As many of my friends will mockingly tell you, I don’t drink coffee. I hate the smell and I hate the taste – and yes, I have tried all manner of frou-frou coffee drinks with plenty of sugar and chocolate and caramel and cream and and and… IT STILL TASTES LIKE COFFEE. My taste buds cannot be fooled by the addition of sugar and candy!
Because of this disdain for coffee, I have always been a hot chocolate drinker. I’ve always loved hot chocolate of all varieties – everything from the fancy schmancy Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Starbucks, all the way down to those little sugary packets of powdered hot chocolate goodness (the tiny, fake marshmallows are a must in that scenario, obviously). However, my favorite hot chocolate has always been Mexican hot chocolate. If you’ve never had it before, it’s a rich, creamy hot chocolate, with lots of cinnamon, and occasionally a little spice. It has a lot more complexity than your average hot chocolate, which makes it feel a bit more special, I think. I even love the process of making the Mexican hot chocolate! Rather than tearing open a little bag of powdered mix and adding it to hot water, Mexican hot chocolate is kind of an EVENT. I can remember my parents putting a big pot on the stove, filling it with milk, and breaking up a special bar of Mexican chocolate into the bottom; there was this special wooden tool (I have no idea what the name is) that they would use for it – it simultaneously broke up the chocolate at the bottom of the pot, and kind of whisked it into the milk as you used it. The whole house would start to smell like cinnamon and chocolate, so much so that you could practically taste the cinnamon chocolate goodness in the air! Mexican hot chocolate is, far and away, one of my most vivid food memories.
As is often the case, I was thinking about cupcakes one day. I was trying to come up with a fun twist on a standard cupcake flavor… and the idea of a Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcake came to me. With the addition of a few key spices to a standard chocolate cupcake base, I knew I could totally transform the flavor. I clearly wasn’t going to stop there, so I dressed up my standard cream cheese frosting a bit, too. And thus, the Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcake was born!
Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cupcakes:
1 stick of butter, softened slightly
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup cocoa powder (natural, non-Dutched)
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
For the frosting:
2 – 8oz bars of cream cheese (low fat is fine), at room temp
2 sticks of salted butter, softened slightly
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1.) Preheat your oven to 325°. In a large bowl, cream together your butter, brown sugar, and white sugar, until they are all well-combined. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until combined.
2.) In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, salt, cayenne, cinnamon, and chipotle chili powder. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to your wet ingredients, mixing until just combined after each addition, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (I typically do three additions of dry ingredients, and just two additions of the buttermilk).
3.) Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, and fill them 2/3 of the way (I like to use a 4T scoop for cupcakes – it gives you a perfect, even amount every time). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out with just a few moist crumbs on it.
4.) While your cupcakes are cooling, mix up your frosting using a hand mixer or stand mixer. You can add more powdered sugar or cinnamon if you don’t think it’s sweet or cinnamon-y enough.
5.) Once the cupcakes have completely and totally cooled (I like to give them 45 minutes to an hour to cool), frost them! You can use a piping bag and tip to make fancy swirls of frosting, or just slap the frosting on them with a good old butter knife. They are delicious either way! (If you are not piping the frosting, you will likely have a decent amount left over… all the better to eat straight from the bowl with a spoon, I say!)
These cupcakes mimic the flavor of Mexican hot chocolate pretty perfectly, if I do say so myself! You can’t really taste the chili powder outright, but it definitely adds a lot of depth to the chocolate. There is a great warmth from the cinnamon, and just enough cayenne pepper to hit you with a bit of heat on the back of your tongue (though I would probably cut the cayenne pepper by half if I were planning to serve these to little kids). I like cream cheese frosting in nearly any application, but it’s particularly perfect in this case, where the tang of the cream cheese kind of cuts through the richness of the cupcake itself.
Put these on the menu for your next tailgate, for sure. The mixture of spices is perfect for a crisp fall day!
Now who’s bringing me a cupcake for lunch?