These Santa Hat Cupcakes are perfect for holiday parties! Dark chocolate cupcakes are topped with a rich vanilla buttercream and then topped with strawberries. This post is a paid collaboration with California Strawberries.
Today, I’ve teamed up with California Strawberries to bring you a beautiful Christmas dessert recipe, and to also let you know about a fun Holiday Bake-Off Contest they’re running through December 15th! It’s simple to enter, and they’re offering great cash prizes:
1st Place: $1000
2nd Place: $750
3rd Place: $500
To enter, share a photo of your strawberry baked goods on Instagram along with the name of the recipe. Make sure to include the following in the caption: #CAStrawberriesBakeOff and @castrawberries. Be sure to check out their rules and judging criteria to improve your chances of winning!
Now, on to the recipe.
How to Make Santa Hat Cupcakes
- All-purpose flour
- Baking powder
- Dutch-processed cocoa powder – Make sure you’re not using natural cocoa powder. It performs differently in baked goods. I have a post dedicated to natural vs. Dutch-processed cocoa powder if you’d like to learn more.
- Half-and-half – If you don’t have any half-and-half, it’s easy to make at home! Simply combine 3/4 cup whole milk and 1/4 cup heavy cream (or 50% of each for a more tender cupcake).
- Vanilla extract – I always recommend using pure vanilla extract as opposed to imitation vanilla extract.
- Unsalted butter
- White sugar
- Large eggs – Don’t substitute different sized eggs (unless you have a kitchen scale and know how to measure for large eggs). Want to know more? Check out Why Egg Size Matters in Baking.
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
- Standard cupcake pan
- Piping tips (recommended: Wilton 2D and Wilton 10)
- Piping bag
- Prepare the chocolate cupcakes, then cool to room temperature.
- While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the vanilla buttercream frosting and slice the stem end from the strawberries.
- When it’s time to assemble the cupcakes, pipe a single layer of frosting on top (don’t build up the frosting the way you would on a normal cupcake). Top each cupcake with a strawberry, then pipe a tiny bit of frosting on the tip of the strawberry. Voila!
- Visually, these cupcakes are all about the strawberries, so try to find ripe, bright red strawberries that are reasonably uniform in size. Medium to large strawberries work well.
- I’ve used an American-style vanilla frosting for the recipe. If you’d like to try a more advanced frosting, check out my Italian meringue buttercream recipe! It would be perfect with these cupcakes and has a much lighter texture than American buttercream.
- Take care not to over-mix the cupcake batter. Turn off the mixer as soon as the ingredients are combined. Over-mixing can lead to cakes and cupcakes sinking in the middle once they come out of the oven. Luckily, even if that happens, you can hide this with the vanilla frosting. They’ll still taste delicious, I promise!
Other Cupcake Recipes
Santa Hat Cupcakes
- 3 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 3/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ounce Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted (1/3 cup)
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons half-and-half
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature (9 tablespoons)
- 8 ounces granulated sugar (1 cup + 2 tablespoons)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 pound 1 1/4 ounces confectioners’ sugar, plus more as needed (4 1/2 cups)
- 1/4 cup half-and-half, room temperature (plus more as needed)
- 2 - 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or to taste)
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- 12 medium to large strawberries
Prepare the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven shelf on the center rack. Line a standard cupcake pan with liners and spray very lightly with baking spray. I recommend spraying from above with your arm at a distance.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the half-and-half and vanilla extract.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy (to avoid splatters, start with a lower speed and work up to high). Scrape down the side of the bowl, then add the eggs on low speed, one at a time, scraping down the sides all the way to the bottom of the bowl after the 1st and 2nd egg, until they’re completely incorporated.
- On medium-low speed, alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients over the course of 30-60 seconds, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, until everything is just combined. Give the bowl one more scrape, all the way to the bottom, to make sure there are no patches of flour or butter. If the batter looks slightly broken, turn the mixer back on high speed for around 10-15 seconds, which will bring it back together.
- Evenly distribute the batter between the cupcake liners. They should each be no more than halfway full. You may have a bit of excess batter.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean with a toothpick. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan.
Prepare the Frosting
- With an electric hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
- Add the confectioners’ sugar, half-and-half, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and creamy.
- If the frosting is too thin, add additional sugar, 1/4 cup at a time. If it’s too thick, add more half-and-half, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Assemble the Cupcakes
- Slice the stem end from each strawberry, creating a flat surface to sit on the cupcakes.
- With a star piping tip (I used a Wilton 2D tip), frost each cupcake in a circular motion from the outside to the center. Don’t add height the way you would with a normal cupcake; aim for a single, flat layer.
- Top each cupcake with a strawberry, flat-side down.
- Pipe a small amount of frosting on the tip of each strawberry (I used a Wilton 10 tip).
- Cupcakes are best served at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few days.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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