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Alton Brown and Red Hots

red hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diaries

I know the post title is promising cupcakes with red hots frosting, and I will definitely get there, but let me tell you a story first.  Back in the Fall I was tasked with making a birthday cake for member of our home group.  I have a cake dome that I love to use and had just seen a picture of a rainbow cake online, so I was totally in.  I had this great idea to do a Fall-ish array of colors and go with four layers: devil’s food, red velvet, and red- and orange-tinted white cake layers.  I also wanted to use marshmallow-y boiled frosting because it stands up well to a creme brulee torch and I could get some lovely toasted texture on the cake.

red hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diariesred hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diaries
red hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diaries

The cake was fun to make and looked pretty good both from the outside and once I cut into it.  One of the guys who ate the cake made the comment, “How did you get this cake so dense and heavy?  It’s not light and fluffy like cake usually is.”   Gasp.  I was horrified.  The guy really did like the cake this way and meant it as a compliment, but I just couldn’t take it that way.

red hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diaries

Let’s go back to the cake that I made.  I used Alton Brown’s devil’s food and red velvet cake recipes and they were deeeelicious!  Red velvet, ehn, I could take it or leave it.  But devil’s food, that’s a cake I’m a huge lover of and subsequently, pretty picky about.  This cake tastes like chocolate, oh, does it ever.  I used an America’s Test Kitchen white cake recipe and during the addition of coloring that I just couldn’t get right, I over mixed the batter.  And there’s the tough, dense cake.  It tasted okay, but let’s just say, the red and orange layer leftovers didn’t get eaten.

red hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diaries

Fast forward to Valentine’s Day, it’s cupcake time.  Devil’s food cupcake time.  Alton Brown’s cake is just too good not to make again and I just got a new bag of double dutch cocoa powder from KAF, so I’d be stupid not to do it.  The boiled frosting is quick and easy, but kind of one-note.  Let me tell you something about myself: I am a total wimp about spicy things (Altoids? too hot) but I love, love, love red hots.  “So why not make red hots frosting?” you ask.  Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking, too.

I’m going to let you find your own cake recipe and I totally recommend that you try Alton’s recipes.  On a side note, another thing I love about Alton Brown is that he puts everything in weight measurements, which is absolutely my preferred method of measuring.

Red Hots Boiled Icing

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 6 cups of icing

Red Hots Boiled Icing


  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ to ½ cup “red hots” or cinnamon imperials candy, according to preference


  • Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment beat egg whites on low until frothy, then increase speed to medium-high. Beat until stiff peaks form.
  • Meanwhile, heat water, sugar, corn syrup and candies to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until the syrup is very red and the candies and reduced in size, about 5 to 7 minutes. Strain syrup into a container with a spout or that pours easily and discard remaining candy bits.
  • With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the syrup into the meringue. Turn the speed up to medium and beat 4 or 5 minutes until glossy and thick. The frosting should come very close to the top of your mixer bowl.
  • Your fluffy frosting is ready to be piped or spread on to anything you can think of. Make sure to use it sooner rather than later—after a while the frosting sets and you will never get the same gloss as if you used it right away.


Here is an alternate preparation: Instead of egg whites, use 3 tablespoons Wilton Meringue Powder and ½ cup cold water. Beat first until frothy, then to stiff peaks. Follow the rest of the recipe the same. If you haven’t used Meringue Powder before, give it a try, you might really like it.


My question to you: who is your Alton Brown?  You know, that one chef or cookbook author (or cookbook) that you turn when you want something you know is going to be good and turn out just like the picture.

red hots chocolate cupcakes | the hobby room diaries

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