Friday, December 4, 2009

Peppermint Twist Cupcakes - Perfect for the Holidays

Here is a recipe for Peppermint Twist Cupcakes from my cupcake book, A Baker's Field Guide to Cupcakes. Great for bake sales, hostess gifts, school parties and snacks at home. Really great to make with kids home for the holidays. Please note that these cupcakes do not develop a large peak. Occasionally someone will write me and complain about the fact the cupcakes are flat-ish on top. I have developed my basic cupcake recipes to be this way deliberately as I think it is easier to frost and decorate them.

Peppermint Twist Cupcakes

Holiday/Event: Christmas/Winter

Description: These feature chocolate cake studded with bits of minty candy cane. Crowning the top is a swirl of white chocolate buttercream with more crushed candy cane sprinkled on top.

Field Notes: These are very simple to prepare, but look fancy. The best way to crush the candy canes is to place them in a sturdy plastic bag, then crush them with a rolling pin by alternately rolling over them and wacking them. You can try a food processor fitted with a metal blade, but it will make a huge racket!

Special Characteristics: Fun to make with kids, Extra fancy


18 white or Christmas themed paper liners

1 batch Chocolate Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups crushed red and white candy canes (pieces should be no larger than 1/4-inch)

1 batch Italian Meringue Buttercream

7 ounces white chocolate, melted and slightly cooled

Pastry bag

Large star tip


  1. Prepare Chocolate Cupcakes batter according to directions through step #3. Fold in 3/4 cup crushed peppermint candy canes. Bake as directed. Cool.

  1. Prepare Italian Meringue Buttercream through Step #5. Beat in the 7 ounces of cooled melted white chocolate. Using pastry bag and large star tip, frost each cupcake with a large swirl on top. Sprinkle remaining crushed candy canes on top of cupcakes. Cupcakes are now ready to serve.

Yield: 18 minty cupcakes

Lifespan: Cupcakes may be baked two days ahead; frosted cupcakes are best served the same day. Store in airtight container.

Chocolate Cupcakes


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sifted Dutch-processed cocoa

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces

1 1/3 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup whole milk


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line one 12-cup cupcake tin and one 6-cup cupcake tin with paper liners.

2. Whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl to aerate and combine; set aside.

3. In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice; beat in vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition, allowing each egg to be absorbed before continuing. Add the flour mixture in four additions, alternately with the milk. Begin and end with the flour mixture and beat briefly until smooth on low-medium speed after each addition.

4. Divide batter evenly in pans. Bake for about 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center shows a few moist crumbs.

5. Cool pan on rack for 5 minutes then remove cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yield: 18 cupcakes

Lifespan: 2 days at room temperature in airtight container; 1 week frozen in airtight container'

Italian Meringue Buttercream


Scant 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup water

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces


1. Place 2/3 cup of sugar and water in a small pot. Stir to wet sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally. Dip pastry brush in cold water and wash down sugar crystals from the sides of the pot once or twice. Turn down heat to simmer gently.

2. Meanwhile, place the whites in your clean, grease-free mixing bowl and whip until frothy on low speed using balloon whip attachment to standing mixer. Add cream of tartar and turn speed up to medium-high. When soft peaks form, add 3 tablespoons sugar gradually. Continue whipping until stiff, glossy peaks form. (This is the meringue part of the buttercream and the frosting may be used as this point for a low fat, marshmallow like frosting; this must be used immediately).

3. Bring the sugar/water mixture to a rapid boil and cook until it reaches 248 to 250 degrees F. As syrup cooks look for visual clues to assess temperature. It starts out thin with many small bubbles over the entire surface. The water will begin to evaporate and the mixture will become thicker. The bubbles get larger and sticky and pop open more slowly. At this point the syrup definitely looks thickened, but it has not begun to color; this is the firm ball stage. If you drop a bit of the syrup into a glass of cold water it will form into a ball. When you squeeze the ball between your fingertips it will feel firm.

4. When syrup is ready pour a thin, steady stream over meringue, without pouring any on the rotating whip or the sides of the bowl. Whip meringue until cool. When the bowl is no longer warm, stop the machine and touch the surface of the meringue with your finger to double check that it is cooled. Turn the machine back on medium speed and add butter, a couple tablespoons at a time. Keep beating until the buttercream is completely smooth.

Yield: about 3 1/2 cups

Lifespan: May be refrigerated in airtight container for 1 week or frozen up to 1 month (If frozen, defrost in refrigerator overnight and bring to warm room temperature before re-beating. In this case I highly suggest warming it in the microwave before whipping.)

1 comment:

Darleen Witmer said...

Wonderful recipe. I made the Italian Meringue Buttercream recently and received many compliments.

Question: Should I beat it longer so it is not so soft? As if gets warm will it weep? This time of year is not as much of an issue but wondering if gets warm.

I plan on making these cupcakes for the Christmas season to go along with the cookies I will be making.