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17 Hot Cocoa Toppings That Put Marshmallows To Shame

hot cocoa and toppers
hot cocoa and toppers - Static Media/Shutterstock

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Few drinks run the full gamut of being a childhood favorite during the depths of wintertime, while also being one you can easily dress up to be just as appropriate for adults. One of our favorite ways to make hot chocolate extra special is to add unique bits to the top. Of course, marshmallows are the most common hot cocoa toppers, but these can get a little boring after a while. Especially since many hot cocoa mixes actually come with marshmallows right in the package.

To switch it up and even experiment a little, we love adding toppings that bring something extra special to our hot chocolate ─ from candy canes and cookies to spices and donuts. So whether you are whipping up a batch for your favorite snowman construction workers, or assembling a hot cocoa bar for your next gathering, here are some creative hot cocoa toppings that will outshine those piddly marshmallows both in flavor and appearance.

Read more: Chocolate Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread house on a mug
Gingerbread house on a mug - Sur La Table

When the chilly months of fall and winter roll in, hot cocoa becomes one of our most frequently reached-for treats. Traditionally, we think of hot cocoa toppers as sweets to either dissolve in our cocoa or float on its surface. However, we've recently been seeing a charming and innovative twist: Adorable miniature gingerbread houses carefully crafted to sit snugly on the rim of your mug.

These whimsical, perfectly sized gingerbread creations enhance the cozy hot cocoa experience, adding a touch of holiday magic. The enticing aroma of gingerbread mingling with the warmth of the cocoa, coupled with the visual delight of the tiny, detailed gingerbread house, offers a uniquely festive and delightful way to celebrate the holiday season. It makes each sip a memorable experience.

If you're feeling extra creative, you can even make your own miniature gingerbread house for your hot cocoa. The only out-of-the-ordinary things you'll need to find are cookie cutters or molds designed explicitly for this purpose. However, if you're looking to save a little bit of time, you can buy ready-made gingerbread houses on Sur La Table.

Hot Cocoa Bombs

Hot cocoa bombs
Hot cocoa bombs - Kristen Carli/Tasting Table

Hot chocolate bombs are another cool topper and a fantastic homemade gift idea. These large chocolate confections, filled with delicious additions, are designed to be dropped into your mug, transforming your hot cocoa into an extraordinary treat. While they can be used to create hot chocolate from scratch, their real charm lies in elevating a standard cup of hot cocoa. Even a simple, non-premium powdered mix becomes something special with the addition of a hot cocoa bomb.

Available in various flavors, these bombs can be customized to your taste, and those of your friends, when you make them at home. The process is pretty simple and includes the use of a chocolate mold, chocolate, fillings for the bomb, and sprinkles for the top. This customization makes them an ideal personalized gift. We love the idea of bundling some homemade bombs paired with powdered cocoa mix and a festive mug for a heartwarming holiday present.

Hot Cocoa Spoons

Hot cocoa spoons
Hot cocoa spoons - Amazon

Hot cocoa spoons are another fantastic, giftable topper that can elevate your hot chocolate experience. You can even buy hot cocoa spoon kits to assemble your own. These are much simpler to create than hot cocoa bombs, yet their effect is equally delightful. Essentially, these are spoons where the scoop or ladle part is coated with chocolate and various hot cocoa toppings, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, marshmallows, or sprinkles, which are then set out to dry. When these spoons are stirred into a hot liquid, the chocolate and toppings melt seamlessly into the drink, enriching its flavor and texture.

While the more substantial ones can be used to make hot cocoa from scratch, their real charm is in enchanting an already fabulous cup of hot cocoa, adding an extra layer of flavor and fun to the experience. Whether for personal enjoyment or as a thoughtful, homemade gift, these hot cocoa spoons are a tasty addition to any hot chocolate drink for you or your loved ones.

