Peppermint Stick Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream
December 10, 2020
There’s a major difference between peppermint and just mint. And for some reason, the food flavor industry has determined that while green mint is acceptable all year, pink peppermint is only available around the holidays. This made my mom’s favorite ice cream flavor, peppermint stick, a bit of an ephemeral experience. These peppermint stick cupcakes are a fun twist on that ice cream, but I promise, I won’t stop you from eating them all year.
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Growing up, those bowls of peppermint stick ice cream were a ritual in my family. Sometimes we’d eat our scoops plain, or other times smothered with hot fudge. For this cupcake recipe, I wanted to focus on the pink peppermint flavor, so I left out the chocolate completely — almost. I did sneak a little white chocolate into the frosting.
What You Need to Get Started
- Fridge: Butter, Eggs, Ricotta, Heavy cream, Milk
- Pantry: Sugar, Flour, Cornstarch, Baking soda, Candy canes, Confectioner’s sugar, White chocolate chips, Food dye
- Spice Rack: Vanilla extract, Peppermint extract, Cream of tartar, Salt
- Equipment: Cupcake pan, Stand mixer, Mixing bowl, Whisk, Silicone spatula, Rolling pin, Mesh strainer, Ice cream scoop or cookie scoop, Piping bag, French star piping tip
Let’s Make Peppermint Stick Cupcakes
In college, I made cupcakes so often that it became something I was known for around campus. But since graduating, I have shifted a lot of my focus to other baked goods. Making these was a nice return to my roots of baking.
When you are thinking of making cupcakes, it is a major benefit to have a little bit of foresight. That way you can bring your cold ingredients to room temperature. It really does make a difference in cupcakes, allowing the batter to be mixed more easily without having to overmix.
That means fluffier cupcakes! I definitely recommend working with all room temperature ingredients in this recipe.
Cupcakes come together fairly quickly, so preheat your oven before getting started. Then, you’re going to use the basic baking formula of mixing wet and dry separately before combining them.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add in the softened butter and sugar. Creaming these together on medium-low, using the paddle attachment will allow little pockets of air to form. You’ll want to continue creaming for about five minutes, so it gets visibly lighter in color and looks soft and fluffy in texture.
Add in the eggs, mixing on low speed just until the yolks are broken up. Then add in the ricotta and extracts. Combine that all together on low speed until it’s nice and smooth. This should only take about a minute or two if everything is room temperature.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Once thoroughly combined, add these into the mixer bowl all at once.
Mix on low speed until the flour is incorporated and there are no obvious dry pockets, but don’t keep mixing past that point. Then, add the heavy cream and mix that in on low as well. Again, be careful not to mix more than needed to just combine everything.
Next, use a marble rolling pin, a mallet, or another heavy item like a bottle to crush up your candy canes on a sturdy surface. Don’t worry about turning them fully into dust. It’s best to have plenty of larger pieces as well.
Pour the crushed candy canes through a mesh strainer. Dump the large pieces right into your mixer bowl, and set the dust aside for later. You can cover the container of the dust and store at room temperature for a day or so.
Take the mixer bowl off the mixer and instead use a silicone spatula to fold the candy cane pieces into the the batter. This motion will help keep your batter fluffy. Remember how I said not to over mix earlier? Folding is a technique that will help with that, while still distributing the candy pieces.
Line a cupcake pan if you haven’t already with paper liners. This recipe makes eighteen cupcakes, so if you have a larger pan you can make them all at once. For a standard twelve-cup pan, it will take one-and-a-half batches.
Use an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop to easily transfer the batter into the lined cups. Fill each one about three-quarters of the way full. As a good marker, you should have used about two-thirds of the total batter for the first twelve cupcakes.
I always say that good cupcakes take exactly twenty minute to bake. However, every oven is different, so start checking around the eighteen minute mark. When a cupcake is done, a toothpick inserted into the center will come out clean. I check all twelve to be sure.
The top will also have a slightly spongy appearance. If you gently press on it, the top should bounce back to a nice dome shape, and not show any sort of dent. When these are done, let them cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes until you can handle them.
Then, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. You don’t want to add the frosting to warm cupcakes, so definitely be sure they are thoroughly cooled before icing.
How to Make White Chocolate Buttercream
Speaking of icing, it took me a little bit of time to brainstorm exactly what I wanted to use for these cupcakes. When working with peppermint flavor, it’s important that you keep a nice balance of something else. Otherwise, it can end up tasting a little bit like toothpaste.
Trust me, that is not an enjoyable experience. I decided to go with white chocolate because I had some extra chips around, and it was definitely the right choice. The first thing to do with the frosting is to melt that white chocolate.
Add it to a microwave safe bowl, and then use 30-second increments. Stir after each one, and you’ll notice the chips beginning to melt. Once most of them have lost their shape, you can stir to help melt the last few bits. It’s ready when it’s smooth. However, if you overcook the chips, the white chocolate can easily burn.
Set that bowl aside so the white chocolate has some time to cool. Then, add softened butter into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Personally, I like to use the bowl scraper attachment, but a standard one will work as well.
Whip up the butter by itself on medium speed until it visibly lightens in color and the texture appears soft and fluffy. This will take at least five minutes. But it’s okay, because it really does make such a difference in texture.
Then, begin adding in the sugar one cup at a time. With each cup you add, incorporate it fully into the butter before adding the next. After all the sugar has been added, the icing should have a stiff texture and taste very sweet.
