Candy Cane Cupcakes with an Amazing Candy Cane Buttercream
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
For the cupcakes:
  • 120ml (or ½ cup) boiling water
  • ½ teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 145g (or ⅔ cup + 2½ teaspoons) granulated sugar
  • 120g (or ½ cup + 2 teaspoons, packed) light brown sugar
  • 130ml (or ½ cup + 2 teaspoons) buttermilk
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 60ml (or ¼ cup) sunflower oil (or canola oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g (or ¾ cup + 2½ teaspoons) all-purpose flour
  • 80g (or ½ cup + 3 tablespoons) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
For the candy cane buttercream:
  • 130g (or ½ cup + 2½ tablespoons) granulated sugar
  • 130g (or 4.5 ounces) candy canes, about 12 medium-sized candy canes*
  • 45ml (or 3 tablespoons) water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 120g (or ½ cup + 1½ teaspoons) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • crushed candy canes to decorate
First, make the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F (standard oven setting) and line a 12-cup muffin pan (or 2 6-cup muffin pans) with cupcake liners. This recipe will make 10-12 cupcakes.
  2. In a small heatproof bowl, combine the coffee and boiling water. Stir to dissolve the coffee. Add the granulated sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Adding the sugar will also cool the coffee. Add the brown sugar and stir to incorporate. The brown sugar won't dissolve completely, but that's fine. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the egg and oil until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. It will kind of look like mayonnaise. Whisk the wet ingredients (the coffee mixture) into the egg mixture until the mixture looks smooth.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Divide the batter over the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full with batter. Place on a wire rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
In the meantime, make the buttercream:
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, candy canes and water. Place over low heat, stirring with a metal spoon until the sugar and candy canes have completely dissolved. Stop stirring and crank the heat up to medium-high. Allow the mixture to come to a boil.
  2. n the meantime, add the egg whites to a medium-sized, heatproof bowl and mix (with a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) until foamy and the whites are almost able to hold soft peaks.
  3. Once the syrup is boiling, clip on a candy (or sugar) thermometer.
  4. Cook until the syrup reaches 116°C/240°F, then take the pan off the heat and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the bowl with the foamy egg whites, mixing continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Don't pour the syrup onto the whisk, or the syrup may splatter against the sides of the bowl (or into your face!). Instead, aim for a spot close to the whisk.
  5. Once all the syrup has been added, keep mixing until the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch and the meringue has completely cooled.
  6. Once the meringue feels cool, you can start adding the butter one cube at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once you've added all the butter, the mixture may start to look as if its separating. Don't panic! Just keep mixing and whipping and the buttercream will magically come together and become smooth and gorgeous.
  7. Once the buttercream is smooth and fluffy, make sure the cupcakes have completely cooled. If the cupcakes are even a tad warm, the buttercream will melt! Frost the cupcakes any way you like. I used a large closed star tip and a piping bag (duh!).
  8. Cupcakes are best served the day you make them (in which case you can keep them at room temperature), but they can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. If the cupcakes have been stored in the fridge, allow to come to room temperature before serving (this takes about 1 hours in a warm kitchen).
  9. Decorate with a sprinkle of crushed candy canes just before serving.
* I used strawberry flavored candy canes, because those are my favorite, but you can also use peppermint flavored candy canes or vanilla flavored candy canes. If you're using peppermint flavored candy canes, I suggest using only 6 medium-sized candy canes (65g or 2.25 ounces) and 195g (or 1 cup - 1 teaspoon) of granulated sugar instead of the 130g of sugar).
** The candy cane buttercream is made with Italian meringue. Although this meringue is made by pouring hot sugar syrup onto egg whites, the syrup is not hot enough to pasteurize the egg whites. Therefore, it is recommended that you not serve this buttercream to kids under the age of 5, the elderly, pregnant women or sick people.
Recipe by The Tough Cookie at