As the season turns to cold, I love to entertain my guests with a warm mug of cocoa. There are so many delicious recipes available that it is hard to choose my favorite cup. I decided that I don’t have to choose. I can create a decadent hot chocolate toppings bar and have all the combinations my heart desires. You can too! Here’s all my tips on how to build the best one and how I do it.
1- Decide on Your Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar Decorations & Set Up
Figure out which area in your house will be most efficient for this setup. You will want an area that has electrical power outlets. If you have an island, this is usually the best. I have a convenient folding table that I like to utilize for this setup.
- Create a festive “hot chocolate station” space with a table cloth that fits your style and the season
- Utilize a table runner to enhance the look.
- Add some fun themed items to build up the tablescape.
- Pinecones and leaves
- Fairy light string
- Christmas village
- North Pole decor
- Menorah display
- Fun Hot Cocoa Bar Signage. (I find these easily at Hobby Lobby or you can make your own)
- Layer plates and chargers for the ingredients.
- If you have season dishes, now is your chance to use all of them.
- I love using my holiday serving spoons for this hot chocolate topping bar.
- Grab some festive mugs that people can drink out of easily (don’t go too crazy with weird shapes as it may be challenging to enjoy the beverages)
- You can also do a personalized mug with a permanent marker or my favorite- wine glass markers.
- These markers are made for writing names on wine glasses
- They can also be used on ceramics, so any of your mugs.
- You can use them to label dishes if you have a dinner party in the future.
Here is some fun inspiration from Amazon:
OurWarm Cotton Buffalo Plaid Check Tablecloth Rectangle 60 x 84 Inch, Waterproof Black and Red Christmas Checkered Tablecloth for Holiday Christmas Decorations Lumberjack Party Supplies
Christmas Candy Dishe Dip Bowl Set ~ 4-Pc Ceramic Christmas Dishes (Holiday Party Supplies) (Santa Claus)
CEDAR HOME Coffee Ceramic Mug Funny Christmas Porcelain Tea Cup 18oz., Set of 4
Wilton Peppermint-Flavored Candy Cane Candy Spoons, 4-Pack
GAINWELL Wine Glass Markers – Pack of 8 Food-Safe Non-Toxic Wine Glass Marker Pens – Can also be Used on Ceramic Plates and other Glass and Dinnerware
2- Choose Your Hot Chocolate Recipes
Depending on the guests you will be inviting and the dietary concerns of the group, there are plenty of recipes that will be delicious. I love dark chocolate while my husband loves creamy milk chocolate. If you have people that are sensitive to dairy, I found a great healthy vegan recipe too.
Classic Creamy Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa
Hot Chocolate Ingredients:
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (if you would like it to be a richer chocolate, choose “dark chocolate” powder)3/4 cup white sugarPinch of salt1/3 cup boiling water3 1/2 cups of milk3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract2 tablespoons Half and Half
Hot Chocolate Directions:
Combine cocoa powder, sugar, salt and water into medium sauce pan and bring to low boil being careful not to scorch the mixture. Once evenly mixed, add milk and stir.After a few minutes pour in vanilla extract.In serving mugs, add half and half and pour in cocoa. The half and half makes it creamier and brings it to a lower temperature making it easier to drink immediately. Top with your favorite ingredients from the hot chocolate toppings bar list.
Rich Italian Dark Chocolate Hot Cocoa
- Italian is much thicker and bolder than our American hot chocolate.
- The critical difference in the creation of this recipe is the addition of corn starch.
- This style of hot chocolate would be the best for this hot chocolate toppings bar.
- The thickness of the liquid will allow all the ingredients to float on the top without assistance from a marshmallow or whip cream base.
Vegan Hot Chocolate Recipe
You can have a delicious dairy-free cocoa with a simple almond milk recipe. Vegan ingredients:
- Almond milk
- Agave nectar
- Cocoa Powder
- Cinnamon (ground)
- Vanilla extract
White Chocolate Hot Cocoa
If you want to have something a little different to add to the drink option list, consider a hot white chocolate recipe. This one combines cinnamon, nutmeg, and almond extract to make for a vibrant and desirable cocoa beverage.
3- Keep Your Hot Chocolate Hot
The reason why your setup needs to be in an area with power outlets is that you will want to keep the hot cocoa, well, hot. There are several different ways that you can go about maintaining the beverage at warm serving temperature. Here are my favorites.
- Crockpot(s)- provide a constant “warm” level that is perfect for liquids. If you have multiple styles, you can use numerous crock pots at once.
