Hot Chocolate Makes Winter Desserts Sizzle


by Lisa Messinger

Hot chocolate isn’t the only warm, engaging, conversation-starting wintery meal-ender you can serve in a mug. In less time than it might take you to serve up that comforting beverage, you can use it to inspire a five-minute doozy of a dessert.

Hot chocolate cake in a mug is just one way you can widen your use of cocoa powder during cold-weather months. Cookies, like those that follow, as well as cakes, pies, brownies and bars all benefit from the influence of hot chocolate.

What’s almost better news is that unsweetened cocoa powder (usually found in supermarket baking aisles) is virtually a super food. It’s packed with antioxidants and has been shown to lower blood sugar. You can keep it sugar-free in desserts, or when making cocoa, by using no-calorie sweeteners that note they are suitable for baking. Even when sugar, honey, molasses or other sweeteners are used, the antioxidant factor is still a powerful one.

5-Minute Hot Chocolate Cake in a Mug
Yields 1 to 2 servings.

3 Tbsps Butter
4 Tbsps Milk
½ tsp Pure vanilla extract
1 tsp Maraschino cherry juice
1 large Egg
4 Tbsps Sugar or equivalent of other sweetener
suitable for baking
4 Tbsps Unsweetened cocoa powder
4 Tbsps All-purpose flour (see Note for gluten-free)
¼ teaspoon Baking powder
Whipped cream, to taste
1 Maraschino cherry, for garnish

Melt the butter in a 12-ounce (or bigger) microwaveable mug or ramekin. Swirl the butter around to coat the mug or ramekin. Add the milk, vanilla, maraschino cherry juice and egg and whisk. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and whisk.

Microwave for 90 seconds, or until the cake has risen and set. Let cool slightly, remove from microwave with an oven mitt and top with whipped cream and maraschino cherry.

Note: Per, to make gluten free instead, use the same amount of gluten-free all-purpose flour blend or sweet rice flour.

Hot Chocolate Cookies
Yields about 4 dozen cookies.

2 Eggs
2 tsps Pure vanilla extract
2 cups All-purpose flour
½ cup Unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp Salt
⅓ cup Granulated sugar, for rolling
1 cup (2 sticks) Butter or margarine, softened
1½ cups Sugar or equivalent of other sweetener suitable for baking

Beat butter, the 1½ cups sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl until fluffy. In another large bowl, combine flour, cocoa and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Cover, refrigerate dough about 1 hour, or until firm enough to handle.

Heat oven to 350° F. Shape dough into 1⅛-inch balls; roll in sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set. With oven mitts, carefully remove from oven. With a utensil, carefully remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including Mrs. Cubbison’s Best Stuffing Cookbook and The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook.