{Sweet San Francisco}: TCHO and Chocolate Mint Filled Cupcakes

Chocolate Mint Filled Cupcakes on dessertfirstgirl.com

Pardon the slightly disjointed nature of this post; it was meant to be report on my TCHO factory experience that evolved into a St. Patrick’s Day recipe that now includes a mention of Japan.


Apologies, but I couldn’t not mention that I fell in love with Japan long before I visited it for the first time, and I love it more with every subsequent visit. Their refined aesthetic that is visible is everything from their bridge design to their bento packaging; their concepts of wabi-sabi and mono no aware that appeals to my introvert’s, observer personality; the spare beauty of the countryside (captured in one of my favorite movies ever, Totoro), gives Japan a special place in my heart. It was hard to think about regular life, much less blogging, when seeing the awful images of devastation everywhere.


I wanted to pass along the word that food bloggers are already mobilizing to help out; local bay area chef Samin Nostrat is organizing a bake sale for Japan; check out her site to get involved. Or, for those of you not in the bay area, Sabrina of The Tomato Tart is holding a virtual bake sale. Do consider helping out and be a part of this wonderful, caring community of food bloggers. Thank you!

Now, back to the original subject of this post. A few weeks ago I got the chance to visit the TCHO chocolate factory at Pier 17 in San Francisco. TCHO is a bean-to-bar chocolate company; they work directly with farmers from Madagascar, Peru, and Ghana to grow cacao to their specifications. The roasted beans are shipped to San Francisco where they are turned into chocolate in the Pier 17 factory. With the closing of the Scharffen Berger factory in Berkeley, TCHO is the only place near San Francisco to get a glimpse of the chocolate making process. TCHO started offering tours of their factory at the end of last year; they are free and you simply sign up on their site and show up for an hour long tour that includes a brief overview of the chocolate making process and a chocolate tasting.

Larry Del Santo, the marketing manager, described TCHO to me as “geared towards the millenial generation.” With its high tech background and fast-moving startup feel, TCHO does fit in perfectly with the future savvy, iPhone-loving Bay Area set. As a lover of food history, I was delighted to learn that the swirling, geometric patterns are based on the anti-counterfeit patterns used on money; quite apropos since cacao beans were once used as currency.


Photo courtesy of TCHO

Although they don’t allow the public to take pictures of the factory, you can get a glimpse with this video on The Feast.


The retail counter at the factory, where you can also get a coffee or TCHO’s own drinking chocolate.


I really liked the chocolate; it is pretty much straight melted chocolate, gloriously thick, clearly harkening back to the xocolatl of the ancient Aztecs rather than the insipid watery pretenders found today.


Photo courtesy of TCHO

Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in reality: pipes gushing liquid chocolate. When asked how the pipes were cleaned, the tour guide replied that they were flushed with warm cocoa butter. These must be the only pipes you would want to lick!


Photo courtesy of TCHO

Chocolate buttons being born.


TCHO uses a “flavor wheel” to describe its various chocolate bars. There are six flavors on the wheel and currently four of them are offered: nutty, chocolatey, fruity, and citrus. TCHO takes pains to note there are no add-ins to their chocolate; all the flavor comes directly from the beans. Tasting all four of the bars is a quick and simple way to learn about some of the most basic flavor notes in chocolate. Unlike other artisan bars which may have a combination of notes, if you eat a “Nutty” bar you will clearly taste a nutty, toasted flavor. My favorites of the four were the Nutty and Fruity, which again contains no actual fruit but boasts a bright, clean berry flavor. The flavors are constantly being refined, which is why there is a “Fruity 2.0″ and “Nutty 2.0″. TCHO is still working on the earthy and floral bars – the R&D process includes the now-famous “beta bars” which are sent to volunteers to taste and critique, a clever strategy that not surprisingly has gone over like gangbusters in this town of foodies.


TCHO is also branching out into simple confectionery items such as these chocolate covered mango pieces. They have also started creating their own private label bars for Starbucks, which means in the very near future TCHO could be a household name.

Chocolate Mint Filled Cupcakes on dessertfirstgirl.com

TCHO also has a professional line of baking bars and drops that come in a variety of percentages. I was gifted with a couple bags of the 68% Baking Drops as I was leaving, so I’d been waiting for a chance to try them out. Since St. Patrick’s Day was coming up, I wanted to do my spin on a chocolate mint cupcake. Something a little more elegant than the neon green frosted sugar bombs littering the bakeries. (Although I did think later that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t really a holiday associated with modest restraint, is it? Oh well.)

