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December 18, 2013

Hot Cocoa for Christmas

A mug of hot chocolate topped with tiny vanilla marshmallows is pretty hard to beat this time of year -- it's one of our favorite Christmastime treats!

Homemade cocoa is surprisingly easy to whip up on your own and it makes a lovely gift. It's endlessly customizable, too. Our recipe calls for dark cocoa powder and a bit of espresso powder, which deepens the chocolate flavor and gives this classic a grown-up, elegant flavor. If you want to make cocoa for the kiddos, feel free to swap the dark cocoa for a regular cocoa powder and nix the espresso powder. You could even add a little cayenne powder instead of the espresso powder, or spice things up with a little cinnamon!

Want to make your own homemade marshmallows? Making them from scratch might seem a little intimidating, but their taste and texture are so divine, they are worth the extra time and effort! Just be sure to read through the recipe to familiarize yourself with the details before you get started. This recipe makes a lot of marshmallows – so youll have plenty of leftovers to enjoy. They make a pretty gift packaged alone, too!

We used these Weckjars to package a cup of cocoa powder mix with about a half cup of marshmallows – the perfect amount of cocoa and marshmallows to serve 8. Be sure to label the cocoa with instructions for preparing! You can always make your own cocoa and package it with store bought mini marshmallows, too – no judgement!

Dark Hot Cocoa Mix and Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
Makes 4 cups of cocoa mix and 1 pound of mini marshmallows; 4 gift servings

For the marshmallows:
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
Non-stick spray
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 cup water, divided
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Whisk together the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with about half of the powdered sugar mixture. Spray a large gallon sized zip-top bag with non-stick spray.  Set these aside.

Combine the gelatin and ½ cup of the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Let this sit while you prepare the sugar syrup.

Combine the remaining ½ cup water, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a small saucepan. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Remove the lid and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. When the mixture reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the pan from the heat.

Turn the stand mixer on low and carefully and slowly add the sugar syrup. Once all the syrup is added, turn the mixer to high and whip for 10 minutes. At the ten minute mark, add the vanilla extract and vanilla bean and continue whipping for 2 minutes.

Pour the whipped marshmallow into the prepared zip-top bag. Setting the bag inside a pitcher will help if you are alone in the kitchen. Seal the bag and snip a ½ inch wide piece off one corner of the bag.

Pipe long strips of the marshmallow strips into the prepared half sheet pans, leaving ½ inch between each row. Sprinkle the finished marshmallow snakes with the remaining powdered sugar mixture. Let the marshmallow set for at least 4 hours – then use a pair of scissors to snip the marshmallow into ½ inch pieces. Store the marshmallows in an airtight container for up to a month.

For the cocoa:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1 cup dark cocoa powder – we love this black cocoa from King Arthur Flour (Hersheys works, too)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder

Whisk together the sugar, dry milk powder, cocoa, salt and espresso powder. For a super fine mixture pulse this powder 5 to 6 times in a food processor. Store this mixture in an air tight container for up to 6 months.

To prepare the cocoa: Combine 2 tablespoons of the dry mixture with 1 cup hot water or milk. Top with marshmallows and enjoy!

 Happy Holidays! --Natty + Meghan

Recipe c/o Meghan Splawn of Stir and Scribble
Photos and styling by Meghan Splawn and Natalie Kilgore

Meghan Splawn is a professional recipe developer. She works full-time as part of Alton Brown's culinary team. Her work can be seen in the Good Eats series and on Her personal blog, Stir and Scribble, is full of clever cooking, classic cocktails, and useful kitchen tips.


  1. I made homemade marshmallows and cocoa to give last year. Everyone loved them. There really is nothing like a homemade marshmallow. Once you've have one, it's hard to buy jet-puffed ever again. ;)

    Merry Christmas to you!

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  3. I didn't even know someone can make marshmallows at home! I naively believed they're born in the market's jars! I'm excited and definetely going to try your recipe. I believe your hot cocoa mix is great, too, and make this one as well. You see I adore cafe au chocolat and your recipe combines cocoa and coffee, so it will be perfect!
    Merry Christmas!


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