Yukon Cornelius Pull-Apart Cupcake Cake


Yukon Cornelius is my favorite, and an all-time classic, character from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Did you know that when he would throw his pick axe into the ice and taste the end of it, that he was actually looking for peppermint to mine? As such, I created this cupcake cake in his image with dark chocolate cupcakes filled with a peppermint-white chocolate ganache, and topped with peppermint buttercream. This is a fun and showstopping dessert--perfect for a "Rudolph" watch party! If not serving immediately, store in the fridge no longer than 1 to 2 days before serving.

Prep Time:
1 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time:
25 mins
Additional Time:
1 hrs 25 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 20 mins
24 cupcakes



  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup dark cocoa powder (such as Hershey's® Special Dark), sifted

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ¾ teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

  • ½ cup white sugar

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup strongly brewed coffee, cooled to room temperature

  • 1 cup sour cream

Peppermint-White Chocolate Ganache:

  • 20 ounces white chocolate chips (such as Ghirardelli®)

  • 8 ounces heavy cream

  • cup crushed peppermint candies

  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract, or to taste

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened

  • 5 cups powdered sugar, or as needed

  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract, or to taste

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • cup heavy cream, or as needed

For Decorating:

  • 6 drops yellow food coloring, or as needed, divided

  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, or as needed

  • 6 drops red food coloring, or as needed, divided

  • 1 (10.5 ounce) package large marshmallows

  • 1 (12 ounce) bag dark chocolate chips

  • piping bags

  • couplers

  • large round piping tips

  • large open star piping tip


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line two 12-cup standard cupcake pans with paper liners.

  2. Whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

  3. Combine sugars and butter in a large bowl; beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract.

  4. Mix 1/3 of the flour mixture into the butter mixture until just combined. Mix in 1/2 of the coffee and 1/2 of the sour cream until just combined. Add remaining flour mixture alternately with remaining sour cream and coffee. Do not overmix. Fill the prepared cupcake cups evenly with batter.

  5. Bake in the preheated oven until they spring back lightly when touched, 18 to 22 minutes. Let cool completely, 30 minutes to 1 hour.

  6. Core cooled cupcakes using a knife or cupcake corer, cutting about halfway down. Save cupcake centers for another use (such as for making a batch of cake balls).

  7. Prepare ganache. Add white chocolate chips and heavy cream to a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat at 50% power until chocolate is melted and smooth, in 30-second intervals, stirring after each. Mix in crushed candies and peppermint extract until thoroughly combined. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, stirring often.

  8. Place ganache in a piping bag or resealable plastic bag with a corner cut off. Fill each cupcake to the top with ganache. Allow them to sit until ganache firms up and doesn't "smudge" when pressed lightly with fingertips, 15 to 20 minutes.

  9. Prepare frosting. Cream butter until smooth in a large bowl with an electric mixer. Beat in 1 cup powdered sugar at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in vanilla extract, peppermint extract, and salt. Add heavy cream and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. If frosting is too thick, add more heavy cream--or if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar until frosting is a spreadable consistency that still holds its shape.

  10. Place a small amount of frosting in a separate bowl and add yellow food coloring for the ear muffs. Divide remaining frosting in half. To 1/2 of the divided frosting, add cocoa powder and red food coloring to achieve an auburn color. Divide remaining white frosting in half again. Color 1/2 peach using a very light amount of red and yellow food coloring. Color remaining frosting red. Put each into a piping bag fitted with a coupler.

  11. Arrange cupcakes on a large cake board or serving platter, starting from the top. Begin with 1 cupcake at the top. Follow with a row of 2 cupcakes, making sure they stay as close as possible. (If cupcakes slide around, affix a small amount of frosting to the bottom of them so they stick to the serving platter or cake board.) Follow with a row of 3 cupcakes, then a row of 5 cupcakes, a row of 4 cupcakes, another row of 5 cupcakes, and finally a last row of 4 cupcakes. Make sure the cupcakes are as close to one another as possible. If there are any large gaps, you can use large marshmallows, trimmed to fit, in order to fill them in and make a flatter, more cohesive surface to frost.

  12. Beginning with the top 6 cupcakes (the rows with 1 cupcake, 2 cupcakes, and 3 cupcakes in them), frost the hat portion of the cake using the red frosting and large round tip. Smooth center portion using an offset spatula, if desired. Use the peach frosting to frost the center 3 cupcakes in the row of 5 below the hat, leaving a cupcake on each side unfrosted for the ear muffs. Smooth with an offset spatula. Affix 2 dark chocolate chips upside-down for the eyes in the center of the peach frosting.

  13. Pipe the nose below the eyes, and then the lower lip below the nose using the peach frosting. Frost the cupcakes on each side of the face with the yellow frosting for the ear muffs. To frost the beard, use the auburn colored frosting and cover the remaining unfrosted cupcakes (that contain a row of 4, a row of 5, and final row of 4 cupcakes) with a thin layer of the auburn frosting. Smooth frosting all over the "beard-portion" of the cupcakes until mostly smooth and flat. Place a star tip on the auburn frosting piping bag, and pipe dots of frosting along the side of the face, then pipe the mustache between the nose and lip, and add some swirls on top of the beard, if desired.

  14. Allow cupcake cake to sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature (or place in the fridge) to allow frosting to crust. Serve.

Cook's Notes:

You can skip filling the cupcakes if you wish.

I used Wilton(R) round tips #10 and #12, and open star tip #32 for this cake.

I made this cupcake cake over the course of three days to make it easier. Day 1: made and cooled the cupcakes. Day 2: cored the cupcakes, made the ganache, and filled them (kept them stored in Ziploc(R) bags to keep the cupcakes moist). Day 3: made the frosting, laid out the cupcake pattern, and frosted them. So it can be made in advance or in steps to make the process a bit easier.

Editor's Note:

Nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of marshmallows and dark chocolate chips. The actual amount consumed will vary.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

653 Calories
35g Fat
85g Carbs
6g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 24
Calories 653
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 35g 45%
Saturated Fat 21g 107%
Cholesterol 83mg 28%
Sodium 284mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 85g 31%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 61g
Protein 6g
Vitamin C 0mg 1%
Calcium 122mg 9%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 160mg 3%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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