Happy first day of summer! What better way to celebrate than with a dessert inspired by s’mores, one of the quintessential emblems of summertime leisure? I have to admit: I’ve never been crazy about actual s’mores. Toasted marshmallows make my throat a bit tingly, and not in a good way—more in an “I think I’m coming down with a cold” way. But the combination of graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows is undeniably enticing, and after I recently had a s’mores cupcake from a local bakery, I knew I had to make my own version.
One of the things that sets this recipe for s’mores cupcakes apart from many of the others you’ll find is that this one uses crushed graham crackers to replace most of the flour, so the sweet, honeyed flavor of graham crackers permeates the cake itself. The graham crackers also give the cake an almost impossibly moist crumb—if the cake were any more tender, it would probably fall apart!
Another thing that sets this recipe apart is that it features a marshmallow buttercream, made with real marshmallow fluff. I’ve seen a lot of recipes for “marshmallow” frosting that don’t actually involve marshmallows, but instead use egg whites to form a meringue that can then be toasted to look like marshmallows. But I really wanted that marshmallow-y flavor, plus I couldn’t be bothered to bust out a blowtorch—it’s summer, after all! I may be willing to get up early to bake before the heat arrives in full force, but I’m not about to sweat on the cupcakes by carefully torching the frosting atop each one.
Since marshmallow fluff itself is pretty, well, fluffy, and not great at holding its shape, I used some shortening to help the frosting stiffen up. Shortening has a higher melting point than butter, so it helps the frosting keep its shape and not slide off the cupcakes if they’re sitting out for a bit. I actually made two different versions of the marshmallow buttercream—one with some shortening and one without—and then put them to the test by bringing the cupcakes to the boyfriend’s family, which meant sitting in a warm car for an hour (it was 90 degrees outside!). The frosting with shortening held up marvelously, while the frosting without flattened out and puddled on top of the cupcakes. Taste-wise, however, they’re very similar, so if presentation isn’t a priority, go ahead and skip the shortening.
These s’mores cupcakes will sweeten up any pool party or kid’s birthday party, but they’re certainly not just for kids—people of all ages will ooh and ahh over these decadent treats!
Which foods do you consider essential in order for it to feel like summer?
- 1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 10 full cracker sheets)
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature (dairy-free is fine)
- 1/2 cup shortening, at room temperature (optional, see note)
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- crumbled graham crackers
- mini marshmallows or marshmallow bits
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the cups of a cupcake pan with paper liners.
- Using a food processor, process the graham crackers until finely ground (it should more or less resemble a powder). In a large bowl, mix 1 1/3 cups of the finely ground crumbs with the remaining dry ingredients (flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt). Stir together until fully combined.
- Add the wet ingredients (water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract) to the bowl and mix until smooth.
- Portion the batter into the cupcake liners (about 1/4 cup per cupcake). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
- Prepare the buttercream: beat the butter and shortening (if using) in the bowl of a mixer until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the marshmallow creme and gently fold it into the other ingredients. Pipe or spread the buttercream on the cooled cupcakes.
- Optional: sprinkle crumbled graham crackers and mini marshmallows/marshmallow bits on top of the buttercream. Microwave the chocolate chips until melted and transfer the melted chocolate to a plastic sandwich bag. Cut a small hole in one corner and pipe chocolate on top of the cupcakes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Makes 10-12 cupcakes.
- I use Hershey’s special dark cocoa powder, but any type of cocoa powder is fine.
- You can also make this in an 8x8 or 8-inch round pan. Grease and flour the pan. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. You will only need a half recipe of the buttercream to frost the top (and I recommend skipping the shortening).
- I made the buttercream both with and without the shortening. They taste nearly identical, but the one with shortening holds its shape (especially in the heat) much better than the one without. If you are just spreading a thin layer of buttercream on the cupcakes (or if you are making the cake in an 8x8 or 8-inch round pan), the version without shortening should be fine. If you are piping the buttercream and/or are frosting the cupcakes well ahead of when you are serving them, I recommend adding shortening. The amounts as listed will yield enough to pipe buttercream (as shown in the photos) on 10-12 cupcakes; you will have more than enough if you just spread a thin layer.