- Warming tray- this tray is great for keeping heat resistant containers warm and at a constant temperature
- Insulated beverage dispenser- you may be familiar with this style of container from their use with self-serve coffee. You can also purchase these for home use, and I will say they come in handy.
- If these are not available to you, you can keep the liquids hot on your stove. Just make sure you keep them on low heat and stir them regularly.
Tru BS-325LR Slow-Cookers
Chefman Electric Warming Tray with Adjustable Temperature Control, Perfect For Buffets, Restaurants, Parties, Events, Home Dinners, Glass Top Large 21″ x 16″ Surface Keeps Food Hot – Black
Thermal Coffee Airpot – Beverage Dispenser (85oz.) By Vondior – Stainless Steel Urn For Hot/Cold Water Or, Pump Action, Party Thermos Carafe, Bunn Brush Bonus, Lid Pitcher
4- Create Hot Chocolate Toppings Bar Ingredients Lineup
Now here’s the best part, the toppings. I get excited about all the different options to use. Pick your favorite! The combinations are endless.
Using a vegetable peeler, take large chunks of chocolate (choose your favorites) and shave pieces into a container
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate
- Spicy chocolate
- Orange chocolate
- large or small
- Marshmallow Fluff- spoon this delicious marshmallow goo from the jar onto the top of your hot cocoa (this is my favorite option! YUM)
- Classic tub whip cream
- A spray can whip cream
- Homemade whip cream
place peppermint candy into plastic baggy and cover with a paper towel or cloth. Take a hammer, small mallet, or another heavy object (I will use the top side of the knife sometimes) and hit the candy to break into tiny pieces.
Using a planer or cheese grater, you can rub the block chocolate across to create a fine chocolate dust, just watch those fingers!
You can find these in liquid-form with droppers to enhance the cocoa
- Angel food cake
- Chocolate or vanilla
- Red velvet
- Coffee cake
- Chocolate chip cookies
- Graham crackers
- Oreo cookies
- Sugar cookie
- Ginger snaps
- Vanilla wafers
Candy pieces (finely crushed)
- York peppermint patties
- Reese’s pieces
Cinnamon roll chunks
Pirouline cookie straws
Sprinkles (pick some that are festive, like snowflakes or stars)
- Hot Fudge
- White chocolate peppermint
Use a sticky flavor to create a rimmed glass for a lovely presentation
- Chocolate Syrup
- Peanut/ Almond butter
- Cherry Syrup
- Dip top of glass into shallow plate of the various options
- In separate plate, dip glass into cookie crumbs or powdered ingredients
5- Alcoholic additions to your Hot Chocolate Topping Bar
If you wanted to add some “holiday cheer” to the hot cocoa, use one of these delicious liqueurs to spike your drink. Liqueurs are great because they are lower in alcohol, and you can find so many flavors that will enhance your hot chocolate experience. I will add 1 ounce of liqueur to a beverage of about 12 ounces. Please drink responsibly.
- Kahlua (coffee liqueur)
- Bailey’s (Irish cream liqueur)
- Creme de cacao (chocolate liqueur)
- Godiva chocolate
- Patron XO (coffee liqueur)
- Creme de Menthe
- Rumpleminze (peppermint)
- Fruity liqueurs
- Chambord (berry)
- Creme de Cerise (cherry liqueur)
- Creme de Banana
- Triple sec (orange)
- Nutty Liqueurs
- Frangelico (hazelnut)
- Amaretto (almond)
- Disaronno- (almond flavor) this is the best nutty liqueur for a crowd because it does not actually contain nuts.
- Bärenjäger (honey liqueur)
- Tuaca (brandy, vanilla, and citrus)
- Goldschläger (cinnamon) This has gold flakes in it that would look festive in the cocoa.
6- Layer for better presentation!
Get to stacking! Layering your beverage makes for beautifully presented drinks that guests will love. There are several things that I plan for when making the hot chocolate toppings bar.
- Whip cream or marshmallows should be placed on top of the beverages to allow for heavy toppings, i.e. candy pieces and cookie crumbs.
- Utilize the Italian style hot chocolate to prevent toppings from sinking
- Creating the barrier will allow for height in the beverage topping creations
7- Enjoy Your Creations!
Kim’s is the party planning, cupcake loving, celebration catalyst behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. Kim was a pro event planner for over 7 years before she became a full-time blogger. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day and more! Kim aims to inspire you to create parties, celebrations and gatherings that everyone loves!