Chocolate Devil’s Fire Cupcakes

Feverish Fahrenheit

I’m typically in FFW mode (full fall warfare) by this point during the month of September. My arsenal of spices, apples, nuts and squash would have made their way into the kitchen by now.


Ripe habanero chilies from the garden.


Not this year.

Truth be told, fall becomes official in a little more than a week and my latency of embracing the pending season has me a tad surprised. September marks the advent of the holiday season in my house: the month ushers in a birthday, followed by an anniversary and then another birthday—all before the Pilgrims gather to feast. Not to worry, I’ll garner plenty of glee in time for these family celebrations.


Transfer Sketch


But I wonder: has the heat index of summer got a grip on me? How much longer will I linger under this spell?


Color Flooding


Don’t get me wrong Summer. I love how you bring warmth, arch the sun high overhead and lengthen the day. You coax seedlings from the soil, encourage flowering and work closely with chlorophyll to keep the planet green. Oh how a warm summer breeze gives extra lift to a misty ocean spray cast from the crash of waves on the seashore. The only things brighter than your days are the smiles of children as they frolic and giggle under a water wiggle. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much more crisp and cold a beer seems to taste against your peak daytime temperature.


Minced Habaneros


So please summer, let the dog days lie down, pull up stakes and reserve your feverish Fahrenheit. 2014 will be here soon enough and so too will your opportunities to shine with blazing glory.


Chocolate Devils Fire Cupcakes

Despite the long hot days, the summer of 2013 has been good. I spent some quality time with my children and tackled a housing goal. The season enabled our garden to flourish giving us a bounty of habanero chilies. Yes, these orange-colored, date-sized grenades pack a wallop, but I implore you to try this recipe. The surprising flavor is…devilishly magical!


Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Makes about 24 standard-size cupcakes.

Serving Size: One cupcake


Spicy fare at its finest comes under the guise of these chocolate cupcakes. Enrobed in chocolate ganache and decorated with candy flames, the exterior is a sure fire indication of the heat exchange inside!


  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso granules
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 5 to 6 fresh Habanero chilies, minced (stems/seeds removed)*
  • Your choice of cupcake liners
  • Chocolate Ganache:
  • 1 cup high quality chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) heavy cream
  • Flame decorations:*
  • 1 batch of your favorite Royal Icing recipe
  • orange and yellow gel food color
  • Miscellaneous tools:
  • icing bags (parchment, or disposable ones fitted with a round #3 tip)
  • corrugated work board
  • wax paper (for tracing)
  • toothpicks and scotch tape
  • a freehand flame design on paper
  • black food safe edible marking pen


  • Pre-heat oven to 350˚F. Line two, 12-count muffin pans with the cupcake liners; set aside.
  • For the cupcakes:
  • Combine butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla in large bowl; beat on high speed with an electric mixer for 3 minutes. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add alternately with water to the butter mixture. Blend until just combined. Gently stir in the minced habaneros ensuring the bits are well distributed. Fill each cupcake to 2/3rds full―a spring loaded ice cream scoop makes quick work of this. Bake the cupcakes 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pans on wire racks until they can be handled; then remove them from the pans to cool completely.
  • For the flame decoratons:
  • Have your drawing ready to go. You may want to place multiple designs on one sheet. Place the paper, design-side up onto the cardboard work surface. Take a sheet of wax paper of the same size and place it over the design. Use scotch tape to secure the design sheet and wax paper to the board.
  • Be sure the royal icing is tiff enough to hold the peaks typical of a good royal icing. Divide the royal icing in half and tint one orange, the other yellow. Place some of each color into a separate icing bag. Outline all the shapes with each color; set aside to harden. Meanwhile, take the remainder icing colors in their mixing bowls and add a drop of water at a time to thin the icing. You may end up adding about a teaspoon to each, but be sure it is added a drop at a time. You are looking to achieve a viscosity that, when a drop of frosting is dripped back into the mixing bowl, it will take a count of ten for the drop to completely disappear.
  • With the thinned icing placed into new piping bags, flood the outlined shapes in their respective colors, starting at the outer edges and working towards the center. A toothpick can help distribute the thinned frosting and pierce any air bubbles. Keep the filled decorations on the board/s and leave them undisturbed to set-up in open air overnight. Continue to leave them on the cardboard and store single layer in a closed container for several days until they have completely hardened. Take the edible marker and draw a Devil's tail or pitchfork on the surface of each piece. To remove, lift the tape from the wax paper; carefully slide the wax paper off the board. Gently pull the wax paper down over the edge of the counter with one hand to peel the paper away while the other hand is free to receive the decoration. Place decorations on a paper towel until ready to use.
  • Make the ganache.
  • In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, slowly heat the cream until it begins to steam slightly; remove from heat. add the chocolate chips and let sit for about a minute. Stir or whisk the mixture until smooth and well blended. Cool slightly.
  • Spoon about a teaspoon of ganache on the top center of each cupcake. Simultaneously tilt and slowly swirl in a circular fashion to spread the ganache to the edges. You may use the ganache spoon to help nudge the ganache to the edges. Frost all the cupcakes.
  • When all the cupcakes have been frosted, place one flame decoration vertically onto the center of each cupcake.


