Well, it’s that time of year again… time to bust out the eggnog, peppermint bark, red and green M & M’s, and anything else high in sugar and calories! There is so much to love about Christmas time, but one of my favorite things is the emphasis on anything and everything peppermint. For some reason, peppermint just tastes better in December, even though it’s accessible all year round. I’ll just blame it on the “magic of Christmas”…aka, it’s completely a mental thing. ;)
Food is such an important aspect of Christmas time for me because it brings back many memories from my childhood and I think that’s maybe why I love it so much. I can remember making sugar cookies with my Mom and sister that were rolled in red and green sprinkles, peanut butter blossoms (which I was always trying to steal when Mom wasn’t looking), white chocolate covered Oreos (my Dad’s favorite), and a Bolte family tradition on Christmas Eve: “reindeer food”. My Mom used to always make a cheese ball that consisted of gouda wrapped in crescent rolls and baked and it was always a big hit. As were the crock pot meat balls and my grandmother’s deviled eggs and Aunt’s pumpkin roll. Oh, Christmas…how I love you.
As a kid growing up, the scents of Christmas were just as important as the tastes. I can vividly remember the smell of fresh pine from the Christmas tree, cloves, cinnamon, oranges, and cranberry coming from a pot simmering on the stove, and the smell of snow in the air. Christmas time also brings to mind Kenny G, Steven Curtis Chapman’s mid 90’s Christmas album, “Music of Christmas”, and the infamous Amy Grant album, “Home for Christmas,” which was played about 1,000,000 times in our house over the course of a month. I’m so grateful to have grown up in a household with these kinds of soul-warming memories, even if they might be a bit cheesy sometimes. I’m even more grateful though to have brought up in a household that celebrated and overemphasized the real meaning of Christmas, in spite of all the traditions and craziness this season brings with it, which is the birth of Christ. Speaking of the birth of Christ, my Mom may or may not have made us sing “Happy birthday” to Jesus every year…yes, even now as a 25 year old I’m not exempt, in fact, no one is. Here’s the proof:
On Christmas Eve our family always gets dressed up in our Christmas best, goes to church so we can celebrate the true reason for the season, stand and sing some Christmas carols while holding a little white candle that inevitably will run over the side of the paper holder and onto your hand, come home to hors d’oeuvres, and then we all receive 3 presents…one of which is always matching pajamas my Mom picks out every year. This is the point at which I become jealous of my brother because he always gets the comfy ones while my sister and I get the “cute” ones that are completely impractical. Ah, well.
Christmas morning in our house was pretty scripted. My brother would wake up first, around 6 AM, come into my sister’s room to wake her up, then they came in my room to wake me up last. Finally, once I had been dragged out of bed, we would all go into my parents room to wake them up, which was no easy task! We weren’t allowed to go downstairs until Mom and Dad had given the “ok”, which really meant all the cameras and presents had been set up and were in place, so there are many pictures of the three of us in our pajamas at the top of the staircase, bed head and all, and I, always looking less than enthused about being up before the sun.
Once we had made it downstairs, there was a distinct system when it came to presents. First we always read Luke 2 as a family before anything else. Then when it came time to open gifts, Mom usually had a code for which only she knew when it came to which present belonged to who, and we had to take turns opening them, one at a time. There was usually always at least one person who got a big present that wasn’t under the tree though and was hiding in a discreet location until after all the other presents were opened. Once that was all done, then came the stockings, which was my sister, Lauren’s, favorite part. Now it was time to look like you were excited about getting a razor and some face wash! If you were really lucky though, you’d get a CD or some money…
Breakfast was always special too on Christmas. We always either had breakfast casserole (my personal fave) or monkey bread, as modeled here by Jordan, my brother.
In recent years though, we have started to go to Waffle House or Waffle King for breakfast. We do this simply so we can bless those who have to work on Christmas day just to make ends meat and as we all know, the only place open is Waffle House. We’ll save up money throughout the year and then leave a large tip before we leave with a card that has a Bible verse on it with a small note from us. It’s something my Mom started about five years ago and is now one of my favorite parts, despite the fact that the first year we had to all go in our matching pajamas…it was pretty embarrassing.
So anyway, those are just some of my Christmas memories from growing up. I’d love to hear some of yours as well! Traditions always intrigue me and learning about new and different ones is always exciting. But now it’s back to the whole point of this blog…the food!
This recipe combines two of my many culinary loves: peppermint and (of course) coffee. You can’t really go wrong with those two ingredients, right? I would also add that this is undoubtedly my new favorite chocolate cake recipe. It is incredibly moist, light, and when made with a quality cocoa, deliciously deep in chocolate flavor. I would also highly recommend that you put on some Christmas tunes, a festive apron, and maybe some hot chocolate on the stove while you make these little beauties.
The Best Chocolate Cupcakes (base recipe):
Makes 2 dozen standard-sized cupcakes
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup whole milk, room temp.
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, room temp.
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
To this base recipe, I made the peppermint mocha flavor by adding:
- 3 Tbsp peppermint extract
- 1 cup hot, strong brewed coffee
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, or 325 degrees if you are using convection.
- Prepare your cupcake tins with liners and a light coat of baking spray.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the batter attachment, sift together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder and mix.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, oil, and vanilla until combined.
- Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined.
- Add the brewed coffee (slowly!) and mix until combined. The batter will be extremely watery looking, but don’t worry…it’s right!
- Using a 3 Tbsp. scoop, transfer batter to cupcake pan and bake for 18-22 minutes.
- Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.
And about 20 minutes later…*Drumroll please* Ta da!
Now for the peppermint swirl icing…I know it may look a little tricky, but believe me, it’s about simple as you can get! Here’s a picture tutorial on making the stripes, oh and this is just a basic vanilla buttercream I used for these.
- You’ll need a piping bag, a spatula, red icing gel, as shown here, which can be found at any major supermarket, and a straw. I prefer this over red food coloring because it holds better to the bag and is more potent in color.
2. Next, carefully put a stripe inside the piping bag down one side. Add your icing to the piping bag and it should look something like this:
I also find it’s helpful when adding icing to a piping bag to use a tall cup.
That’s pretty much it…now just pipe some of the icing out until you get to the red part and ice those cupcakes baby!
Finally, here a few more Christmas pictures for you to enjoy. Again, I would love to hear any and all Christmas traditions your family might have as well!
Savannah and Granddaddy – Christmas 2010
Christmas 1993 – the year we got our first family dog
Cody on his first white Christmas!
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”