These chocolate hi-hat cupcakes are topped with a silky strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream and dunked in a shell of chocolate. It’s like a chocolate covered strawberry in cupcake form! They’re so fun and easy to make but look so impressive. Plus, I’m sharing my best tips for perfecting your Swiss meringue buttercream.
I’ve also included a gluten free option in the notes section of the recipe.
What is a hi-hat cupcake?
Hi-hat cupcakes are most commonly made up of a chocolate cupcake topped with a marshmallowy frosting and dunked in a chocolate shell.
They get their name from how tall the marshmallow or frosting is piped on top. It’s more than a typical cupcake, and its piped to a point like a witches hat (or for all my HP fans, the sorting hat).
There are many different variations out there, from small modifications to the traditional hi-hat cupcake, to some really unique desserts.
But for me, I was inspired by Valentine’s Day! That’s why I created these chocolate covered strawberry hi-hat cupcakes.
What makes these cupcakes so good?
For starters, this is possibly the EASIEST chocolate cupcake recipe out there. Just mix together the dry ingredients, the wet ingredients, bring the two together and add some water.
They puff up perfectly and are so rich and moist without being too dense. I’ve been using this recipe for years and it never fails.
But the real centerpiece is the strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. That mound of frosting may look too rich, but using Swiss meringue buttercream helps balance out these cupcakes.
Swiss meringue buttercream has a base of egg whites and butter, as opposed to American buttercream which is about 70% powdered sugar. SMB gets is stability from whipping the egg whites into stiff peaks, leaving you with a super silky buttercream that’s not overly sweet.
In this post, I’m breaking down exactly how to make strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream. If you’ve never made it before, you’ll be a pro by the end of the recipe!
How to make super easy and moist chocolate cupcakes
These chocolate cupcakes are made up of a few basic ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. And even though the ingredients are fairly simple, that doesn’t reflect on how delicious and chocolatey these cupcakes are. They’re light, moist, and the perfect base for any cupcake recipe.
To make my easy chocolate cupcakes, you will need:
- Vegetable oil
- 1 Egg
- Vanilla Extract
- All purpose flour
- Cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Hot water
The recipe consists of 3 main parts:
Part 1: Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
Part 2: Mix together the oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
Part 3: Combine part 1 and 2 and mix in the hot water.
Now they’re ready to bake!
The reason for using hot water is to activate the cocoa powder. It helps bring out that rich chocolate flavor while also lightening the batter.
And if your batter is super thin and watery, not to worry. That’s what we’re going for! This recipe makes the perfect amount for 11 cupcakes. You could definitely make 12, but filling 11 cups gives you that perfect dome on top once baked.
How to make strawberry swiss meringue buttercream
Compared to American buttercream (just butter and powdered sugar) Swiss meringue buttercream can seem pretty intimidating. Between heating the egg whites, whipping them into a meringue, adding the butter…there’s definitely more room for error.
Luckily I’m sharing all of my top tips to ensure yours turns out perfect! With this recipe, my hope is to make you a Swiss meringue buttercream pro.
To start off, you will need to place a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water, otherwise the meringue will heat unevenly and potentially scramble.
To that bowl, add egg whites and granulated sugar. Whisk the two together and heat until it reaches 160F. OR, you can test it by rubbing the mixture between two fingers after it’s been over the heat for about 15-20 minutes. If you can no longer feel any sugar granules, it’s ready to go.
Heating is what helps dissolve the sugar, leaving you with a super silky meringue.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Turn it up to high speed and let it run for about 10-15 minutes. By the end, the mixture should be completely cooled and you’ll be left with a silky meringue with stiff peaks (see picture below).
Turn the mixer down to medium speed. From here, we’ll be dropping in cubes of room temperature butter, one cube at a time.
It’s very important that the butter is at room temperature. Too cold and your buttercream will be lumpy. Too warm, and your buttercream will turn to soup.
Once all your butter is mixed in, add in the freeze dried strawberries, vanilla, and salt.
If your struggling with the consistency of your buttercream, see my troubleshooting tips after these next two pictures.
Why not use fresh strawberries?
Adding fresh fruit to buttercream can be very tricky, and more sugar is often needed to help stabilize. Due to its high moisture content, fresh fruit can create a buttercream that’s a little too thin…which is something we definitely can’t have with hi-hat cupcakes.