*Habaneros can wreak havoc on your skin, eyes and nasal passages. Consider using gloves while mincing the chilies. Otherwise, be sure to wash your hands, tools and cutting surfaces thoroughly after processing the peppers. The heat factor of the cupcakes can be adjusted according to your taste preferences. That said, as the recipe is written and once it is baked, the result is a delicious cupcake with a spicy kick―akin to a peppery tingle on the tip of the tongue similar to the sensation derived from eating cinnamon red hot candies. Folks who desire more heat may leave the seeds in, but decrease the chilies by half.

Be patient by letting the sugar flames cure—it's best to make these well in advance.


  1. Brooks,
    Your cupcakes look “devilishly” good, lol.. I love the depth of the chocolate, but I would have to have less heat in my cupcake for sure. My Hubby on the other hand would love the cupcakes with all of the heat. That’s one point that we don’t agree on, addition of heat to dishes. I’m like you this year, I just wasn’t ready for Fall recipes yet, but then I got my new, large container of cinnamon, and I’m all set.

    • Brooks Walker says

      Excellent, I think I’m now ready too Becky. It’s always good to have you by…give my regards to Scott!

  2. OMGosh Brooks! The spice in these is calling my name! And I loooove your decorating skills!

  3. Brooks, these look wicked good! 🙂
    Love the flames. You always amaze me. -j

    • Brooks Walker says

      I was feeling a tad whimsical at the time, it just seemed right to go with the flames. Thanks for your kind words Jeanne.

  4. Love how you made the flame decorations…they are great! Love the sweet and spicy recipe for these cupcakes as well!

  5. These are gorgeous and the flavor is so unique. Pinning!

  6. Wow, these look spectacular and I love the kick from the habaneros! I would never have thought to add them to my cupcakes! Fantastic decorations too. You never disappoint!

    • Brooks Walker says

      Much obliged, Sheryl. I suspect you’ll love the tango between the chocolate and habanero. Why leave the spice for the main course? 😉

  7. Brooks, I’ve never tried to “heat up” my desserts; might have to give these a go (though I might cut back on the number of habaneros the first time around)! Love the flame decorations!

  8. Brooks,
    This idea is right up this family of six boys alley. What a fun project this will make, hopefully next weekend! Thank you for sharing your artistry for all!

  9. These are just wonderful, Brooks! I love how the flames rise from the dark, mysterious pool of ganache!

    I’m a fall girl, so I am happy to bid summer farewell, too! =)

    • Brooks Walker says

      Yes indeed, Jenni…we’ll see summer again next year. As I write, Ma Nature is serving up cooler temps in Sac—a sure fire sign she’s ready for fall too. Thank you for the compliment!

  10. Love these babies! I’m certain Bill would claim I burned his tongue off if I served him a spicy cupcake, but they sound fantastic to me. Autumn has definitely hit the Midwest…I am still hoping for a bit more summer!

    • Brooks Walker says

      You may just get a touch of extended summer, Liz. This particular transition of season is one of the more fickle ones. I’m grateful for the visit my friend.

  11. Oh my gosh Brooks, these are just the cutest things ever. I’m completely in love with these cupcakes.

  12. wow such creativity and thought behind these awesome cupcakes. Just brilliant and indeed fiery! Happy Halloween! 🙂 Boo!

  13. Rachel says


    My future sister-in law and I made these for fun on my weekend off. (Her Mom is from Mexico, so she knows her spice.) They were amazing! Thanks so much for a great recipe.

    • Brooks Walker says

      Hi Rachel, it’s terrific to hear you enjoyed the cupcakes! Thank you for taking the time to let me know, I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness.


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