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Finals are done! My first semester of college is over! Finally, it’s winter break!!! I was even more excited than usual about the holiday season this year because in middle/high school, I never really got much of a break (unless there were snow days). This year, I’m home for almost a month and I can spend so much more time having fun with my family and friends!! (And naturally I also plan to bake a lot and binge watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix) 

 I was meeting up with my friends again for a birthday + an end of the semester celebration and made a tray of cupcakes for the occasion. Since it’s the holiday period, I tend to put a lot more spices into desserts. I used to incorporate a mix of spices solely in pumpkin or carrot flavored baked goods in the past, but this time I wanted to experiment and use them in my chocolate cupcakes as well.  I was a bit nervous but I have to say, they turned out a lot better than I expected. I didn’t think chocolate and spices other than cinnamon (such as cloves/nutmeg) could complement each other this well! They did not only provide this familiar feeling of warmth that you usually find in Starbucks holiday drinks but they even brought out the intensity of the dark chocolate flavor.

 When we were still in our junior year of high school, one of my friends used to eat a pretzel with a chocolate popsicle often at lunch. I admit that back then, I always found that unusual. I had no idea chocolate and pretzel went so well together (obviously, I had never eaten a chocolate covered pretzel in my life). I tried it later, and it’s now one of my favorite combinations of ingredients to put in desserts!! I’m a huge fan of the sweet & salty flavor and the sea salt on pretzels paired with the sweetness of chocolate is just amazing!

 So, I used my friend’s idea and experimented with spices and ended up with a beautiful and incredibly delicious tray of cupcakes!!

 ~Spiced Chocolate-Pretzel Cupcakes ~

 Cupcake

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup milk

1 1/3 cups All Purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1  tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp cloves

Salted pretzel sticks

 Chocolate Fudge Frosting

4 oz unsweetened chocolate

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/3 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

 1/8 tsp nutmeg

 1/8 tsp cloves

 Garnish

Pieces of pretzel sticks

White chocolate chips

 

      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin pan with muffin liners
      2. Bring the milk just to a boil and mix in the cocoa powder
      3. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices
      4. Cream the butter with the sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract
      5. Incorporate the flour and the cocoa milk in two additions, alternating between the two mixtures.
      6. Break the pretzel sticks in small pieces.
      7. For each cupcake, scoop in enough batter to fill up half of the liner, scatter the pieces of pretzels on the batter, then put in some more batter, and scatter some more pretzels over it.
      8. Bake the cupcakes for 18 minutes and let cool completely before piping on the frosting
      9. To make the frosting, melt the unsweetened chocolate and let it cool to room temperature
      10. Cream the butter with the confectioners sugar, the spices, and the vanilla extract, then mix in the melted chocolate
      11. With a butter knife, spread the frosting on top of the cupcake (or pipe it on if you’d like swirls)
      12. Decorate each cupcake with white chocolate chips and pieces of pretzels

 If you are planning a party or meeting up with friends/family who love chocolate cupcakes, try this recipe!!! It’s as great as eating an ordinary chocolate cupcake but with tons more flavor and texture! 

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