Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

I just love to share a sweet treat on Fridays, and I thought this seemed like the perfect thing for this week.  After all, I know this is the time of year when many Starbucks lovers go flocking to the coffee shops in search of this seasonal beverage favorite.  I must confess that I myself am not a fan of this drink, only because I do not like mint of any kind (except one flavor of gum and one type of toothpaste – picky, huh?)  But we all know I get more enjoyment out of baking for others than for myself, so I was more than happy to make these cupcakes for a coworker’s birthday.  She proclaims the peppermint mocha her favorite drink ever, so these were clearly the way to go.

The cupcake base is a simple mocha batter that bakes up nicely.  I added a bit of peppermint extract to the cake batter to achieve that minty flavor throughout.  Next time I will add some espresso powder to the cake batter, because I felt the mocha flavor was nearly lost, and I have added this to the version below.  The frosting is a lovely Swiss meringue peppermint buttercream.   I just can’t get over how beautiful and smooth Swiss meringue buttercream is.  I know it takes longer to make, but I think it is worth it!

And if you were actually wondering how these turned out – they were a major hit.  Personally I was not thrilled with them but they tasted alright considering they are full of a flavor I don’t like.  They were definitely very popular with all my non-mint-hating coworkers, so I will chalk them up as a success.  I added individual mints to garnish mine, but I think they would also look adorable with mini candy canes or coarsely chopped peppermint pieces on top.

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes
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For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3 tsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup whole milk
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

For the frosting:
6 large egg whites
1¾ plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tsp. peppermint extract
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir together.  Combine the milk, coffee and peppermint extract in a liquid measuring cup.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the eggs one at a time.   Alternately mix in the dry and liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.  Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and mix just until incorporated.

If you would like the red and white swirled frosting effect, remove about half of the frosting to a bowl.  With the remaining frosting in the mixing bowl, add red gel coloring and mix until you have achieved the desired shade.  Fit a pastry bag with a large tip.  Fill one side of the pastry bag with the white frosting, and then fill in the other side with the red frosting (this does not need to be exact – just enough so that both colors are included.)  Pipe a test streak until you see both colors coming out of the tip.  Frost cupcakes as desired, refilling the pastry bag in the same manner as needed.

Source: cake and frosting adapted from How to Eat a Cupcake

68 Responses

  1. I am a mint hater as well and can definitely relate to your toothpaste and gum dilemma. It stinks! These cupcakes are super cute though. I know several people that would love them! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. LOVE my Starbucks Peppermint Mocha hot chocolate! Will have to try these for sure!

  3. Soo festive! I am going to try making your sugar cookies this weekend–I will let you know how they go 🙂

  4. They’re beautiful. Love the swirled frosting technique!

  5. Annie – I am not the biggest fan of mint either, but the frosting sounds great! Would it be as simple as just leaving the mint out, or is there another ingrediant that needs to be substituted for texture?

    • Hi Amanda,
      Yes, you can most definitely make the frosting without the peppermint extract. In that way it will be just a classic Swiss meringue buttercream. I would up the amount of vanilla extract (or add another flavor) to compensate, but it is a lovely frosting no matter what flavor you use.

  6. Hey Annie! I have been reading your blog for over a year but I don’t usually comment. I just had to comment on this one because I have never found someone who ALSO hates mint!?! I love to cook and most others to love to cook also have a pretty non-judgy palate. Mint is such a huge flavor in the culinary world I almost feel weird not liking it?!? Mint is just one of those things that everyone seems to like. I mean everyone has to brush their teeth and how hard is it to find a non-mint toothpaste?? Everyone is just expected to like it!

    Unfortunately I’ve hated mint since I was a kid and it’s just stuck. I only chew non-mint gums (I love Orbitz Sangria Fresca!), I use kid’s toothpaste that is non-mint flavored (people give me strange looks for that one!), and I give my after-dinner mints away when I am at a restaurant. . . even the one’s that are chocolate. I love chocolate but the mint just ruins them. 😦

    Fresh mint isn’t as bad as the extracts but it’s still not my favorite. But if someone uses fresh mint in a salad or on top of a dessert I can handle it. It’s so nice to see that there are other cooks out there who aren’t a fan and to know I’m not alone.

    Sorry to ramble on. These cupcakes look adorable but I won’t be trying them unless I have a request from a friend! But you always find a way to make everything you bake look delicious, even something I know I won’t like!

  7. oh. my. goodness. i. have. to. make. these. but for this morning i am going to have to settle for a peppermint latte. 😉

  8. The presentation is stunning!

  9. These sure are cupcake cuties! I wish I had a bottle of peppermint extract right now!

  10. Lovely( and with all this red and white even a little rockabilly! I am still not a big fan of cupcakes but these look so delicious, I might have to change my mind and give them a try…

  11. Those cupcakes look awesome! I would love for you to share them on Cupcake Tuesday next wk.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Perfection. I am a huge fan of peppermint mocha anything and these are delightful.

