Mexican Chocolate Cupcake with Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Frosting

Woohoo for Air conditioned kitchen! Boo for still melting my frosting!

I am kitten sitting for some friends of mine, and while I am here, I am taking full advantage of their air conditioned kitchen to play with baked goods. I also did not bring butter or milk over with me the first day, so I needed a vegan cupcake.

I found this Mexican Chocolate Cake recipe listed a few places online. I liked the fact that it didnt use any milk substitutes, and that it had balsamic vinegar for acidity (rather than white vinegar, which is also not in this kitchen.) “Mexican Chocolate” is typically spiked with cinnamon for a slightly spicy kick, and these cupcakes also have cayenne pepper. They do have a spicy after kick.

I wanted to try this Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream, because I think it may go well with my dulce de leche cupcakes. The frosting was great, except I think I overbeat it, and/or the kitchen was too warm, so the butter started to melt.

This is different than the buttercream curdling. Most meringue based frostings (as well as my Cooked Flour Frosting) go through a stage where they look curdled. This is normal, and the answer is to keep beating it. However, when it starts to look like tiny fat globules and shiny liquid, something happened and you need to start over. (Or, ya know, eat it, because it is butter and sugar and therefore tasty, just not smooth and not pretty.)

Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes
(Recipe from
Makes 12 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup canola oil*
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

This is a one bowl cake. Put everything in a bowl, and mix it up. Do not overbeat, but stir until just smooth. You can leave out the cayenne pepper, or substitute chili powder for less heat. (Edit 7/25/2010: Since this is an egg and dairy free cake, you actually can agitate the flour a bit, because it is the gluten that holds the cupcake together. Making this a second time, i put in 1 tsp of Cayenne pepper, and I think the chili powder provides a slightly better taste. I also upped the Cinnamon to 3 tsp., as I think the cinnamon came out more pronounced. The downside was that many thought the chocolate flavor wasn’t there.)

*(Note: Serious Eats has made this cake without the canola oil, so it may be optional. I would think that the cake would be drier, and I tend to like moist cupcakes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. You can also make one 8 or 9 inch layer, and cook for approximately 30 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when finished.

Top with Brown Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

A few notes on the swiss buttercream: when the eggs are at proper temperature, you can feel the mixture and it will no longer feel gritty. Make sure that everything is clean, otherwise the initial meringue will not fluff up. When adding the butter, “curdling” or it looking lumpy is fine, just keep beating. “Melting” is not okay. Make sure your kitchen is cooler than 75 degrees or so , otherwise the butter may melt. If you are really worried, watch this video on 123 Swiss Buttercream.


  1. I saw your link to this on the problogger challenge–wow! Mexican chocolate cupcakes sound so enticing. I used to make Mexican chocolate brownies, but the possibility of cupcakeness and frosting sounds even better.

    • AmandaLP said

      Ooo, Mexican Chocolate Brownies sound good! I have an awesome brownie recipe, I am not sure I want to play with it to add spices. :)

      • The recipe actually uses Ibarra Mexican drinking chocolate, which is already spiced, and a bit of extra cinnamon, so that really changes things up.

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