‘Tis the season for Peppermint Chocolate!

After tasting seasonal cupcakes from several delicious bakeries, I decided I wanted to try to create one myself for the winter. I did some research and selected a chocolate peppermint cupcake. A blogger at WeAreNotMartha.com raved about this icing, so I knew I had to try it. However her thoughts on the cake made me think that I should look around for another recipe. Without a personal referral and with my limited experience baking from scratch I found myself struggling to find one. How do you know it will be good? I decided not to chance it and looked up my old friend…Duncan Hines. I wanted these to be rich chocolate so when I saw their Triple Chocolate cake mix, I knew this was the one for me.

(Above are some of the ingredients I had to purchase for my baking adventure. Icing from scratch was a new experience for me!)

Following the instructions on the package, I mixed up the batter and the separate fudge mix. They had special instructions for cupcakes, which said to pour the batter into the cups first and then to dollop on a scoop of the fudge mixture, allowing it to sit on top.

After baking the cupcakes I was excited to see that that fudge sank, creating a chocolaty filling.

(In the future I’ll be more careful about how I put the scoop on top so that each cupcake has a more perfect fudge center.)

Next up…the icing. This was definitely the part I was most nervous about. First I prepped the candy canes. I wanted to do what the website suggested, mixing a peppermint powder in with the icing. I started by breaking the candy canes down. I attempted to crush them with a rolling pin, but even my (hardly used) marble rolling pin couldn’t accomplish this. Then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, my food processor. Perfect!

(The food processor demolished the candy canes down to a beautiful peppermint dust.)

I also crunched up some bigger pieces of candy cane, using the blunt end of a butter knife, to use as toppers later. After the candy canes had been taken care of, I moved on to the actual icing. I followed the instructions on the site, but when it came time to add 2 more cups of powered sugar after the initial 3 cups it just seems like the icing was going to be too thick. The instructions mentioned that you should just keep adding powered sugar until reaching the desired consistency, so I added the remainder of the bag I’d purchased; maybe half a cup. The flavor was where I wanted it too: Minty, buttery, and sweet.

I knew that with the sunken centers in my cupcakes, I really wanted to pipe the icing. But I don’t own piping bags and had not thought about this in advance. So I improvised using…A ZIPLOCK BAG! I was really pleased with myself for making this alternative work and with the results:

(I sprinkled on some of the peppermint dust and topped with some candy cane chunks.)

Not bad for a first timer using a Ziploc bag, huh?

Now for the important thing…how do they taste? All I can say is that the icing makes these cupcakes. It really is delicious. But, I can’t deny that that fudge center of the Duncan Hines cake mix takes these cupcakes to the next level. Normally a box cake mix wouldn’t be rich enough to handle the intensity of the peppermint icing. However, the chocolaty center creates a perfect balance.

So if you are feeling adventurous but don’t trust your baking abilities, allow yourself to take some short cuts. In the end you’ll be able to learn a few new tricks without overwhelming yourself and hopefully have an end product that makes the little extra work worthwhile.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)


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