Dessert Wars AND Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge

I'm warning you now, this is going to be a long one. But keep reading because the finished product is so worth the time.

As some of you know, I love following dessert challenges on other blogs, but I'm usually either too scared to try out the wacky ingredients they come up with or I just run out of time to bake. This month, I found two challenges that fit so perfectly together, and as soon as I saw them I thought of the perfect recipe to fulfill the requirements of both.

Dessert Wars

The first of these challenges is for Dessert Wars. This is a blog that I very recently started following, and I was so excited to see that the February challenge ingredients were dark chocolate and hearts. The dessert can be anything, as long as it includes both dark chocolate and a heart shape. Check out all the awesome prizes you can win for this one:

The other challenge I'm using this recipe for is this month's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. This month's theme is (you guessed it) chocolate! It has to be a chocolate cupcake base, and also needs to have a twist. The winner of February’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive the following awesome prizes:

So what did I make?

Cinnamon (Dark) Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Hot Buttercream

I figured that given the heart theme these would be a perfect treat for Valentine's Day. I spent my whole day Sunday trying to create something new, but it clearly was not the day for me to be baking. My first batch of cupcakes wouldn't cook in the center at all (though the edges did bake and they were quite tasty), then I ran out of buttercream, burnt some popcorn, and broke my ice cream maker. I mean really, I should have just left the kitchen then. But I was determined to make these cupcakes and make them taste and look good too.

Instead of trying to be adventurous, I went back to my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (here's the link). I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder and added in 1T of cinnamon.

The key to this is really in the cinnamon red hot buttercream frosting. Otherwise they'd be plain old boring chocolate cupcakes.

This recipe is my mom's recipe that she uses to make cinnamon popcorn every Christmas. It's a great sweet treat to munch on and a perfect way to use the leftover cinnamon mix (just coat about 6qts plain air popped popcorn with it, pour it in a parchment lined pan, and bake on 250 for 1 hour, then cool and break apart) - just don't forget you had it in the oven and burn it like I did!

Red Hot Cinnamon Coating
1c butter
1/2c light corn syrup
9oz Red Hot candies (the hard little red things in the cake decorating aisle)

Put all ingredients into a saucepan, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 mins stirring very frequently.

As this is heating, start making your buttercream. I made mine with 1/2c butter and about 3c of confectioners sugar. Once ready, add about 1/4-1/2 of the red hot mixture. Since it will harden quickly, beat it in immediately, adding cream or milk as needed to get a good consistency. I used about 3T of cream in mine and a little over 1/4 of the red hot mixture. Once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe or spread the frosting on top.

Next, melt about 4oz of dark chocolate in a double boiler - I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet baking chocolates.

Pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and use it to pipe heart shapes on a piece of parchment. Once dry, use these hearts, along with some sugar pearls (or any type of sprinkle), to decorate your cupcakes.

(excuse the glare - my apartment lighting is not the greatest)

And finally, the finished product:

The frosting on these was actually a nice salmon-y pink color, but for some reason every single photo looks orange. Maybe some day I'll invest in a real camera (but not until after I get myself a stand mixer).


  1. Oooh red hot buttercream!!! Sounds WONDERFUL! Good luck in the challenges!

  2. @Faith
    Thanks so much - they were fun to make and even more fun to eat!

  3. Sounds like a yummy cupcake.

  4. Wow your Red hot buttercream looks fantastic. I was experimenting with red hots for a filling and it all turned into a comic disaster. Lovely cupcakes.

  5. @Lora

    That's what I was trying for my first attempt... clearly not so successful! Let me know if you ever find one that works though.

  6. I love your red hot buttercream! Sounds scrumptious with the chocolate cupcakes! And I love your garnish. Thanks for entering Dessert Wars!

  7. @Reeni

    Thanks so much for hosting such a fun competition! Looking forward to entering many more in the future.