Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Deep chocolate cupcakes flavored with peppermint and coffee, topped with peppermint vanilla frosting, candy canes, and a chocolate drizzle.

peppermint mocha cupcakes on a red and white plate

I’ve had this cupcake idea up my sleeve for months. And I was going to wait until after Thanksgiving to make them. After our belies are filled with turkey and when Christmas music is “allowed” to be played.

But I couldn’t hold myself back anymore. I wanted a deep, dark chocolate cupcake with peppermint candies, swirls of mocha and chocolate drizzles. How can one honestly resist? Just look at all of this chocolate! Peppermint mochas are a seasonal favorite, but the combination of chocolate, mint, and coffee is on my mind all year long.

peppermint mocha cupcake with a chocolate drizzle and crushed candy canes

However, there is just something about this delectable combination of flavors when the snow is falling, family is gathered, and presents are under the tree. Nothing compares to sipping on a warm peppermint mocha during Christmas time. Unless, of course, you’re eating peppermint mocha in the form of a cupcake. NOTHING compares to that.

What we have here is a homemade chocolate cupcake (Death by Chocolate Cupcakes), enhanced with a touch of instant coffee and peppermint extract. The cupcakes are intensely chocolate flavored. The peppermint extract hiding inside the cupcakes is faint and is a complimentary background flavor to the light taste of coffee and powerful taste of chocolate.

Piled on top of that super-moist cupcake is a mountain of peppermint vanilla frosting. Just my simple vanilla frosting recipe flavored with a drop of peppermint extract. I finish them off with a simple chocolate drizzle (just pure melted chocolate) and sprinkles of crushed candy canes. And my, my, my. Aren’t they just fabulous? Better than I had hoped!

peppermint mocha cupcakes on a red and white plate

Let’s talk about how I messed up the first batch of these cupcakes. I was in a rush and I cheated. Something you should never do when you’re baking from scratch, especially chocolate cupcakes.

Baking science alert:

If you read my Death by Chocolate Cupcake recipe, you will notice that a lot of the ingredients must be at room temperature. Ingredients incorporate into batter much more easily if they’re at similar temperatures. Furthermore, using varied temperature ingredients (warm melted butter, cold buttermilk) may have a negative effect on the way your ingredients bond and trap air inside the baked good – this will, in turn, produce dense cookies, cakes, muffins, etc. When a recipe calls for a particular temperature of your ingredient, make sure you listen.

I also ask that you use a light hand when mixing the cupcake batter. Overmixing will over-develop the gluten in your batter. Apparently I was quite angry with my first cupcake batter and mixed with force. As a result, the right cupcake is what we have! (By the way, that mushroom top was crispy.)

2 chocolate cupcakes with one perfect cupcake and one flat cupcake

Or we can have the soft, beautifully crinkled cupcakes on the left. Bringing ingredients to room temperature does take extra time. Just try to plan ahead. I typically put out my buttermilk, eggs, and butter (for the frosting) one hour before I begin.

Let’s discuss the frosting. Because what’s a cupcake without frosting? It’s called a muffin. And this is not breakfast, it’s dessert. The frosting is my favorite vanilla frosting recipe. You’ll need butter, powdered (confectioners’) sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and a dash of salt. Beat it all until it’s fabulously creamy and smooth. To this creamy mixture, I add a touch of peppermint extract. Not too much – I don’t want the frosting to taste like mint. I want it to taste like buttery rich vanilla frosting with a hint of mint.

Mint is a very powerful flavor, so be a little cautious when adding it. A little goes a long way.

peppermint mocha cupcake with a chocolate drizzle and crushed candy canes

I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite part of today’s festive dessert. The fudgy mocha mint cupcakes? The peppermint scented vanilla frosting? The extra chocolate on top? The crunchy candy canes? Please don’t make me choose, I want need it all. It’s the perfect cupcake for those who have flavor A.D.D. 😉

This is the cupcake to wow all of your holiday guests this year. It’s the show-stopping cupcake to bring to holiday parties. The decadent cupcake to fuel your shopping, decorating, and gift wrapping. And it’s most certainly the perfect cupcake to share with your loves.  Kevin enjoyed every single bite. No crumb left behind. And the guy doesn’t even like coffee!

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peppermint mocha cupcakes on a red and white plate

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Bakig
  • Cuisine: American


Deep chocolate cupcakes flavored with peppermint and coffee, topped with peppermint vanilla frosting, candy canes, and a chocolate drizzle.



