It started with JoJo's Cupcakes in St Michael's, Maryland, where I first encountered the idea of a peppermint mocha cupcake. I tend to shy away from sweet drinks, so "peppermint mocha" is not the name of something I would order in a coffee shop. I love coffee and chocolate and peppermint in almost equal amounts, but I couldn't quite imagine how the taste would work in combination. You know how sometimes you try something new that sounds a bit weird, and then five minutes later you can't imagine not knowing that it's an awesome flavour? It was like that with peppermint mocha cupcakes.
This was last autumn, and Maryland is now a lot further away, so I've been half-heartedly intending to make some of my own ever since I got home.
Then a friend (coincidentally also called Jo) invited me round to watch a US television series called Cupcake Wars. I don't watch much TV of any description, but a show that ends each episode with a couple of bakers having to compete in producing a thousand-cupcake display has a natural appeal to me. Plus I just love the weird ingredients that the contestants are asked to incorporate into their baking. But I digress.
On one of the early episodes, the winner was a vegan cupcake-baker whose creations looked simply amazing. Unfortunately her name was Chloe, which kind of breaks the pattern here, but we'll forgive her that because her baking is awesome. A quick Google later and I found myself with the recipe for Chloe's chocolate strawberry shortcake cupcakes, one of the very cakes she made on the show. I've made variants on these cakes a couple of times, now, and this is fast becoming my go-to cupcake recipe because they rise so nicely and have a great, moist texture.
I'd run out of bicarbonate of soda, so I used baking powder instead and skipped the vinegar to balance out the acidity. I also tweaked the recipe from volumetric to weight-based measures, translated everything into metric, and tweaked the flavours to create my own peppermint mocha variant.
Vegan Cupcakes: Peppermint Mocha
For the cakes:
210g (1 cup) caster sugar
265g (1½ cups) plain flour
40g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
2tsp baking powder
120ml (½ cup) sunflower oil
240ml (1 cup) strong coffee
1tbsp peppermint extract
75g dark chocolate
5g coffee beans
For the frosting:
150g vegan margarine
75g icing sugar
1tsp peppermint extract
- Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).
- Finely chop the dark chocolate (or use chocolate chips).
- Crush the coffee beans with a pestle and mortar.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder.
- Add the liquids, and whisk until smooth.
- Stir through the crushed coffee beans, and chopped chocolate (holding back a little for decoration).
- Divide the batter between about 16 cupcake cases.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cakes have risen and a skewer comes out clean. (Exact timings will depend on your oven.)
- Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.
- Cream the margarine together with the icing sugar and peppermint extract, and whisk until light and fluffy.
- Spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes, and sprinkle with a little extra chocolate.