour flour mixture into the sugar mixture. Blend until just combined. 

Add 2 Tbsp of batter to each cup of lined cupcake tins. You should be able to get about 24 cupcakes out of this mixture. Bake at 350 for 20 to 22 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of a cupcake at the 20-minute mark. If it comes out clean they are done. If not, give them a few more minutes and check again. 

Cool cupcakes in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to rack. Let cupcakes cool completely before doing anything else with them. Never, ever work with still-warm cupcakes. I know, it’s tough to wait and you’re impatient. They will come out so much better if you give them the time to cool. I promise! 

While you’re waiting you can start on your trees or your icing. You choose. If you already made your trees ahead of time you might as well get started on the icing! Now, you can just buy icing. No judgment here. Icing can be a real pain in the arse to make sometimes and if it’s the holidays time is something you probably have very little of. 

holiday themed cupcakes

If you are making your own icing now is the time to throw your butter and shortening into the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix until completely combined and smooth.

Toss the vanilla extract in. Up to 1/2 tsp, maybe a little more maybe a little less. You can use as little or as much as you want here, this is a personal taste thing. You do want to make sure your buttercream isn’t terribly buttery though and the vanilla is what will achieve this for you. Nobody wants to feel like they’re gnawing on a stick of butter when they bite into a cupcake. 

Once your vanilla is completely blended in you can begin adding your powdered sugar. I do about 1/2 to 1 C at a time. If you go over with the powdered sugar and your icing gets too stiff you can add in 1 Tbsp of milk or half and half. If you are a total klutz and get your icing too thin while doing this you can add a little more powdered sugar. So on and so forth until you get a consistency that you like. Icing is really forgiving, which is a good thing because I’ve gone back and forth with powdered sugar and milk I don’t know how many times while making it before. 

Once your icing is finished you can use a spatula or even the dull side of a butter knife to ice the tops of your cupcakes. Put on more than you think you will need and smooth with a clean knife slowly shaving off bit by bit of the icing blob until you get the shape you want. I wanted snow dunes so I made them little hills. Now, you can use a piping bag here too. Just do a big ol glob with a round tip and call it a day. 

As each cupcake is iced turn it upside down to dab into a shallow bowl of sparkling sugar. Place on rack to set up slightly before adding the other elements. 

holiday themed cupcakes

It’s time to make the chocolate trees. Begin by setting several of the pretzel sticks in rows about 1 -2 inches apart on a sheet of parchment paper.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave at 30-second intervals. Either way is fine. While I used to be a huge proponent of the microwave method for quickness and ease I’ve recently switched to the double boiler method. I feel like I get more control over the chocolate that way. It could be all in my head, but in the end, it only takes a few minutes longer anyway. 
Add the melted chocolate to a piping bag or chocolate decorating bottle. Either will work great here. I just prefer the piping bag because they are a little easier to fill when working with chocolate. You don’t need a decorating tip when using chocolate. Just snip the tip off of the bag and you’re good. 
You can draw an outline on the underside of the paper but with trees, I found it is so much easier to just freehand it. Begin at the bottom of your tree. ( About 1/3 to 1/2 way up the pretzel stick) Start by going out on either side of the pretzel stick in a zigzag pattern to make your tree as wide as you want it to be. As you move your zigzag pattern up begin to go out slightly less and less until you reach the top of the tree. You can use fun holiday sprinkles to decorate your trees or leave them “natural”, whichever you prefer. 
From there you can add your trees and snowmen to your cupcakes.  If you prefer you can skip the snowmen and just do trees. I think the snowmen add a little more variety and fun though. 
If you give these cupcakes a try be sure to tag us on social media so we can see them! No matter what your family is baking this holiday season I hope you are all having an awesome winter break so far! 
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These quick and easy chocolate cupcakes are the perfect holiday treat for your next Christmas party, movie night, or cool afternoon. #holidaycupcakes #chocolatetree #christmascupcakes
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