Crushed Candy Cane

Crushed candy cane in a bowl
Crushed candy cane in a bowl - Billnoll/Getty Images

Peppermint mocha coffees are a perfect holiday drink, and peppermint hot chocolate also shares that zippy appeal. Using candy canes in hot chocolate makes an extra festive drink; one of our favorite ways to use leftover candy canes is to smash them into tiny pieces and sprinkle them over a freshly prepared cup of hot cocoa. This adds a subtle hint of peppermint flavor and provides a charming, festive look to the drink. Placing them atop whipped cream is another visually appealing option, though it might take a bit longer for the peppermint flavor to infuse into the beverage due to the whipped cream sitting on top.

Alternatively, if you prefer to leave the candy canes whole, they offer a nice stir stick for your hot cocoa that flavors the drink while you muddle. Plus, with a hooked end, they lay nicely over the edge of your mug.

Crushed Cookies

Package of Oreos surrounded by toppings
Package of Oreos surrounded by toppings - Oreo / Facebook

Of course, if peppermint isn't your favorite flavor, but you're still looking for something sweet and crumbly on top of your hot chocolate, you need only look in the cookie aisle. Here, you'll find a variety of cookies that, when crumbled, add texture and flavor to your hot chocolate. Oreos, for example, are a particularly popular choice. Their creamy and chocolaty taste, already a perfect match for milk, pairs wonderfully with hot chocolate. Not to mention, with the numerous seasonal and holiday-themed Oreo flavors frequently appearing on store shelves, you have many opportunities to explore different combinations and celebrate various occasions.

Alternatively, if you're a fan of gingerbread, crumbling gingerbread cookies into your hot chocolate can be a great way to incorporate the flavors of the season. The rich spices of gingerbread mix beautifully with the warm, chocolaty base of the hot chocolate, creating a cozy, festive beverage.

Drizzled Caramel

Thick caramel in a jar
Thick caramel in a jar - Liliya Kandrashevich/Shutterstock

Caramel is the perfect choice when it comes to upgrading your run-of-the-mill hot chocolate. Stirring in some caramel introduces an extra layer of sweetness, and enriches the texture of the drink. If you opt for a caramel sauce, it can slightly thicken the hot chocolate, making the sipping experience more luxurious and decadent. While thinner caramel syrups (like those found in coffee shops) are a viable option, the thicker caramel sauces are what truly elevate the drink.

For an even more personalized touch, consider making your own salted caramel sauce. This homemade addition can transform a plain cup of hot cocoa into something extraordinary. The salted aspect of the caramel adds a contrast to the sweetness of the chocolate, creating a complex and satisfying flavor profile, and somehow bringing out that sweetness even more. Such a homemade element enhances the taste and brings a unique, crafted quality to your hot chocolate experience.

Whipped Cream

cookie cutter whipped cream
cookie cutter whipped cream - Stephanie Frey/Shutterstock

Adding whipped cream to hot chocolate enhances its creaminess and flavor, and you can elevate this further with cookie-cutter whipped cream. This process is simple and requires only whipped cream, parchment paper, a cookie sheet, and your favorite cookie cutters.

Begin by spreading a layer of whipped cream on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Then freeze it until it's hard to the touch. After it's frozen, use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the whipped cream. These whimsical whipped cream shapes can be placed atop your hot chocolate, creating a fun topper. For a little extra dazzle, you could even decorate these cookie-cutter whipped cream pieces like you might decorate Christmas cookies, with frosting and even sprinkles. However, it's important to note that the frozen whipped cream will cool down your hot chocolate faster, so it's best to enjoy this treat quickly to avoid ending up with cold chocolate.

Marshmallow Toppers

Packet with a hot cocoa topper
Packet with a hot cocoa topper - Favorite Day

While some might find regular marshmallows quite boring for hot chocolate ─ and you can certainly do more to elevate the overall flavor of your beverage with different treats ─ using marshmallows as a solid base before adding more toppings is a great place to start. For instance, you can find hot chocolate toppers from Favorite Day which combine chocolate, marshmallow, and even peppermint. These toppers are designed to sit on top of your hot chocolate, gradually warming up and infusing the drink with flavor as you enjoy it.

