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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! It’s similar to how I top these peppermint frosted chocolate cookies, which are a great alternative if you need a slightly more portable treat.

peppermint mocha cupcakes on a red and white plate


Video Tutorial: How to Make Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes


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.

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 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Bakig
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale

Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet baking chocolate
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon instant coffee*
  • 1/2 cup (41g) 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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.

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. my husband hates coffee flavored anything. is it okay to leave out the 1 TBSP of instant coffee or do i need to add in something (flour or other)? thanks!

    1. You may leave it out altogether, Dot. No need to add anything into the batter as a replacement.

  2. Hi!
    This is my first time visiting your blog and it is delightful!
    I made the cupcakes this evening and they turned out great. So delicious. However, the icing turned out absolutely awful 🙁 It was too buttery, etc. and seemed to melt. I am very new to baking and just wondering if you had any helpful tips for a successful icing? (I know, I’m such a rookie.)

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Whitney! So glad you enjoyed these cupcakes. IF you find the frosting too buttery, always add a bit more powdered sugar. That will soak up the butter. You can add more cream as well. Also, beat the frosting for awhile. The longer you beat, the fluffier (and less greasy) it can get.

  3. Hi Sally! I just made these cupcakes for a bake sale and they look wonderful! I can’t eat them (unfortunately no gluten for me) but they got rave reviews from my family, room temperature really does make a difference! I got perfect crinkly tops :). I am currently trying to make the chocolate to put on top and it keeps on coming out too thick. I used semi-sweet chocolate chips, and when it was too thick the first time I added butter, still a no-go. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Maya! Butter shouldn’t be used to thin out melted chocolate chips. Use shortening instead. Though both dense fats, shortening will work wonders with chocolate chips. Or try pure chocolate as suggested.

  4. THESE ARE AMAZING!!! I’m not much of a baker, but thanks to the tips for dummies you included these came out absolutely perfect. I’m already obsessed. Thank you for posting this I cannot wait to share these with all of my family and friends!!

  5. Hi Sally!
    I’m a huge fan of your blog, you get so creative and fun with your recipes!
    I tried these gorgeous cupcakes out last night, and they turned out great! Except for one little problem… when I left them overnight, the crushed candy canes on top completely melted/bled into the icing. Not a big problem taste-wise, but it doesn’t make for the prettiest presentation. Does this ever happen to you? Any suggestions of how to possibly avoid this?

    1. Hey Amanda! I’m glad you love my blog – thank you! And I’m so happy you loved the taste of these cupcakes. I’ve never had the candy canes melt/bleed their color into the icing. I had these at room temperature overnight, too. To avoid it – possibly stick in the refrigerator before serving.

  6. Just finished making these on this cold, snowy day — they are AMAZING!! Your website is the best, thanks so much for sharing all of these great recipes! 🙂

  7. I saw this recipe and fell in love with it immediately! I am currently making this for my husband’s work Christmas party, I can’t wait to try them! I absolutely LOVE Peppermint Mocha!

  8. I made these tonight for my husband’s work party tomorrow. They are delicious, but I do think the cupcakes themselves could be moister. They are cooked perfectly–not overdone at all. With the frosting they taste fine, but if I were to eat just the cake, I would think it was a bit dry. Maybe I will add a bit of oil next time. Thanks for the recipe!

  9. These are yummy! The first time I made them I didn’t listen and over mixed them but the still tasted great! So even if you do over mix them like I did, you can still eat them. They might not look as nice but they still taste good.

  10. Sally! This calls for natural cocoa powder. We dont get those kinds here. Im using cadbury and as far as I know its Dutch Process. Any tips?

    Thankss!

    1. Unfortunately, you can’t use dutch process cocoa in this recipe. Must be natural. I’m unsure how to adapt the recipe since I’ve never tried it myself. PErhaps you can search for a chocolate cupcake recipe using dutched?

  11. If i were to emmit the peppermint extract would it make these…just mocha cupcakes? Could i replace it with more vanilla extract?

    Aneesha

  12. Hi Sally! Thanks for a great recipe! Can’t wait to surprise my boss with some birthday cupcakes in her favorite flavor! If I want to bring these to work the NEXT day, any tips on how to prepare/store for serving 12 hours later?

    1. Hi Jaquielyn! You may certainly make these cupcakes the night before. Frost, cover, and let sit at room temperature overnight. Hope your boss enjoys!

    1. I wouldn’t make these mocha cupcakes if you do not like coffee. Or you may leave it out for a peppermint chocolate flavored cupcake.

  13. These cupcakes were amazing. Especially the mint taste. I didn’t do the icing and it was still good.

  14. Hi Sally! I’m planning to make these cupcakes this weekend for a friend’s birthday who loves peppermint. I wanted to know if it’s okay to make the cupcake batter on Thursday and leave it in the fridge until Saturday morning. On Saturday morning, I would bake them. Is that too much time to leave cupcake batter in the fridge? Will it affect the cupcakes moisture, texture etc? Thank You!

    1. The batter must be baked right away as the baking powder is activated once liquid is added. You can always bake them on Friday and cover tightly and keep at room temperature until Saturday.

  15. hi sally,
    i really would like to know if i can leave out the peppermint totally so i will be left with mocha cupcakes. would this work?
    thanks 🙂

  16. My 11 year old daughter made these this evening and she did an awesome job on them! They are incredibly delishious! They melt in your mouth 🙂

  17. First of all I just have to say that I love your recipes!!! I’m so glad we found your website!  Now it’s ALWAYS the first place I look for recipes and I hardly ever end up going anywhere else. XD I also have your cookbook Sally’s Baking Addiction and use it like every week! So anyway, about these cupcakes…I made them today, and I haven’t had one all put together yet but obviously I’ve tasted the batter and the frosting. LOL. So I KNOW they’re going to be good!!!! It all tasted really good just by itself! And you know what adds to it? I accidentally added double the amount of chocolate in the cupcakes. And didn’t notice it till I was almost done decorating them. Haha…that’s what I call a “happy accident.” 😉 Anyway, this comment is getting super long so I’d better end it soon! I just wanted to say that I made these cupcakes today and I love your recipes. 🙂 

  18. Hi Sally, these look fantastic!  Could the instant coffee be substituted for coffee extract?

  19. 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?

  20. 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!

  21. 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 🙂

  22. 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. 🙂

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

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

  24. Sally,
    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!

  25. 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

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

    Cheers!
    Shanta

    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?

        Thanks!
        Erica

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

    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.

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