These Chocolate Chili Cupcakes have a nice kick that warms you up, and a delightfully tender chocolatey crumb that makes you want to have some more!
Although these Chocolate Chili Cupcakes are one of my favorite things I’ve made this year, it has also made me realize how seldom I make cupcakes nowadays. My very first introduction to baking was by way of a cupcake. I distinctly remember it being a Rainbow Cupcake in fact, followed by a sublime Carrot Cupcake with the quintessential cream cheese frosting. At that time I was crazy for cupcake making, which is why it’s kind of ironic that I now make like two or three cupcakes in a year. This year was especially lacking in that department.
It’s not that I dislike making cupcakes. I’m just really picky with the cakes and cupcakes recipes I make now, to the point that I switched up my approach. These Chocolate Chili Cupcakes recipe is one such creation born out of this new approach I’m talking about. The goal is to make the best possible version right? Which means it’s up to me to mix and match the base and the frosting from different sources to attain what I think is the best combination. It involves a lot more research than one might think! But it’s also a lot more gratifying when the combination is a success. Like this one:
I decided to write about these Chocolate Chili Cupcakes today partly because I think its warmth fits in with the Christmas season. The other part? It’s because I didn’t prepare any particular Christmas recipe for the blog this year and this is the next best thing lol. I know, I know: I’ve been so terrible at keeping this blog running consistently this year. I’m just so tired from my day-job all the time. But I digress. My rants are not what you came here for.
These Chocolate Chili Cupcakes are pretty darn good. They have a pleasant spiced taste underneath the chocolate, reminiscent of spiced hot chocolate. The warmth from the chili comes belatedly, not unless you get a big bite with the cake, frosting, and toppings all together. I found that I loved the way it traces a bit of warmth down your throat as you swallow. It’s not obnoxious; just enough for you to know that it’s there. That’s what all chocolate chili treats should be like, wouldn’t you agree?
These Chocolate Chili Cupcakes are just a little more involved than the usual dump and mix cupcake recipes. It has you cook your cocoa powder with milk to replicate melted chocolate, but other than that the only other thing to remember is to NEVER overmix. A lumpy batter is fine. You don’t have to worry too much about the appearance of the cupcakes anyway, since you’ll be piping over them.
The amount of chili powder is adjustable, depending completely on your taste. If you want you cupcakes to have some real heat, it’s best to use the full ½ teaspoon, maybe even more. I used Korean gochugaru for this recipe, and because I’d never done that before, I held back a little thinking it would be too spicy. I used a scant ½ teaspoon, and while there was certainly some heat, I feel like more would be better. Thankfully, I added some chili chocolate nibs as a topping.
These cacao nibs from Chocoloco are legit! They didn’t just add a kick to the Chocolate Chili Cupcakes, but a bit of a fire! For me, they enhanced the entire flavor profile of the cupcakes, taking the chocolate chili combination very seriously. The desire to make a chocolate chili themed cupcake was inspired by these nibs actually. I had been munching on them and had to stop myself to make sure I had more than enough left over to top the cupcakes with.
I love that I get to discover these kinds of local products through this hobby of mine.
Let’s talk about the frosting now. I realize that some people would mention that I didn’t pile on the frosting for my cupcakes like most bakers do, and the reason for that is simple: I prefer less frosting on my cake. While I think frosting enhances the experience of eating a cake, I don’t want it to overwhelm. This particular frosting is a good one. It complements the cake base so nicely!
The recipe uses the same spices and a bit of melted chocolate too, but it’s entirely butter based so if you use too light a hand on the melted chocolate, it’s going to taste predominantly buttery. I made that mistake actually, so I adjusted the quantity of the melted chocolate in the recipe box below. Feel free to add more powdered sugar as you see fit to attain a much thicker frosting consistency. I don’t like my frosting too sweet so I also use a light hand on the powdered sugar. It’s why my frosting is rather soft, but still pipe-able. You can double the frosting recipe if you feel like piling it on. It’s up to you really.
Whatever you decide, I hope you’ll love these Chocolate Chili Cupcakes as much as I do!
Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes
For the Chili Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup white sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon chili powder, or less (to taste)
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- ¾ cup 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
For the Mexican Chocolate Frosting
- ½ cup 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1¼ cups powdered sugar
- 57 grams 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch of salt
- Chopped chili chocolate or other chocolate of choice, to top
Make the cupcakes
- Place the metal rack in the middle position of the oven. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a 12-cup cupcake tin with muffin liners.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a saucepan, mix together the milk, water, sugar, cocoa powder, and all the spices. Set over medium heat, whisking continuously until it comes to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool. (About 10 to 15 minutes should do.)
- In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until well-combined and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well before each addition. The mixture will turn creamy and thick. (By hand or by machine is fine.)
- On low speed, add in the cooled milk mixture, alternating with the flour mixture, and mix just until combined. Do not overmix!
- Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling nearly all the way full. Bake cupcakes about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool about 10 minutes in the pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add in the powdered sugar gradually, then mix in the melted chocolate. Beat until well-combined. Add in the spices and beat well.
- Scoop frosting into a piping bag with your choice of tip and pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Top with chopped chocolate of choice.