Sweet and Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes
Heat up dessert with Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes! These homemade chocolate cupcakes get their kick from cayenne pepper and are topped with a Spicy Chocolate Frosting for cupcakes. This small batch cupcake packs a surprising amount of heat without annihilating your tastebuds. A nod to Mexican Hot Chocolate, this chocolate cupcake recipe is perfect for anyone who loves a sweet and spicy together. Makes 6 cupcakes.
These cupcakes have a story behind them, and the story isn’t just, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny to make spicy chocolate cupcakes to give to someone for April Fools Day?”
Before we dive in, let me remind you that there’s a little “Jump to Recipe” button at the top of this page. This recipe has a backstory, and I’d be loathe not to explain it, so if you don’t wanna hear it, that tool is at your disposal.
If you want to hear where this idea came from, scroll on down…
Waaaaaay back in 1999, a little television show on the WB wiggled its way into my heart and didn’t stop endearing itself to me, even when it was beyond ridiculous.
That little show was called Roswell.
The show was about teenage aliens who were stranded on Earth, and the trouble they find themselves in when one saves the life of the girl he’s loved forever.
The aliens all looked like regular teenagers, save for the fact that the actors were all in their 20’s… I digress… but they had a few otherworldly tells…
You know, other than the super secret Samantha/Jeannie/alien powers they all possessed.
One of these tells was their tastebuds. (Just go with me here, y’all. I promise I’m not just telling you this for funsies.)
Turns out, the aliens loved sweet-spicy food combinations, which meant they carried Tabasco with them everywhere.
In one particular scene, Michael (an alien) steals a slice of chocolate cake from the diner, dumps a ton of Tabasco on it and proceeds to devour it… begrudgingly explaining to Maria (a human) about alien tastebuds after she’s understandably disgusted.
Ever since watching that scene more than a decade ago, I’ve wondered about the combination.
And up until now, I hadn’t tried it because (1) me and hot sauce don’t really mix, and (2) I don’t trust fictional alien tastebuds.
Sorry, Michael Guerin. 16-year-old Erin adored you, but 31-year-old Erin knows several of your life choices, including food and hair decisions, were iffy, at best. Even though she will probably always have a soft spot for you.
Why I love this recipe:
As I’m sure you can tell, I loved watching Roswell as a teenager, and I had a blast developing this recipe as a nod to my fave.
HOWEVER, I should note that Tabasco in the cupcake and in the icing is a no go. I did some testing, and the results were waaaaaaaaay too vinegary.
But cayenne pepper mixed into the cake and icing? Delightful!
Cayenne is the way to go here, y’all. It adds a bit of heat on the end, coming up to surprise you if you don’t know it’s there, but it doesn’t overpower the chocolate.
In fact, it plays pretty nicely with the chocolate and makes a lovely balanced dessert that walks the line of sweet and spicy without drastically falling in one direction or the other.
While these chocolate cupcakes don’t have the usual spices you might find in a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcake, they’ve got the heat, and the combination totally works.
Thank you, Roswell aliens!
More small batch desserts: Bourbon Maple Bacon Cupcakes | Margarita Cupcakes with Salted Tequila Frosting | Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Need some dessert inspiration? Head on over to my Dessert Recipe Index.
What you need to make this recipe:
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- Muffin/cupcake tin
- Mixing bowl
- Hand mixer
- Cookie scooper
- Cupcake liners
In addition to these tools, you’re going to need some ingredients to make your chocolate cupcakes from scratch, too.
Be sure to scroll all the way down to the recipe card to get the exact amounts!
- Eggs—these give shape and structure to our cupcakes. I have not tried the recipe without them.
- Granulated sugar—also known as white sugar, this is the sweetener for our cupcake recipe. There is no substitute, and I do not recommend cutting some of the sugar because the cupcakes will not be as balanced.
- Coconut oil—this is my go-to oil for cupcakes because it’s light and relatively flavorless if you get the refined kind. We want it to be a liquid. You could also use the same amount of another neutral oil, like vegetable or canola oil.
- Dark chocolate chips—we’re going to melt these and cool them for some extra chocolate flavor in the cupcakes themselves! If you don’t like dark chocolate, consider using bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips instead.
- Pure vanilla extract—for a little extra flavor to the batter! A little goes a long way.
- All-purpose flour—we use unbleached AP flour at our house, but the regular kind is fine here, too. I have not tried this recipe with gluten free substitutes, so please do not give that a go.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder—this is the regular ‘ol cocoa powder, NOT Dutch processed. We’ll need some for the chocolate cupcake recipe and the frosting.
- Baking powder—this is our leavener, and it works with the eggs to give our cupcakes some lift so they rise while baking. It is not the same thing as baking soda.
- Cayenne pepper—this is the spicy element for both the cupcakes and the frosting. There is no substitute.
- Kosher salt—I like to use a fine grain kosher salt in my baking recipes. You could also use a fine grain sea salt.
- Powdered sugar—also known as confectioner’s sugar, this is the sweetener for our frosting.
- Water—this will thin out our frosting just a wee bit before we slather it onto the cupcakes.
How to make Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes
Preheat the oven. Line the cupcake pan with liners, and spritz with nonstick baking spray. Set this aside.
Whip the egg using a hand mixer in a large bowl. (You may also do this in a bowl of a stand mixer.) When light yellow, measure in the sugar, and mix until combined.
Add the other wet ingredients. In go the melted coconut oil, chocolate chips and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
Add the dry ingredients. Measure in the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Use a whisk to combine the ingredients. You want the batter to be nice and smooth.
Use a cookie scoop to measure the batter into the prepared cupcake liners.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Let the spicy cupcakes cool completely for at least 30 minutes before frosting. If the cupcakes are warm, the frosting will melt off of them.
