chocolate | cinnamon | cupcakes | recipe | vanilla

Cinnamon vanilla cupcakes with Mexican hot chocolate buttercream.

September 21, 2008

Last fall I made Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcakes for Thanksgiving, and they were much loved. So loved, in fact, I didn’t even get to have one once they were finished- I only got to eat some batter before they were made. But anyway everyone raved about them and my dad ended up eating most of them, not to mention he got very territorial about them. So I’m always looking for ways to top myself, or at least vary a theme thats well-known and loved. So I decided I’d make this recipe this year for Thanksgiving.. and no, you didn’t just wake up from a coma and miss the past 2 months. Its nowhere near Thanksgiving yet. I basically wanted to test it out since it was originally a cake recipe and the frosting was made up in my own head, so I wasn’t 100% sure that it would work very well. And I figured, if I tested it out now, I’d also be able to enter it in Cupcake Hero’s latest challenge. Two birds with one stone- thats what I’m all about, baby.

I love Mexican Hot Chocolate. We used to drink Abuelita (made by Nestlé using artificial cinnamon) and Ibarra (more authentic) all the time ’round here. Its different than regular Swiss Miss, in case you don’t already know that. Its hotter, and spicier, and doesn’t come powdered. It comes in blocks of chocolate you have to break apart and cook on the stove top to melt, with milk. Its absolutely delicious and if you’ve never had it- go do so right now. I command you. Go ahead, I’ll wait.. .. . . . … . . .. . *whistles* .. . .. .. . .

Okay, you back? Good. So anyway like I was saying, I love Mexican Hot Chocolate. I think its a great concept to apply to baking, whether its cookies or cupcakes or cake or frosting. And since I’ve done the cupcake thing, this time its the frosting thing. I also love anything Dia de los Muertos related, so of course I made sugar skull cupcake toppers. And the cinnamon vanilla cake is simply to die for. This recipe was adapted from a wedding cake recipe by Michelle Doll, of Michelle Doll Cakes. I not only made it into cupcakes, but also completely re-did the frosting recipe based on my needs and what I had handy. I made my buttercream without using measurements, so this is the best idea of what I did that I can give you. If you try it and its wrong in some way, please let me know.



  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Cream the butter in a stand mixer until smooth and light. Add sugar and continue to mix until fully incorporated and fluffy.
  2. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F.
  4. Combine milk and vanilla. Add portions of the flour mixture and milk mixture to the electric mixer, alternating, starting and ending with flour. Pour evenly into cupcake pans lined with paper liners, about ½¾ full.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cupcakes spring back to the touch.



  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 -5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons coffee (2 tablespoons MADE coffee, not just 2 tbsp coffee granules)


  1. Cream butter in the bowl of an stand mixer.
  2. Add 1 cup sugar, cocoa powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, coffee and ¼ cup milk. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  3. Add 2 cups sugar and vanilla. Mix. Add the rest of the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix. If needed, add ¼ cup more milk, or 1 cup sugar. Continue until consistency is satisfactory.*
  4. Frost completely cooled cupcakes. Enjoy.

*I added shortening for a quarter of the amount of butter to stabilize it, but if you don’t have shortening, you can use a smidge cream of tartar to help stabilize it, as the coffee sometimes causes it to separate and get wilty, but when I say smidge I mean smidge… its very acidic tasting so if you go overboard you’ll ruin the flavor of the frosting.

Okay so these were pretty awesome. And they look really pretty. ¡Qué linda! I kinda figured they would be awesome. Its just good to test drive a recipe sometimes. I think the frosting came out really spectacular, but then again like I’ve mentioned, I love Mexican hot chocolate and I like hot and spicy stuff. Its very subtle hot though, its not really in your face, so I don’t know if anyone would complain about it. Unless they weren’t familiar with Mexican Hot Chocolate and didn’t understand why there was chili in their buttercream. In which case- you should not be friends with those people, they’re crazy. Go feed ’em to el chupacabra (and while you’re at it, I know a few more people you can throw to the goat sucker… contact me for a complete list).

They were a success! Although when I make ’em for turkey day I probably won’t use skulls on top. Heh. You can definitely tell theres cayenne and chili in it, its got a kick after the initial taste. But its not overpowering.

¡Viva la cupcakes!

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  2. That buttercream sounds amazing! And the toothpick art – adorable. 🙂

    I might have to try making these; how great would they be for dia de los muertos with actual sugar skulls sitting on top? (miniaturized, of course).

    Thank you!

  3. Yoyo: the cake is amazing… I mean the frosting came out pretty damn good but the cake… you can eat it by itself!

    Carrie Mae: The sugar skull idea is great- I always wanted to make them! And I love your website 🙂

  4. ooh these sound so delicious! i will have to try them this weekend!!

    lol @ feeding them to el chupacabra lmaoooo

    i always scare kids with el cucuy 😀

  5. would it alter the taste of the frosting if i used regular butter instead of the unsalted butter??