Additionally, there are unique hot chocolate toppers available through retailers like Amazon which use marshmallows in creative ways. Some of these toppers feature marshmallows with festive designs or themes, adding a special, flavorful twist to your hot chocolate. These innovative marshmallow-based toppers enhance the taste of your beverage and add an extra element of enjoyment to your mug of hot chocolate.

Cinnamon

cinnamon sticks, bowls
cinnamon sticks, bowls - Annmell_sun/Shutterstock

Sometimes, waking up a hot chocolate is as simple as adding a little bit of spice that's stashed away in your pantry. We are particularly fond of adding cinnamon to help make a drink have a warm taste that matches its warm feel.

However, moderation is key when adding cinnamon. After all, too much can lead to a gritty texture in your hot chocolate. This texture may not appeal to everyone, so we recommend starting with a small amount of cinnamon and gradually increasing it to find the perfect balance that suits your taste. This method allows you to carefully adjust the flavor, ensuring that the cinnamon enhances rather than overwhelms the smooth, chocolaty essence of the hot cocoa. Of course, to avoid the concern of a gritty feel altogether, you could use a cinnamon stick as a stir stick rather than using powdered cinnamon to add flavor to your mug.

Chocolate Truffles

bowl of chocolate truffles
bowl of chocolate truffles - Zakmac/Getty Images

We love chocolate truffles. They offer a perfect blend of rich chocolate and unique flavors. With the wide variety of truffle options available, you can find some exceptional and surprising flavors to top your hot chocolate. Incorporating a truffle into your hot cocoa can transform it into a gourmet experience.

For an even more special touch, consider making your own truffles, such as dark chocolate raspberry cheesecake truffles. Adding such a homemade truffle to your hot chocolate introduces a new layer of flavor, and adds a touch of complexity and intrigue. This combination can elevate even the most basic mug of hot chocolate into an extraordinary and luxurious treat, blending the smooth warmth of the cocoa with the intricate flavors of the truffle you've chosen to drop right in. Granted, they may not all float right on top, but as they melt, the flavors will meld and come together.

Chocolate Oranges

Terry's chocolate orange
Terry's chocolate orange - Deutschlandreform/Shutterstock

If you're on the hunt for a fruity addition to your hot chocolate, Terry's Chocolate Oranges should definitely be on your radar (also, did you know that orange wasn't the first Terry's fruit flavor?) These chocolates, flavored with a hint of orange, come in both dark and milk chocolate versions and serve as a scrumptious sidekick to your cup of cocoa. With their slice-like segments, you can indulge in them as a standalone treat, or share them for a shared dessert experience.

The design of these chocolate slices is particularly striking, mimicking the appearance of real orange slices, though entirely crafted from chocolate. This makes for a visually appealing and tasty companion to the top of your hot chocolate mug, offering just a bit of fruity flavor with each sip. Whether enjoyed solo or shared, Terry's Chocolate Oranges add a sweet, citrusy twist to your hot chocolate experience.

Stroopwafels

Stroopwafel on mug
Stroopwafel on mug - MR.Yanukit/Shutterstock

We have found that some of the best hot coffee toppings also make some pretty excellent hot chocolate toppings. This is perhaps no truer than with a stroopwafel, a treat that comes with a few different kinds of filling. We really love the caramel ones, though the chocolate option would go wonderfully in this case. Fresh out of the package, they are soft; yet placing them over a mug of warm liquid like hot chocolate or coffee softens them even further. This is the way you can truly "wake the waffle".

Stroopwafels were originally made from leftover bakery pieces and crumbs that were stuck together using syrup. The recipe would change a little more over time to be something closer to the typical cookie recipe. Since they were, more or less, assembled from leftovers originally, they were also considered by some to be a "poor man's cookie."

Donuts

glazed and chocolate donuts
glazed and chocolate donuts - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Another classic coffee buddy that also pairs well with hot chocolate is the ever-delicious donut. Plus, these treats offer an awesome range of flavors and types to suit any craving. While the variety can be overwhelming, there's something special about sticking with the classics, like a simple glazed donut, especially when you're looking for a fun topper option. No need to get too fancy here.