Make the Frosting
Whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and cayenne in a medium-sized bowl.
Pour in the water, and mix until well combined and nearly stiff. This is a thicker frosting.
Frost the cupcakes and enjoy! You may sprinkle them with a little extra powdered sugar and cayenne, if desired.
Here’s how you can make these unique cupcakes for April Fool’s Day:
Sweet and Spicy Chocolate Cake
Heat up dessert with Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes! These homemade chocolate cupcakes get their kick from cayenne pepper and are topped with a Spicy Chocolate Frosting for cupcakes. This small batch cupcake packs a surprising amount of heat without annihilating your tastebuds. A nod to Mexican Hot Chocolate, this chocolate cupcake recipe is perfect for anyone who loves a sweet and spicy together.
Chocolate Cayenne Cupcakes
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted and cooled slightly
- 3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- A pinch of salt
Spicy Chocolate Icing
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon water
Make the Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place six cupcake liners (or three large cupcake liners) in a cupcake pan, and spray lightly with baking spray. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the egg with a hand mixer until frothy. Add the granulated sugar, and beat until the mixture is combined.
- Measure in the coconut oil, chocolate and vanilla extract. Beat until all the wet ingredients are combined.
- Add the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt to the wet ingredients. Whisk until the ingredients are smooth.
- Measure the batter into the prepared cupcake liners.
- If baking regular sized cupcakes, bake for 15-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. If baking large cupcakes, bake for 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Allow 30 minutes to cool before icing.
Make the Icing
- In a medium-sized glass bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and cayenne. Add the water, and mix until well combined and nearly stiff.
Ice the cupcakes, then enjoy!
If you don't have coconut oil on hand, substitute in canola or vegetable oil for a dairy-free option. Melted unsalted butter can also be used, as well.
Serving Size:1 cupcake
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 217Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 83mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 1gSugar: 20gProtein: 3g
Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.
I’m a huge fan of salty and sweet, and I like spicy foods, so I don’t know why I’ve never tried the sweet and spicy combo. These cupcakes look like a pretty darn good place to start, though!
Sorry, I can’t help you with Roswell, but if you want to talk WB circa 2005 (One Tree Hill), I’m with you.
Like you, I’m a big sweet and salty fan, so I hope you like the sweet/spicy combination, too! And these cupcakes were pretty darn close to perfection for that combo!
Fair enough! I had so many friends who adored One Tree Hill. I never watched it… but hooray for old WB shows!
Now, this is so much better than the April Fools cupcakes that are really meatloaf or something. At least you weren’t kidding about the chocolate!!
HA! I cannot even imagine biting into a cupcake that was supposed to be a cupcake but was actually meatloaf! What a disappointing surprise!
I’ve never watched that show, but I’m addicted to some others that sound similiar. (The Vampire Diaries :-o) These cupcakes sound scrumptious. I’ve never thought to make my sweets spicy, but I’m loving this idea. Your presentation is gorgeous!
We’ve all got our shows like that, I fear. Haha. These cupcakes were scrumptious, and I’m glad you think so. I’d never made my sweets spicy before (other than a few times making Mexican Hot Chocolate), but I’ll continue doing this because it’s fun and different. Enjoy!
These sound amazing! I loooooove hot cocoa with cayenne so I can imagine how good this would be in cupcake form. I’ve never watched Roswell but I think I need to. As I read this, I’m eating a bowl of salad that I just dumped an absolute ton of Tabasco on… maybe I’m actually an alien ;P
YES! Another hot cocoa with cayenne fan! 🙂 This cupcake rendition of that is pretty darn tasty. Also? I think you totally need to give Roswell a shot, even though it’s getting closer to 20 years old. And hey, Tabasco on a salad doesn’t sound half bad. 😉
I totally loved Roswell! These are gorgeous cupcakes!
Thanks so much, Kari! I had a lot of fun with these cupcakes. And I’m glad you’re a fellow Roswell lover.
I remember Roswell! These cupcakes look so yummy! I love anything with spice, as does my husband, so we’ll be trying these soon!
I’m so glad that you remember Roswell! It was my favorite (obviously.) I hope y’all enjoy these cupcakes when you give them a try!
I’m very excited to try these out! Is there a good substitute for the coconut oil? Or is that a very necessary ingredient? I don’t use it and it’s not a very cheap thing to buy for only a few tablespoons. 🙂 Thanks!
Hey Carly! I hope you enjoy these. As far as a substitute, you could use vegetable or canola oil. You could also use melted butter. I haven’t used any of those in this cake before, but I *think* they would work!
I LOVED Roswell. In fact, it was basically my gateway drug to reading fanfiction and searching for shows/movies/books/etc on websites. 1999 was a good year (even though I basically got no homework done in school because of a newly discovered thing in my house called internet).
I can agree with not trusting fictional alien taste buds…I once dumped some Tabasco sauce in ice cream to see what it would taste like (too curious for my own good) since it seemed like something they would do in the show but I blocked that horrible, traumatic memory out. Thankfully.
I am looking forward to trying these out! (it may take me a while…I’m not much of a baker ^^;)
Thank you! 😀
(Have you seen Majandra & Brendan’s campaign for a show together? Looks familiar, right? )
You had me at Sweet and Spicy! I want to devour one of these now!
Oh I love this twist on cupcakes!
I am so excited to make these! I love sweet and spicy together!!
Those look so good and great job on the pics!
Sweet and spicy flavor combination must be perfect! Can’t wait to try these cupcakes!
I love the sweet and spicy combo — chili chocolate is one of my favorites! I know I would love these cupcakes!
I love the spicy kick! These sound so good!