You survived the holiday season but you have one more celebration to come. But this one is easier. Much easier. New Year’s Eve is a bit more celebrated than New Year’s Day. And let’s call New Year’s Day what it is: a recovery day for the night before. But New Year’s Eve is a fun, non-religious celebration recognized around the world to acknowledge the passing of time. I am a fan. Out with the old and in with the new. It is a time to restart, reboot and make positive (often healthy) changes. It’s often a chance for optimism, and who does not welcome a little optimism?
If you’re a history lover, you may already know that civilizations around the world have been celebrating the start of each new year for millennia. The earliest recorded celebration honoring a new year’s arrival dates back about 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For Babylonians, this was in March, with the arrival of the first new moon following the vernal equinox. In the years that followed, civilizations around the world developed increasingly more sophisticated calendars, often pinning the first day of the year to an agricultural or astronomical event.
The first Roman calendar consisted of only ten months and a total of 304 days, with a new year beginning at the vernal equinox. In the eighth century B.C., two additional months “Januarius” and “Februarius” were added. Finally in 46 B.C., Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar that resembles the modern-day calendar we follow today. It was this calendar that declared January 1 as the first day of the year. Caesar settled on this as a way to honor the month’s namesake: “Janus“, the Roman god of beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future.
There are many traditions associated with New Year’s Eve celebrations. Each country has a different way to welcome in the new year but all involve festive, happy gatherings. One particular tradition I’m fond of is one from the Netherlands, where ring-shaped cakes are served. Their shape represents the year coming full circle. I’m playing on this tradition with these whimsical chocolate mocha countdown cupcakes. These simple fondant clocks will help you and your friends and family celebrate the ringing in of the new year.
The mocha chocolate combo makes for a tasty, moist, rich cupcake with just a touch of espresso (for an added boost) and cute little fondant circles painted with clock faces keep them playful. Surprisingly, these are not all that complicated to make. Buy the fondant; lets start there. Wilton’s makes a great one and it’s super easy to obtain as well as work with. Wilton’s also makes icing color, so buy that as well. Once you obtain that, the rest is easy. Use a bamboo skewer or toothpick to make your clock faces. Once made, store the fondant cock faces in the refrigerator until right before serving. Put them on the cupcake and serve. And as you countdown your New Year’s celebration with family and friends, remember that anything is possible in a new year.
Chocolate Mocha Countdown Cupcakes
- For the Cupcakes:
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup cold brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons safflower oil
- 2 tablespoons sour cream
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- dash of salt
- For the Mocha Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/2 cups confections' sugar, sifted
- 1/4 cup cold brew coffee
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- For the Countdown Clocks:
- 1 package white fondant
- 1 small container Wilton black icing color
- wooden skewer
- Step 1 For the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-muffin tin with liners or lightly grease pan if not using liners. Set aside.
- Step 2 In a large bowl add the sugar and eggs and whisk until pale yellow.
- Step 3 Add the coffee, coconut oil, safflower oil and sour cream, mix well. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, espresso powder and salt. Mix until incorporated.
- Step 4 Fill each muffin cup about three-fourths. Place in the oven and bake for about 18-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Step 5 For the Mocha Frosting: In the bowl of a kitchen mixer such as a KitchenAid fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Add the coffee, cocoa, vanilla extract and espresso powder and mix on medium-high until well incorporated and frosting becomes fluffy and light brown.
- Step 6 Spoon the frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a large plain pastry tip. Pipe frosting on the cooled cupcakes as desired. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes. Place in the refrigerator to set.
- Step 7 For the Countdown Clocks: Line a small cutting board with parchment paper and set aside. Using a rolling pin, roll out the fondant until about 1/4-inch thick. Use a small round cookie cutter, juice glass, or paring knife to make 12 round circles. Place on the prepared cutting board.
- Step 8 Using your bamboo skewer (or toothpick), dip the pointed tip into the icing color, dabbing off any excess on the side. Carefully write 12, 3, 6 and 9 on the fondant cutouts, as they would appear on an actual clock. You will need to keep dipping your skewer in the icing color as you write. Make two small dots in between each number to represent all the hours on a clock. Next draw small arrows to represent the minute and hour hands, pointing them as you see fit. Place the fondant clocks in the refrigerator to set.
- Step 9 Right before serving, remove the cupcakes and the clocks form the refrigerator. Gently lean one fondant clock on each of the 12 cupcakes.