Using freeze dried strawberries is the perfect trick to getting that fresh strawberry flavor without using fake strawberry flavors. It also provides that pretty pink color and little specks of strawberry throughout. It’s as close as you can get to using fresh strawberries without all the hassle!
Troubleshooting swiss meringue buttercream
I have to admit, I think every time I’ve made Swiss meringue buttercream I’ve had to use one of these two tips below. I can never seem to get it right the first time, but luckily it’s super easy to fix!
How to fix curdled swiss meringue buttercream
If your buttercream is looking curdled and separated after adding the butter, that means the butter was a little too cold when it was mixed in.
A simple (and odd) trick is to use a hair dryer. With the mixer running on medium-high speed, run a hair dryer around the bowl. You can even direct the air directly into the bowl. Just keep moving that warm air all around the buttercream until the lumps go away. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes.
How to fix soupy swiss meringue buttercream
This is the opposite issue in that your butter was too warm when it was mixed in.
Not to worry! Just transfer your buttercream to the fridge and leave it there for 20 minutes. Then, try whipping it up again. This allows the butter to firm up a bit, providing a more stable and thickened buttercream.
How to pipe a tall buttercream swirl
Now comes the fun part – piping on that mound of delicious strawberry buttercream.
Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Round is best for hi-hat cupcakes because there are fewer nooks and crannies for the chocolate to work its way through.
Hold your piping bag straight up and place the tip in the center of the cupcake. Apply even pressure and slowly move in a small circle around the cupcake. Keep lifting until you reach the top, then pull quick to release the frosting.
It’s best to move slow but smoothly. Allow the buttercream to completely cover your surface as you guide it around the cupcake. After the first couple tries, the rest are easy. You can even practice on a plate before moving on to the cupcakes.
How to prep cupcakes for dipping
Before you dunk these cupcakes in chocolate, it’s very important to freeze them first. Freezing allows the frosting to really adhere to the cupcakes, preventing it from sliding off when dipping them.
Place them uncovered in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes.
Time for the chocolate coating!
Just before you pull the cupcakes out of the freezer, melt down the chocolate and oil.
The quickest and easiest way is to use the microwave. Add the chocolate and oil to a microwave safe bowl and heat in 30 second increments, stirring between each time.
Pour the chocolate into a tall container, like a 2 cup measuring glass. This makes it much easier to just dunk the cupcakes right in while preventing the frosting from touching the bottom of the container.
Invert the cupcake and dunk it right into the chocolate, stopping just before it touches the chocolate cupcake. Allow some of the excess chocolate to drip off, then flip it back over and start on the next cupcake.
Transfer the dipped cupcakes to the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Now they’re ready to eat!
For more delicious cupcake recipes, check out my:
- Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes
- Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
- Roasted Strawberry Cupcakes
- Brown Butter Vanilla Cupcakes
- Toasted S’mores Cupcakes
Make sure to tag me @butternutbakery on Instagram and leave a review below if you make these Chocolate Strawberry Hi-Hat Cupcakes. To pin this recipe and save it for later, you can use the button on the recipe card, the buttons above or below this post, or on any of the photos above. Happy baking!Print
Chocolate Strawberry Hi-Hat Cupcakes
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
- Yield: 11 cupcakes
These moist chocolate hi-hat cupcakes are topped with a creamy strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream and dunked in a shell of chocolate. Just like a chocolate covered strawberry!
Chocolate Cupcakes *see notes for gluten free option
- 1/2 cup (100g) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup (130g) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted to remove lumps
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup (6oz) hot water
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- 1 cup (28g) freeze dried strawberries**, ground into powder to make roughly 1/2 cup
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (330g) unsalted butter, room temp and cut into small cubes
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 cups (12oz) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 375F and line a cupcake tin with 11 paper liners.
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, egg, and vanilla (electric mixer optional).
- Add in the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine.
- If using an electric mixer, keep the mixer running on low and slowly pour in the hot water. If mixing by hand, pour in 1/3 of the water at a time and mix in between each addition.
- The batter should be very thin and watery. To make it easier when filling the liners, pour some of the batter into a glass measuring cup and then pour the batter into the cups from there. The recipe will fill 11 cupcakes about 2/3 of the way full.
- Bake for 15-17 minutes or until the centers have puffed up and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, then remove and transfer to a cooling rack.
