I wasn’t really sure if I should bring up the tragedy that happened on Friday morning at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut here or not. Ultimately, I decided that while it may be hard to write or read about it, especially when media coverage has been unrelenting, not mentioning it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Newtown is forty-five minutes from where I live, and the students there are the same ages as M and O, and the fact that this happened is sadly, very real to me. Thursday night, Lane and I were viewing the tree at Rockefeller Center (which is huge, because being a New Yorker means Lane doesn’t visit “tourist traps”, but I digress), and we shopped at the Lego store nearby so we could get O some Lego axles and wheels, from Santa. We joked that if O went on the “eat for your blood type” diet, his blood type would have to be “Nugget,” and we laughed about how M likes to entertain us with one musical selection after another, usually at the dinner table.
When first reports came in on Friday morning, I openly wept as I watched the news. How many of these parents would be taking kids to grandma’s just like M and O were on their way to their grandma’s? How many of these parents were out at a store on Thursday night, or planned to go to a holiday performance at school like we did this morning? It was all really too much, and it still is. I’m not going to get into what I think went wrong here, and I’m not going to entertain the media circus that this has become. Seeing small children with media microphones in their faces discussing this outrages me, and I will say that if you want crimes like this to stop, we cannot give the people who commit crimes like this any celebrity. The copious amounts of misinformation that were spread by local and worldwide media in the aftermath of this are sickening. My heart is heavy for Newtown, and for parents everywhere who sent kids off to schools all over the country this morning (we know from experience it wasn’t easy), for the first responders and other emergency personnel who were involved in this, and for the victims of this tragedy and their loved ones.
When things like this happen, I think we realize all too sharply how much our loved ones really mean to us. Lane and I decided to proceed with our planned holiday dinner with friends on Friday night. It took our minds off of what happened, gave us a reason to stop watching the news, and gave us an excuse to indulge in comfort foods like lasagna and these cupcakes. I know it was heavy on our minds that many families wouldn’t be sitting down together that night and how lucky we all were that we, a family we have chosen for ourselves, were able to celebrate that friendship. I made these cupcakes for dessert, and they provide just the right amount of nostalgia and comfort. The original frosting recipe says it makes enough to frost twelve cupcakes. I had enough to generously frost twenty-four, so I suppose it depends on how much frosting you like on your cupcakes. I used Kraft mini dehydrated marshmallows (they come in what looks like a Parmesan cheese canister) as a garnish, which I found near the hot cocoa packets in my local grocery store.
Hot Cocoa Frosted Chocolate Cupcakes
for the cupcakes:
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- ¾ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 2/3 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- ¾ cup sour cream
for the frosting:
- 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 1/2 cup dry hot chocolate mix (without mini marshmallows)
- 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp heavy cream
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line two twelve-cavity cupcake pans with paper cupcake liners.
In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder and hot water. Whisk until smooth.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and whisk to blend.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter and sugar and cook, stirring, until the mixture is smooth and the butter has completely melted.
Transfer the butter mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer).
Beat on medium-low speed for about 4-5 minutes, until mixture is cool.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture until smooth.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream. Begin and end with the dry ingredients and mix after each addition just until the addition is incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners (I use an ice cream scoop for this).
Bake about 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, combine the hot chocolate mix and cream in a small saucepan.
Heat the mixture over medium heat until hot and steaming but not quite boiling, stirring constantly so that the sugar in the cocoa mix dissolves. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.
Add the powdered sugar to the butter and mix until combined, the mixture will be very dry.
Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the hot chocolate mixture.
Once all of the cocoa mixture is added, turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for about a minute until it is light and fluffy.
Spread the frosting over cooled cupcakes, or put frosting in a frosting bag fitted with a decorator tip and pipe onto cupcakes. Garnish if desired.
Makes about 24 frosted cupcakes.