I came up with a chocolate sour cream cupcake (sour cream or creme fraiche are my favorites for a super rich cake) with a peppermint cream filling (if you really want, you can tint this green). A chocolate buttercream morphed into a chocolate ganache frosting, and the end result is sort of a cross between peppermint pattie and a Hostess cupcake. The sugar ball trios on top are a very light pastel green – surprisingly, no shamrock green available! I put a lucky group of four on one for someone to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day. I also realized a little too late that luster dust on chocolate just makes it look grainy in photos-argh!

The TCHO baking drops performed beautifully and lent the cupcakes a robust, fudgey taste. Because I’m a geek, I’m really curious to do a comparison with some of the other baking chocolates on the market – look for this post in the near future! However, for now I can conclude that TCHO is a perfectly excellent addition to any baker’s arsenal.

Chocolate Mint Filled Cupcakes on dessertfirstgirl.com

Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Cream

makes 12 cupcakes
  • Cupcake recipe adapted from Cooks' Illustrated


  • 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 oz (57 g) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup (43 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (94 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) sour cream

Mint Cream

  • 1 cup (238 g) whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Chocolate Ganache

  • 8 oz (210 g) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup

For the cupcakes:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with baking-cup liners.
  • Combine butter and chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate start to melt. Add cocoa and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
  • Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
  • Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine. Add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated.
  • Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
  • Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined; then sift in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogenous and thick.
  • Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool.

For the mint cream:

  • Combine cream and peppermint extract in a stand mixer bowl. Whip until soft peaks form; do not overwhip.

For the ganache:

  • Combine all chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over a saucepan filled with simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and combined.
  • Add in vanilla and corn syrup and stir to combine. (The corn syrup is to help the ganache keep its shine; if you are serving the cupcakes immediately, you can omit the corn syrup.)
  • To assemble the cupcakes: Cut the centers out of each cupcake. Fill centers with mint cream and replace the tops.
  • Let the ganache cool slightly so it thickens, but don't let it cool too much or it won't spread smoothly. Spoon the ganache over the tops of each cupcake, covering evenly. Let ganache set slightly before serving.


  1. 1


    Long time reader but commenting for the first time. Your cupcakes are elegant, the mint and chocolate combo my favorite. Bookmarked to bake.

    Let’s hope we can do what little we can for Japan.

  2. 3


    they are so pretty, and chocolate and mint is one of my favorite combos. we use TCHO chocolate where i work, and i think it is really very good (i am thinking of ordering a sack of the drops for home use).

  3. 4


    I’ve tried TCHO’s citrus bar and immediately fell in love, only nibbling little bits at a time to make the bar last as long as possible. These cupcakes look absolutely delicious. I love the ganache topping!

  4. 5


    Those cupcakes look absolutely divine. I love TCHO chocolate, it really is delicious. Also, I’d like to thank you for mentioning my online bake sale for Japan. I am always amazed at how giving and good the blogging community is. You, clearly, fit that bill.
    Sabrina Modelle- the tomato tart

  5. 6


    Hi Anita! Thanks so much for this fantastic post. We really appreciate it, and glad you loved the chocolate. Thanks so much, and we can’t wait to try the recipe! Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Best, Larry, TCHO Marketing

  6. 7


    Fabulous cupcakes! I can’t wait to try them. I am not a big peppermint fan so I am thinking I might substitudte the 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract with spearment or wintergreen extract.

  7. 10


    I am 100% chocolate-holic!~ I like this post~! the chocolate factory seems great and the cupcakes are seductive and simple making~! I will have a try~!

    I just posted a Classic French dessert-Fondant au Chocolate on my blog- “Dessert.S”, hope you give me some reviews~

    I am currently doing a digital project of a Desserts making blog~ I hope tou could pop into my blog and leave me some words there~ and I also got a fanpage on facebook and it would be great if you would like to click “like” on it~!


  8. 11


    These look absolutely delicious! Do you use a specific tool to scoop out the middle of your cupcakes or do you simply use a knife?


  9. 12

    Chelsea says

    These are super yummy! The only change I would make next time is to either half the whip cream filling or double the cupcakes. I ended up with way too much whipped cream (although I mixed it with some of the chocolate ganache and it made a sort of heavy mousse, which is pretty tasty!)
    This cupcake recipe is officially my go-to recipe for chocolate cupcakes now!

  10. 13


    Hi Anita, I’ve found your website yesterday and i am in love! Thank you for this post! I love chocolate with mint. This is not very popular combinantion in my country (I am originally from Poland). Next one to do is cake with matcha :). Greetings from Liverpool, UK :)


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