  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon instant coffee*
  • 1/2 cup (64g) unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
  • 3/4 cup (94g) all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk*

Peppermint Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 34 cups (360-480g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream*
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • salt, to taste
  • optional for garnish: 4 ounces melted semi-sweet baking chocolate and crushed candy canes


  1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until combined, then mix in the instant coffee. Set aside to slightly cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until *just* combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.
  4. Divide the batter between 12 liners in your cupcake pan. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting: beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes (the longer you beat, the creamier the frosting!). Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if frosting is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (I add about 1/8 teaspoon).
  6. Decorate the cupcakes: Frost cooled cupcakes. There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Top with crushed candy canes right before serving.
  7. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.


  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare cupcakes 1 day in advance. Keep cupcakes covered tightly at room temperature and frost the day of serving. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before frosting and serving.
  2. Coffee: Use dry instant coffee, not coffee grounds.
  3. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1/2 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cupcakes won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
  4. Cream: Using milk or half-and-half instead of heavy cream for the frosting is OK. However, your frosting won’t be as creamy. I strongly recommend heavy cream for the best texture.
  5. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: peppermint mocha cupcakes

See more cupcake recipes.


  1. Katie Craddock says:

    Hi, so I overlooked the instant coffee in the ingredient list when I was shopping. Is there a substitute I can use instead of that?

    1. Do you have espresso powder? I would use 1 tsp of that instead.

  2. Update in case anyone else has the same question. I made the triple chocolate cake you linked to with this peppermint frosting. I made 50% more frosting than indicated here amd it was just the right amount to generously frost my cake! I put a little peppermint extract AND coffee extract in the chocolate cake batter. If (when) I make it again I will leave the peppermint out of the cake batter in hopes of tasting more of the coffee. The frosting is enough peppermint–and it is DIVINE by the way! My husband doesn’t usually like frosting but he asked me to make plain cookies just so he could put the smidge of extra frosting on them (he doesn’t like chocolate…..I know.) Thanks again!

  3. Hello, i do not like coffee, i was thinking of substituting it for hot chocolate, what do you think?

  4. Is it heavy whipping cream, or is it just heavy cream?

    1. They’re the same 🙂

      1. Actually not completely heavy cream holds longer than heavy whipping cream. Heavy whipping cream goes back to liquid quicker.

  5. Hi Grace! A low fat milk is ok– make sure you add the white vinegar/lemon juice as noted in the recipe.

  6. Four years later, and this recipe is still a hit. These got so many compliments, especially the icing!

  7. Hi Sally, this recipe was BOMB! Probably the best cupcakes I’ve ever made, thank you so much for sharing 🙂 Iactually ended up winning our family’s Christmas Bake-Off using your recipe! the only issue I had was that the cake itself was a bit dry and crumbly. I followed the recipe exactly but may have left them in the over for 3-4 extra minutes. Do you think that may have been the problem? Thank again and merry Christmas! 

    1. Hi Stacy! It’s easy to over-bake chocolate cupcakes because you can’t really tell when they “brown” like lighter colored cupcakes. If they taste dry, it’s typically from sitting in the oven too long. I would cut back on time if you make them again.

      I love the sound of a Christmas Bake-Off by the way 🙂

  8. This may be an obvious question but can you please clarify – am I using the instant coffee in original form or am I making a cup of instant coffee and using a tablespoon of it in liquid form

    1. Hi Lisete! The powder form right from the container, not the prepared liquid that you drink. 🙂

  9. Hi Sally. I made these two days ago. Though my first 12 came out with flat tops (my batter made 14) the other two were perfect. I know why this happened. I paid close attention to NOT over beating the batter. I filled my liners as you usually call for us to do but on the last two I had just enough batter to fill half way… they rose up beautifully and even had the crinkly tops. The cake itself was SO yummy. Instead of making the frosting called for I made your marshmallow and cream cheese frostings. For those wondering if the peppermint jived with the cream cheese? IT DID!! I was a tad bit worried that it wouldn’t so I made a regular batch, took out a heaping spoonful then added the peppermint to taste. Hubby, son and I polished all but one cupcake off in two days time, lol. Thanks for yet another great recipe. I’ve got lots of baking to do for that day but I’m hoping to make these for my family for Christmas Eve. I know they’ll love them just as much as we did. Happy Holidays to you and yours Sally…. ⛄