At this point, add in the melted and cooled white chocolate and the peppermint extract. In the recipe, I list the extract as optional, but it is the only source of peppermint flavor in the frosting. If you want a more subtle peppermint taste in your final product, you can leave it out and have plain white chocolate buttercream.
Mix until everything is combined together, slowly adding milk by the tablespoon as needed. The milk will help you achieve the right consistency for your buttercream. If you are piping, it needs to be less stiff than if you are simply scooping it on top of each cupcake.
A good piping consistency will hold its shape. When you lift the paddle out of the mixer bowl, the icing will stay on it. However, any very fine points on the surface will start to get a gentle curl.
Then, it’s time to add the food coloring. Different brands of color are different. Also, the lighting in your home and the brand of butter you use can all create subtle differences in color. I used 6 drops of red and one of blue to get a dark rosy pink.
For a lighter color, start by adding in the red one drop at a time and mixing it into the frosting. Then, once the pink is as dark as you’d like, dip a toothpick in the blue, and add it in tiny bits. Blue is very powerful, so you can quickly go from rose to purple.
When the color is done and uniform, prepare a piping bag. To add a little bit more dimension on these cupcakes, I wanted to add some red swirls into the frosting. To do this, use a toothpick dipped in the red coloring, and draw lines along the inside of the piping bag before filling it.
I love how it adds streaks of red into the pink frosting. It definitely reminds me of the melted candy streaks you’d find in the quarts of peppermint stick ice cream. I used a star tip for piping these that had a lot of points, but you can use any of your favorite tips for a different look.
Swirl the frosting onto each cooled cupcake, starting at the edge, and spiraling up and toward the center to create a nice mound. For a perfect point, lift the bag straight up as you loosen up on squeezing.
Peppermint stick cupcakes are a fun and festive treat, especially these topped with a rosy pink white chocolate buttercream!
How to Serve
If you’d like, you can find that candy cane dust from earlier and sprinkle it over the piped frosting. I thought it looked like sparkly peppermint snow! But I also left about half the cupcakes blank.
These make a wonderful dessert leading up to Christmas, or any time during the holiday season. I would love one paired with a warm mug of chai white hot chocolate and a cozy fire. But you can enjoy them all year. Try one in the summer with a mint julep.
You can make these cupcakes in advance, and keep them in the fridge for 3-4 days. The unfrosted cupcakes also freeze well for a few months. Extra frosting, if you have any, can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- I love baking with ricotta. Try it in a fragrant butternut squash curry cornbread.
- It seems like cornstarch has magical powers, especially in a honey pavlova with chai poached plums.
- Cream of tartar is a major ingredient in snickerdoodles. Try these stuffed with apple cider caramel.
- Whole candy canes make an excellent way to stir hot chocolate or morning coffee for a hint of peppermint flavor.
Peppermint Stick Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream
Peppermint Stick Cupcakes
- ½ Cup (1 stick) Unsalted Butter room temperature
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 Eggs room temperature
- ½ Cup Ricotta room temperature
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
- ¼ tsp Peppermint Extract
- 1 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
- ¼ Cup Cornstarch
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- ½ tsp Cream of Tartar see recipe note
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ½ Cup Heavy Cream room temperature
- 3 Candy Canes
White Chocolate Buttercream
- 1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter softened, but not melted
- 3 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
- ¾ Cup White Chocolate Chips melted and cooled slightly
- ¼ tsp Peppermint Extract optional
- 1-2 Tbsp Milk
- Gel Food Dye optional
Peppermint Stick Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle, and line a standard-size cupcake pan with paper liners.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light, fluffy and combined, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the eggs, and mix them in on low until the yolks are broken up. Then add in the ricotta and extracts. Mix on low until everything is uniform and combined.
- Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt until thorughly combined.
- Add the dry ingredients into the stand mixer bowl all at once and mix on low until they are just incorporated, and there are no dry pockets of flour. Then add in the heavy cream, and mix again until just combined.
- Crushed the candy canes using a heavy rolling pin, bottle, or mallet. Pour the crushed pieces through a mesh strainer, and set aside the fine dust that is strained out. Fold the larger pieces that remain in the strainer into the batter using a silicone spatula.
- Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to fill the lined cupcake pan with the batter. Fill each cup about ¾ of the way full. If you are using a standard 12-cupcake pan, you should be using about ⅔ of the batter. Use the rest in a second batch of 6.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean of each cupcake, and the tops bounce back in you gently touch them. Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
White Chocolate Buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and whip on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- Add in the sugar, one cup at a time. Mix on medium, incorporating each cup completely before adding the next.
- Add in the white chocolate and peppermint extract if desired. Continue mixing on medium until incorporated. If the frosting is too thick, add the milk as needed. It should hold its shape, but not be so stiff that it cracks or crumbles.
- Add in the food dye as desired. I used 6 drops of red and 1 drop of blue for a rosy pink. Mix on medium-low until full incorporated.
- Use a toothpick with red food dye to draw lines on the inside of a piping bag fitted with a French star tip. Add the frosting, and then pipe onto the fully cooled cupcakes in a spiral pattern.
- If desired, dust the tops of the cupcakes with the remaining candy cane dust. Serve immediately, or store in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- If you prefer to use baking powder, replace the cream of tartar and baking soda in the recipe with 1 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda.
- Make ahead tip:
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature in a sealed container for 1 day, or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- The frosting can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 weeks, but let it come to room temperature before piping.
- Frosted cupcakes can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days. Serve cold or let them warm up to room temperature.