  13. yummmm! they look delish…and I love this type of frosting! it’s soooo good I could eat it right out of the bowl! 🙂

  14. If you leave out the peppermint in the frosting, wouldn’t you also want to leave out the peppermint in the batter? Would you need to compensate with anything there?

    • Sue, the previous question was in regards to the frosting only so that is what I answered. But yes, you could certainly omit the peppermint in the batter if desired. I don’t think compensation would be necessary there since it’s a very small amount and the cake already has chocolate and coffee flavoring.

  15. oh these are stunning! the colours are just jumping out at me. i love that you’ve got a swirl in the frosting. i must try that some day! it looks gorgeous. 😉

  16. Hi Annie! I love following your blog and find myself making a number of your recipes. I just got myself caught up on The Pioneer Woman’s recipes from the past week, and I saw YOUR name on there! Her latest contest had readers provide their favorite online recipes – and then one of her readers, “Statistician Don,” made a list of the top 20. And you made the top 20!! Just thought that was exciting and figured I’d share with you. An extra cupcake for you today! (well, maybe not a mint one) 🙂

  17. I think I am in love. I was looking for a peppermint cupcake for our holiday party tomorrow… and here it is!! I don’t understand how you can dislike peppermint and chocolate… this is the best combination in the world.

  18. Those look so good and they’re so cute. I’m always jealous how beautiful your pictures are.

  19. My mouth is W-A-T-E-R-I-N-G!!

  20. These look absolutely delicious! I cannot wait to try my hand at them 🙂

  21. I looove mint, but am picky about toothpaste (can’t do blue… I know, weird!) I do have a suggestion for anything mocha. Chocolate is enhanced by coffee, so the coffee flavour is often overwhelmed by the chocolate, I’ve had success with brushing the top of the cake with a coffee/espresso-flavoured simple syrup. Try it, even if just to give it a shot, it will give a definitive coffee flavour to the chocolate.
    I must say, I saw your photo and these cuppies are ADORABLE!!!! I would love to make them, though I’ve not yet attempted a meringue BC.
    Great job! Very festive, and very charitable of you to make something you don’t love to please another! Happy Holiday!

  22. Thanks to this post, I love cup cakes

  23. These are gorgeous! I love the Starbucks drink and encompassing those flavors into a cupcake is sheer brilliance!

  24. These are adorable, Annie!

  25. Thanks for a different twist on a recipe that I make. I make a peppermint mocha cake similar to your cupcakes, but I use a chocolate fudge frosting instead and add crushed candy canes along with the peppermint extract to the frosting. The candy cane gives it a crunch and more pizazz; for the garnish, I use Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses. Next time, I will try your Butter Cream frosting on my cake and use the the Kisses as garnish. By the way; I love Coffee, Chocolate, and Peppermint; I’m addicted to the Starbucks Peppermint Mochas 🙂

  26. These are so picture perfect! I’m not a huge mint fan but I want to make them simply because they look so great 🙂

  27. I’m a bit indifferent to mint, but these are too cute! I’m a recent convert to SMBC as well, though I still have a little stress every time I wait to see if comes together from a sloshy mess into a luscious, pipe-able frosting.

  28. LUCKY CO-WORKERS! I love mint, but even without the mint, these cupcakes look addicting, glad I saw your website on my usual favorite “pioneer woman cooks”!!

  29. These cupcakes look amazing and perfect. Lovely picture! gloria

  30. Such great color!!

  31. These look perfect 2 make for christmas!!..You are definetly the queen of cupcakes!

  32. These are adorable! They look amazing, particularly for the holidays. Plus they contain peppermint, of which one of my recent posts was dedicated to.

    Great pictures!

  33. I know what you mean about losing the mocha flavor. When I made Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes last December, everyone raved and raved over the amazing frosting. I think the Peppermint is just a stronger flavor than the mocha so it can over power it.

    I like your use of peppermint patties! I made the mistake of crushing candy cane up and topping them the night before, only to discover they had completely dissolved into a near syrup! Eeek!

  34. I, on the other hand, love mint!! These look yum!! Great job on thw swirly piping!

  35. I made these last night and frosted them this morning. Frosting that involves cooking makes me nervous, but this buttercream turned out perfectly. It’s the best frosting I’ve ever made, so creamy and delicious. The cupcakes turned out moist. All in all, a success. I brought 12 into work today and they were gone in 20 minutes. I used mini candy canes for garnish. I did run out of red food coloring so my swirls were pink and white rather than red and white, and that bummed me out a little, but since they taste so good I don’t mind. I didn’t have a thermometer for cooking the egg whites and sugar, but you will just be able to tell when they’re done – there is an almost sudden thinning of the substance as the sugar dissolves. Great recipe!!!

    • Sue,
      Glad you enjoyed them! Just to be clear, the purpose of the thermometer is more for cooking the egg whites to a temperature where bacteria will be killed. It really isn’t related to the dissolution of the sugar, which happens quite a bit earlier. I would recommend a thermometer in the future!

  36. Oh and one other thing – why can’t someone invent a frosting piper that is double sided so that you can more easily make the swirls? Argh, it’s a messy project using a regular bag.