  10. Could you use liquid coffee instead of instant?

    1. I don’t recommend using brewed coffee; instant coffee powder or instant espresso powder are best.

  11. Hi Sally,
    Is it ok to use unsalted sweet cream butter for the cupcakes and frosting?

    1. Yes, that’s just fine for this recipe.

  12. Hello, should the cupcake liners be greased?

    1. No need to grease the cupcake liners.

  13. Hi Sally. It’s me again. Just had to post that I’ve made these two more times since my last review on the 4th, last batch just now out of the oven. Last two batches came out perfect!! Nice rise and crinkly tops too boot. The culprit for me was over filling the liners. So glad I got it figured out just in case I’m able to make them for Christmas Eve. Tonight I’ll be piping the frosting on (past batches I just smeared it on) and adding the chocolate drizzle. Thanks so much, again!! These taste just like Christmas…

  14. I used just a hint of peppermint in the batter and frosting. They came out so beautifully! Beautiful, shiny, crackly top. The flavor was so good and they went quickly.

  15. Barbara Thompson says:

    How do you crush candy canes? I use a plastic bag and a rolling pin but I end up with holes in the bag.
    I love your recipes. I ‘ll be making these cupcakes for my husband’s work luncheon.
    Thank you for all you do.

    1. Hi Barbara! I actually use a ziplock bag and rolling pin as well, but I do it very carefully. And near a trashcan just in case the bag pierces open. I wish I had an easier way up my sleeve!

      1. WINCO sells crushed candy canes in their bulk department. Amazing way to save time in the kitchen with all of my Christmas baking.

  16. Can you explain why dutch processed cocoa powder should not be used for this recipe?

  17. Hi Sally! I have a question: what pipping tip did you use for these cupcakes? I think you used a Wilton 1M, but I’m not sure. Thanks for your help

    1. Yes, 1M! 🙂

  18. Hi Sally,
    What adjustments do I need to make to turn this into a cake recipe?


    1. Hi Shanta, I suggest making this chocolate cake (also super moist!).
      and adding 2 teaspoons espresso powder and a bit of peppermint extract. Then use the peppermint frosting from these cupcakes. You may want to 1.5x the frosting recipe to ensure you have enough.

      1. Hi Sally,

        That chocolate cake recipe already has 2 teaspoons of optional espresso powder in it. Should we add 2 more teaspoons or do you just mean to include them? Also, do you have an estimate for how much peppermint extract to put in the cake itself?


      2. 2 teaspoons of espresso powder total! Use about 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract 🙂

  19. What adjustments should I make if I want to make these mini cupcakes?

    1. Hi Kay! Divide the batter between mini cupcake liners in your mini muffin pan. Fill about halfway. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.

  20. SherryinChicago says:

    Could you make the frosting ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate it? We travel for Christmas but would love to bring these cupcakes, so trying to figure out if I should just make including frosting at home on the 22nd or if I could bring the cupcakes and frosting and frost on the 24th when we would eat them. What would you recommend?

    1. You can absolutely make the frosting ahead of time! Cover tightly and store for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. After freezing, thaw in the refrigerator then beat the frosting on medium speed for a few seconds so it’s creamy again. Adding a splash of heavy cream or milk will help thin the thawed frosting out again, if needed.

  21. Hi Sally! I was wondering if you can double the batch? I need 24 cupcakes for a work party. Or should I just make the batter twice? Love your recipes!

    1. Hi Jamie, You can double this one!

  22. I made these, but doubled the recipe and topped with Sally’s favourite chocolate buttercream, but added 1/2 tsp peppermint essence to the frosting. Everyone loved them, so they’re definitely being added to the usual roster!

  23. I loved this recipe! The balance between the dark chocolate/coffee flavor with the peppermint frosting was beautiful. I’ll add this recipe to my baking successes. Thank you!

  24. I didn’t know heaven could be a flavor, but THESE cupcakes are something else!!! They were the perfect texture, had just the right structure (didn’t fall apart), and OMG I could keep raving!! Everything is DIVINE!!! Including the frosting, never tasted frosting SO good! Thanks Sally!! 🙂

  25. Can I substitute espresso powder for the instant coffee?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Robin, You sure can! It’s stronger so you won’t need as much. Happy baking!

  26. Hi Sally, how would this pair with your white chocolate peppermint frosting instead? I’m not a huge fan of the over sweet buttery flavor of American Buttercream.

    1. They would pair perfectly!

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