Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

by Mara @ What's For Dinner? on November 11, 2012

in Baking, dessert, friends, Mexican/Latin

I haven’t spent very much time baking these days. Part of it is that I really just don’t have the time, and part of it is that, to be honest, I really am watching what I’m eating… and if I bake, I eat whatever I bake.

As many of you know, I absolutely love baking for my coworkers, especially when we have special occasions. Yet again, there are a multitude of babies due this year, which means baby showers! Baby showers usually mean silly games, lots of cute gifts, and adorable eats.

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I was asked many weeks ago to make cupcakes for my friend and coworker’s shower, and of course I agreed. These started out innocently enough. I found a great chocolate cake recipe that used *gasp* shortening instead of butter. The reviews were stellar, so I went with it. I honestly don’t think I’ll use another chocolate cake recipe again.

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While the cakes were cooling, I started the preparations for my standard Italian meringue buttercream (IMBC).

And then I noticed that I was out of white sugar.

Completely and totally out.

Then the wheels started spinning. I had brown sugar. And powdered sugar. I couldn’t bring myself to make a super-sweet powdered sugar buttercream for these cupcakes. They needed something special. Brown sugar it was!

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Nothing goes with brown sugar better than cinnamon, and when paired with the rich dark chocolate of the cupcakes, each bite was like a bite of spicy Mexican hot chocolate, which is traditionally a rich semi-sweet chocolate with a hint of chili and a punch of cinnamon… no chili here, but it wouldn’t be a bad addition.

The frosting would be amazing on a full-size chocolate cake, carrot cake, pumpkin cake… or heck, a spoon.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Italian Meringue Buttercream

by What’s For Dinner?

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Keywords: dessert frosting

Ingredients (4-5 cups)

  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon (Ceylon, if you can get it)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract


Place the brown sugar and water in a saucepan.

Stir to combine, then add the corn syrup.

Bring this mixture to a boil, then cook to 248°F.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to stiff peaks. Stop the whisk while you wait for the sugar mixture to cook.

When the sugar mixture comes to temp, turn the whisk back on and gently pour the mixture into the egg whites.

Whip until the bowl is cool to the touch, up to about 30 minutes.

Switch the mixture to the paddle attachment, and mix the butter in, one small chunk at a time.

If the mixture looks “broken” or watery, just keep mixing!

Add the vanilla and cinnamon, mix well, then use on your favorite cake.

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The cupcakes were a hit at the shower, most people ate one and brought one home for their kids, significant others, or dessert after dinner. Most importantly, Jenny, the guest of honor, loved them!

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So, the moral of this story is: don’t let a recipe get in the way of creativity! I never would’ve come up with this if I’d had the “right” kind of sugar! And, Congratulations go out to Jenny on the impending arrival of her baby boy… you’ll be an amazing mom!



The adorable cupcake wrappers came from Sur la Table; I’m kind of obsessed with them! They’re Paper Eskimo brand, and I’m looking forward to using them again!

Digiprove sealThis recipe blog post has been Digiproved © 2012

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Marianne November 11, 2012 at 1:15 PM

So cute! And a great twist on your icing. Isn’t it great when lack of certain ingredients turn into happy accidents?
Marianne´s last blog post ..Banana Coconut Cardamom Muffins


Biz November 11, 2012 at 2:12 PM

Those look amazeballs Mara!! Yum!
Biz´s last blog post ..Souper Friday–Potato Broccoli Soup


Mara @ What's For Dinner? November 11, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Thanks Biz!!


Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats November 11, 2012 at 5:49 PM

Oh lordy, not only do these sound delicious, but they look adorable. Great job!
Ally’s Sweet & Savory Eats´s last blog post ..How to Make Homemade Frozen Pizzas


Mara @ What's For Dinner? November 11, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Thanks Ally!


Noelle (@singerinkitchen) November 12, 2012 at 8:22 AM

Looks super delicious!
Noelle (@singerinkitchen)´s last blog post ..New York in 24 hours —Part 1


Roz@weightingfor50 November 13, 2012 at 12:42 PM

GORGEOUS Mara! These photos look like they’re right out of “Martha Stewart Living”. I will now call your blog “Mara Living”! :) Have a great day.
Roz@weightingfor50´s last blog post ..The Thinker


Solana Beach Foodie November 19, 2012 at 11:37 PM

I understand your dilemma regarding baking and gaining weight. Shortening is really an issue if you are watching your weight; but maybe the excuse here is, it is for worthy occasion. I am impressed with how you come up with such a creative solution that is reflected in the name of your recipe. I would like to go for a little spice, is a pinch of chili just right?


Mara @ What's For Dinner? November 20, 2012 at 5:45 AM

Exactly my thought: it was a worthy occasion :) for a little spice, I would add about a half teaspoon of ground chile pepper, probably chile de árbol, but any ground chile would work.


Monica May 13, 2013 at 12:41 PM

How much water? I don’t see it in ingredient list just in instructions 😳


Mara @ What's For Dinner? May 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM

SO sorry! It’s 1/4 cup to help dissolve the sugar before you cook it into a syrup. I’ll edit that now.


Monica May 13, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Thank you so much for the quick reply! I can’t wait to make it. I had all my ingredients ready and the bam LOL


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