  37. Your desserts look fabulous! I can’t wait to try your recipes out.. and return for more! 🙂

  38. was just about to start making this & thought I had everything for it til I realized just how much butter & eggs I need, WOW! I still want to make it but contemplating if I can cut the recipe in 1/2, I will be making this for myself, my SO & 1 1/2 year old…. hmmmm

  39. As a mintlover I must say they look fantastic!

  40. Annie, I’m hoping you still read these comments because I tried to make these and the frosting was an absolute DISASTER! It started “curdling” and no matter how many times I upped the speed on the mixer, it wouldn’t go together and stay together. After I put the frosting on the cupcakes, it started basically melting down…liquid was going over the cupcakes and it was so nasty that I had to just throw them all out. Any idea what I might have done wrong?

    • Hi Stephanie,
      This is the nature of any Swiss meringue buttercream. It does look curdled but you just have to keep beating. It may take several minutes, but it always comes together eventually. It’s not really the speed of beating, but more the length that is important. You will know when it comes together. I did another post about just a basic vanilla SMBC and briefly discussed it here, in the recipe itself. Hope that helps!

  41. A very belated thank you!! I’ll be trying these again soon…

    And thanks overall for this site–your recipes have been my (extremely welcome) contribution to many a family dinner!!

  42. Those look beautiful and I’m not even a fan of mint, but a few of my friends are. They would also look great garnished w/ mini peppermint pattys. 🙂

  43. I wasn’t sure how much I would like these because the peppermint mocha is one of my favorite drinks ever, but I LOVED THEM! It was nice to have such a dark chocolate with the mint. I really enjoyed it. Kudos.

  44. Hi Annie,
    I really enjoy your blog and have loved the recipes I’ve tried. It just occurred to me that a pumpkin spice latte cupcake would be fantastic – have you ever thought about creating one? I’ve looked online for one, but it doesn’t seem to exist and I can’t decide whether adding coffee to the batter would be best, or making a coffee icing. I’d love to know if you decided to tackle it! 🙂

  45. I made these last night and they are so much fun! This is a great, sturdy chocolate cupcake. I had to make mine without espresso powder, because after several days of looking for it unsuccessfully I just gave up! I definitely think it would have added to the wow factor – the coffee flavor does get a little lost in all the peppermint, but it’s still a great cupcake.

    The frosting about drove me to insanity, but after googling for a bit I read that sometimes it can take up to 15 minutes of beating to get it out of the soupy stage once you add the butter. I forged ahead, and all turned out ok!

    Topped with a mini candy cane garnish, and these are adorable!

  46. These look perfect, how do you get the red incorporated into the buttercream icing. What’s the trick?

  47. Thanks Annie, I don’t know how I missed that the first time.

  48. Hi Annie,

    LOVE your blog!

    I was wondering if I did not want to use peppermint in the batter and only in the frosting, should I add vanilla extract to the cake batter instead?

    Also, I work at Starbucks and we have new instant coffee. I was wondering if “VIA” could be used as a substitute for espresso powder?

    Thanks for your time! I cant wait to make these!

    • Yeah, I think just adding some vanilla to the batter would be a good idea. I am not familiar with VIA but I’m sure you could use it. Though, you would probably need to use a bit more since instant coffee is not quite as potent as espresso powder.

  49. For the icing for the Peppermint Mocha cupcakes…do I have to refridgerate the icing since it has egg whites in it? I want to ice these but Im afraid to leave them out till tomorrow. By the way, it is a great cupcake! The mint in it is very fresh. Thanks!!

    • That is up to you. The whole point of cooking the egg whites to a certain temperature is to kill the potential bacteria. I think this is fine at room temp for about 24 hours, after that I refrigerate it.

  50. I just made these this weekend and they were a big hit! I thought the mocha got a bit lost too, but I didn’t mind 🙂 Thanks for always sharing such terrific recipes!

  51. Sigh. I just made this frosting and it failed…it’s runny. I was supposed to bring these cupcakes to a charity event tonight!!!! Can I fix it somehow?????

  52. I’m whipping away. It’s been about a half hour now.

  53. Hi,
    I made the frosting tonight and had the same problem as Sue. I decided to just give up as I’ve been baking for almost six hours now and need to get to bed. I put the frosting in the fridge. Is swiss buttercream the same as standard buttercream (confectioner’s sugar) in that you can bring it to room temp and then use? I thought I’d try whipping it again tomorrow. If not, I’ll have to start from scratch. Unfortunately I did not see yours and Sue’s posts until after I put the frosting in the fridge.
    On a positive note – it tastes delicious!

    • I’m not sure, I’ve never tried beating it after a period of refrigeration. I’m not sure that would have the same end result. Good luck!

  54. i want to make a chocolate peppermint cupcake…i was going to use your recipe for the frosting, but was wondering if you just had a regular chocolate cupcake recipe (or if it would work if i used this recipe but just took out the expresso powder and brewed coffee?)

    • No, you shouldn’t try to omit the espresso powder or coffee. That is a full cup of liquid, so the difference would be huge. There are plenty of chocolate cupcake recipes on the site – just use the search bar.

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