Friday 16 December 2011

Candy cane mint chocolate cupcakes

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire 
Jack Frost nipping at your nose 
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir 
And folks dressed up as Eskimos ~ The Christmas Song

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give ~Winston Churchill

C and I were discussing what our favourite Christmas carols were the other day.  It was a surprisingly difficult decision to make.  Do you pick the well known, often sung "Jingle Bells" or "Rudolph"; the local carol "Te Harinui", an oldie but goodie: "Feliz Navidad", hippy fav "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" or a pop anthem like "All I want for Christmas"(Yes, I'm a Love Actually groupie, loud and proud).

In the end I went with the classic: The Christmas Song.  Maybe it's because I grew up down under where Christmas time = summer time so we don't get white Christmases, but there's just something awfully romantic about spending Christmas curled up next to a roaring fire.  Sigh.

But whether you are celebrating a winter or summer Christmas in your part of the world, the season of giving is universal.

Baking = Love.  Giving = Joy.

And it was an absolute joy last week for Baking for Hospice to start baking for Totara Hospice South Auckland.  As a test run last Sunday (the main run being this Sunday),  we delivered baking for their Volunteers' Christmas Morning Tea and as my contribution I indulged my mint and choc obsession and made Candy Cane Mint Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting.


I can't seem to get enough of mint and chocolate this Christmas but it is by no means a unique obsession or a trendy fad.  Peppermint and Christmas have gone hand in hand since the 1800's, all thanks to the humble Candy Cane.    According to, candy canes were made to represent a sheperds' crook (as in the shepherds near Bethlehem in the nativity story) and passed out to kids to keep them quiet during cathedral ceremonies at Christmas time and to hang on Christmas trees as decorations.

While the mint flavour is subtle in the chocolately cupcake, the frosting is a creamy minty dream.  I didn't know what I would think of the cream cheese + mint combo and I was really scared the frosting would end up tasting like toothpaste but I shouldn't have been such a worry wart: the balance was absolutely perfect.  What you get is an unbelievably smooth creamy frosting that's so fresh and minty, you just can't stop eating it.  Drool.

I was so unbelievably stoked with how these cupcakes turned out.  They totally cane all other holiday cupcake flavours.  Which is an impressive achieve-mint.

Yes yes, Christmas 'tis the season of bad puns also.

Candy Cane Mint Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes 

makes 26 - 30 cupcakes

2 cups flour
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water 
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp peppermint extract

1. Line two 12 cup muffin tins and preheat oven to 180oC. 

2. Place flour, caster sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  Rub in shortening until it resembles bread crumbs.

3. Make a well in the centre and add eggs, oil, water, peppermint extract and sour cream.

4. Beat on high for 1 minute to incorporate.

5. Scoop into the baking cups, fill to around 2/3 - 3/4 full.

6. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes turning once. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer immediately to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

makes only just enough to frost the cupcakes so be skimpy with your frosting to start off with.

250g cream cheese  (NB: ***make sure you use full fat cream cheese and not spreadable or low fat. I recommend using Philadelphia brand, have had some bad batches with other brands!***)
120g unsalted butter, room temperature
big pinch of salt
2 tsp peppermint extract
2-3 cups icing sugar (I used all 3 cups and think I could have used a bit less, just keep on tasting as you go)
optional: green food colouring

3 candy canes to decorate

1. Beat butter until really light and fluffy (~2 mins).  Add cream cheese and beat just enough to incorporate.   (Be careful not to overbeat as that will make the frosting go runny)

2.  Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating only to just incorporate.  Add peppermint extract and a drop or two of food colouring and beat to only just mixed through.

3.  Pipe on to the cooled cupcakes.  I used my fav Wilton 1M nozzle and piped a 1M ice-cream swirl (basically, do a spiral on top of the cupcake to act as the bottom of the swirl and then a mini swirl on top of the spiral, to give a fuller looking ice-cream sundae-esque frosting swirl).

4. Cupcakes will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

5. Just before serving, crush the candy canes in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin and sprinkle on top of the cupcakes.  Definitely wait until just before serving to do this as the candy canes actually melt into the icing if they are left for too long.


  1. Those are far too cute for their own good Ness :p

  2. These look soooo cute. I recently posted an easy recipe for eggnog, but my food pics are not as sexy as yours.

  3. What pretty little cupcakes! And so perfect for Christmas too... :)

  4. These look amazing! Such an adorable Xmas treat

    I've made Chocolate Strawberry Santa hats and Candy Cane Biscotti

  5. Hello,
    I absolutely love these cupcakes, they're so delicious! I was wondering if you have a plain chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe you could share? To ice plain chocolate cupcakes! I saw your sweet and salty cupcake recipe but the person I'm making them for doesn't like caramel... Thanks heaps :)

    1. Hiya Zoe,
      I actually haven't tried making a chocolate cream cheese frosting before! I have made a peanut butter cream cheese frosting that was crazy good: if that helps? And I have made Nigella's Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting before and it was really scrummy: Melt 75 g unsalted butter + 175 g dark or milk chocolate chopped up finely in microwave (30 second bursts), then allow to cool. Add 1/2 cup sour cream + 1 tsp vanilla. Beat on high till fluffy ~2 minutes. Add icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time till you get the right consistency/taste (around 2 cups) . Hope that helps!

      Thanks for your lovely comments bout these cupcakes! :)

    2. Or maybe you could try adding 1/2 cup cocoa powder (sifted) to this cream cheese frosting recipe and leave out the peppermint? And grate some chocolate over top for extra chocolateyness?

      Lemme know how you get on! :)

  6. Hey Nessie,
    I made this icing recipe, minus the peppermint and with cocoa powder instead.... it was amazing!!! So chocolatey and smooth, thanks for that :)



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