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”.
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 Chocolate 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
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 tsp vanilla
4-5 C powdered sugar
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.
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.