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Measure out 1 cup of freeze dried strawberries and run them through a food processor to make about 1/2 cup of powder. Set aside.
- Fill a pot about 1/3 full of water and bring it to a simmer. Place a heat safe bowl on top of the pot, ensuring it doesn’t touch the water.
- In that bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Keep whisking occasionally and heat until it reaches 160F. This should take 15-20 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can also test it by rubbing some of the mixture between your fingers (careful not to burn your fingers). If you can’t feel any sugar granules, it’s ready.
- Pour the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Run the mixer on high to cool down the mixture and create that meringue texture. After about 15-20 minutes, you should be left with a silky and marshmallowy white meringue with stiff peaks (see picture in post).
- Turn the mixer down to medium speed. Drop in your room temperature butter, one cube at a time, only adding the next when the cube prior is mixed in.
- At this point, you should have a creamy and silky buttercream. If yours is too thin or too clumpy, see the post on how to fix it – section titled “troubleshooting your Swiss meringue buttercream”.
- Mix in the freeze dried strawberry powder, vanilla, and salt.
- Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Make tall swirls that are larger at the bottom and smaller at the top by applying even pressure to the piping bag.
- Once all the cupcakes are frosted, transfer them to the freezer for 20 minutes. Don’t skip this step!
- Right before you’re ready to pull the cupcakes out of the freezer, mix together the chocolate and oil.
- Pop it in the microwave in 30 second increments until it’s completely smooth (about 60-90 seconds total).
- From here, it’s best to work with a container like a 2 cup measuring glass. This makes it easy to dunk the cupcakes into the chocolate while preventing the frosting from hitting the bottom of the container and ruining its shape. If you melted the chocolate in a shallow dish, pour it into a tall glass for dunking.
- Now dunk! Invert your cupcakes upside down and dunk the frosting swirls right into the chocolate. Allow some of the chocolate to drip off by holding it over the chocolate for a couple seconds, then quickly flip it back over and move on to the next cupcake. You want to move fairly fast so that the chocolate doesn’t thicken and the frosting doesn’t soften.
- Transfer the cupcakes to the fridge for about 20 minutes for the shells to harden, then dig in. Enjoy!
- *Gluten Free Option – use my recipe for gluten free chocolate cupcakes
- **Where to Buy Freeze Dried Strawberries – these can be found at most grocery stores (also at Target), typically found by the trial mix/nuts
- Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
Keywords: chocolate cupcakes, strawberry buttercream, swiss meringue buttercream, hi hat cupcakes
These look divine!!! Can’t wait to try.
Just made these per request of my brother who was craving something strawberry! (I love chocolate) So these were the perfect compromise!
The chocolate cake was moist, fluffy, and super easy to bake. The frosting, although more challenging, was by far worth the effort. Thank you so much for the great recipe 🙂
Oh yay! Thanks for sharing!
Would chocolate chips work for the shell topping? And how can these be stored? Would they freeze ok? Thanks so much for this recipe, cant wait to try it this weekend!
Yes chocolate chip are OK. Store them the fridge in a closed container 🙂
Can I make the chocolate cupcakes into a cake with the same quantity of ingredients? And can I decorate that cake with the same quantity of icing?
Thank you so much for this recipe! I’ve made these cupcakes on three different occasions and every time they turned out absolutely divine! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find freeze dried strawberries so had to oven dry fresh ones which added to the prep time a lot, but I can’t wait to try the recipe with all listed ingredients! Thank you again.
Oh interested! Glad those worked out!
Hi, Jenna! I really want to make these cupcakes but is it ok if I use regular Strawberry buttercream instead of Swiss meringue buttercream? Is that still considered as being a Hi-hat cupcake? 😆 Thanks in advance! I love all of your recipes.
Yep you can use any frosting!
Best cupcakes I’ve ever made!
These are the best chocolate cupcakes I have ever had!!! I used a regular buttercream frosting because that’s what my family likes, but they loved them. Thanks for a great recipe!
Advice please- once these have been frosted w the strawberry meringue can they be left in freezer overnight to be dipped in the am?
Hmmm..I wouldn’t suggest leaving them in the freezer that long because it could cause the cake to dry out a bit.
How long do these keep and what is the best method of storage?
Store in the fridge and they’ll keep moist for about 3 days!