  6. Carina- I don’t think there would be any noticable difference. I’ve used salted butter before in frosting and it seemed just fine to me. If you’re using salted butter in a frosting recipe that calls for a pinch salt, just omit that extra pinch of salt. 🙂

  7. I freaking love cinnamon, it is my crack. Looking forward to trying these beauties!

    Mostly I’m jealous of the Day of the Dead picks, I’ll have a song I learned in Spanish class of yore in my head for the rest of the day.

  8. I love cinnamon too, its a fantastic spice isn’t it?

    Haha I love those picks, I think they’re my favorite ones I’ve made. Now that you mentioned Spanish class, I’m thinking of the ‘Days of the Week’ song I learned in mine!

  9. Just made these for my roommates….oh my goodness they turned out amazing! That icing is to die for! and cinnamon really is the best spice.


  10. the cocoa powder…do you use sweetened or unsweetened? thanks!! going to make the recipe today!

  11. Yum! Just finished making these and they are delish. I like the kick of the icing. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  12. I just finished making these wonderful cupcakes. I have a few questions. My cupcakes came out mostly hard on the outside and spongy on the inside. Even when I baked them for 10 minutes less, they still came out kinda hard. I followed the instructions to the T minus using a stand mixer (because I don’t have one.) Would that make the difference? Or maybe, I only had extra large eggs, would the extra egg make the difference? Maybe I added the flour too fast? Any ideas?

    Last question, the recipe for the frosting calls for cinnamon, but no where in the instructions does it call to add it in. Is it just to dust the cupcakes after icing them? Or should I have added it when adding the chili powder etc.?

  13. Hi Sarah Kristin!

    About the cinnamon- yes, that was me omitting it in the typing of the ingredients. It should go in with the chili powder. Hope that helps.

    About the hardness of the cake, I doubt the stand mixer would make a difference, if anything usually stand mixers make batter tougher if you aren’t careful. SO I can’t really imagine why that happened to you. I don’t know if it’s the egg, perhaps it is, I’ve only ever used medium or large in my baking unless the recipe called for extra large, so really I’m not sure. It could be your oven too, the humidity/dryness of where you live, altitude, etc… there are lots of variables in baking. But that’s the best answer I can give you! Sorry 🙁

  14. Thanks for the speedy reply! My mother in law, who is an avid baker, says that they probably came out harder because my muffin pan is dark silver and the darker pans run hotter. Do you think that might be it? She said to turn the oven down by 25 degrees and it would come out right. I do plan on remaking these as soon as I recover from my sugar overload. 🙂

  15. Thank you for sharing this recipe! I am completely excited to try…I want to make them for a friend’s baby shower. My question–based on your recipe above, how many cupcakes can I expect to yield from the recipe as written?

  16. Mmm I just made these for me and my boyfriend for dessert tonight. They came out beautifully and tasted delicious! Thanks so much for the recipe. 🙂

  17. Exactly what I’m looking for to share at our Cinco de Mayo party this week!!!!!! Thank you! I was so afraid I’d have to improvise my own recipe at the last minute (because unlike your superior planning skillz, I haz none). But thanks you your lovely self, I will be the favorite at the potluck!!! =D I credit thee. {Bowing politely}

  18. So these look amazing, I will totally make them this weekend. Question: I so don’t like coffee, is the coffee a strong flavor in the frosting?

  19. hi these look great..i was just wondering if you’ve ever tried making it with creamcheese frosting instead of buttercream?

  20. Ever since I discovered this recipe about 6 months ago, they have been my go-to cupcakes. I spice them differently for different holidays, mess around with the ingredients in the frosting, dye them different colors…and they always turn out amazing. Thank you for coming up with such a great and versatile recipe, and for teaching me how to make my new favorite cupcakes!

  21. Hello, Hello..
    First I’d like to say.. I’m InLove with your Cupcake Rehab Blog! I’m about to attempt these beautiful Cinnamon Vanilla Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttercream Frosting! My question to you is.. How on earth do you make your Frosting look so perfect when you apply it to the top of the Cupcake?!?!? And Second.. I’m making these for an office party we’re having tomorrow and I want to succeed in this attempt.. How would you recommend I do this? Make the Cupcakes First then Frost them tomorrow just before the party?! I’m so excited to make these.. I can’t wait to get off work today!

    Thank you, Thank you.. From one Cupcake Lover to Another! -alissa turosik

  22. Hi Alissa! Thanks for reading the blog!

    Okay first, I have 2 frosting tutorials on the blog, they might help you. You can get to them both from here:

    Second, I’d say you can definitely make them the night before & frost them the next day, that should be totally fine. That way at least you know they’ll be cool enough!

    Good luck, let me know how it goes… 🙂

  23. Im going to make them for a live auction– It’s Cinco De Mayo themed and these are just what I’m looking for! Thanks!

    Also, Do you have any other decoration ideas because they need to turn heads.

  24. Thank you so much! I tried out your recipe and it was fantastic! Thank you for the sites I’m pretty sure I’ve found a good one! Thanks again for your speedy reply!

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