The addition of a glazed donut, either perched atop your hot cocoa or as a side garnish over the mug's edge, creates a super sweet experience. You'll want to take your donut and dip it into your cocoa, take a bite of that hot cocoa-infused donut, and enjoy the combination of flavors that create this sweet result. Be sure not to let the donut linger too long in your cocoa; you're not going for a melt here, as you may with other toppers or treats for your cocoa.

Coconut

Coconut shreds in a bowl
Coconut shreds in a bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Chocolate and coconut are indeed a unique flavor combination, with coconut adding a tropical flair that can transform even a hot drink like cocoa into a sip of paradise. While coconut syrup is one way to infuse your hot chocolate with this tropical flavor, using sweetened shredded coconut as a topping offers a more subtle approach. It not only adds a hint of coconut taste but also introduces a pleasant texture contrast to the creamy hot cocoa. Just a small sprinkle of this sweetened shredded coconut can elevate the entire hot chocolate experience.

Like other crumbled toppings, sweetened shredded coconut works wonderfully atop whipped cream. However, since both the coconut and the whipped cream are white, it will certainly be harder to see. Even still, this subtlety in appearance doesn't detract from the interplay of textures and flavors it brings to your hot cocoa, making each sip a blend of inventive and traditional tastes.

Puffy Cereal

pile of Reese's Puffs
pile of Reese's Puffs - P Maxwell Photography/Shutterstock

For an extra chocolatey twist to your hot chocolate, you might want to try topping it with chocolate-flavored puffed cereal. This idea is inspired by a unique offering in Batuu at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, where cast members add Cocoa Puffs to the top of Cold Brew Black Caf, an out-of-this-world coffee drink. Applying this concept to hot chocolate is even more fun. These cereals add a crunch and enhance the chocolate flavor.

We love Cocoa Puffs, but using Reese's Puffs here is even better. Reese's Puffs introduce not just an additional chocolate element but also the rich, creamy taste of peanut butter. This combination of chocolate and peanut butter adds a whole new dimension to your hot chocolate, creating a blend of flavors that is both a familiar and welcome change to the classic hot cocoa. Of course, just like cereal in your milk, this one runs the risk of getting pretty soggy fast, so you may wish to sip rather quickly.

Candied Pecans

Candied pecans in a bowl
Candied pecans in a bowl - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Amongst all of the Christmas cookie baking, we love to mix in some candied pecans. These sugar and cinnamon-coated beauties are absolutely delicious for snacking on, and we can inhale a whole batch without giving it too much of a second thought. They also make for an excellent topping on various treats, including hot chocolate. When you crumble them up into small but not too-tiny chunks and sprinkle them atop your hot cocoa, they bring something truly special to the mix. The sweet coating from the pecans subtly leaches into the hot cocoa, infusing it with a hint of cinnamon and sugar, while also creating a bit of a crunchy topping.

However, it's crucial to avoid crushing these candied pecans too finely. These pieces are not meant to dissolve but only add a bit of flavor and crunch to the top. So, if those pieces are too small, they might instead add an undesirable gritty texture. The goal is to have them at just the right size — large enough to avoid grittiness, yet small enough to complement the drink.

Alcoholic Floater

people clinking mugs
people clinking mugs - Ryanjlane/Getty Images

For a grown-up take on hot chocolate at your next gathering, adding a little bit of alcohol can elevate your drink into a more sophisticated treat. If you're crafting a tropical-inspired hot chocolate, a splash of coconut rum could be a fabulous addition, bringing a hint of island flavor.

However, favorites like Baileys and Kahlúa are especially popular choices. Adding Baileys lends a smooth, creamy flavor to your hot chocolate, making it even more rich and luxurious. On the other hand, Kahlúa introduces a subtle coffee essence, adding a new dimension to the chocolaty base.

Brandy and whiskey are also excellent options for spiking your hot chocolate. They can add significant depth and complexity to the drink, creating a more sophisticated flavor profile. We love these options for a cozy and refined treat, perfect for chilly evenings or special occasions during the chill fall and winter months spent warming inside.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.