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How to Throw a Hot Cocoa Party: Pro Tips + Irresistible Marshmallow-Kissed Cupcakes

Invite loved ones to savor smiles, sips and snacks in a magical setting inspired by the merriest season

When the weather outside gets frightful, inviting loved ones over for a cup of cocoa sounds so delightful! And this holiday season, DIY hot chocolate bars are buzzing all over social media, racking up more than 50,000 posts on Instagram. Your guests will love indulging in treats and cozy sips in a festive setting — and you’ll love how easily it all comes together. Here, we asked event pros for their best tips on setting up a hot chocolate bar. Keep scrolling for the simple and savvy how-to’s.

“Hot cocoa has been a huge part of this time of year since I was a little girl, and I have always loved making our very own hot chocolate bar,” says entertaining pro Savannah Kokaliares, founder of “I decided to set up a hot chocolate bar and invite some of our friends and family over to help celebrate National Hot Cocoa Day, which is on December 13th!”

To get the look of Kokallares’ hot chocolate bar, above, push a table up to a wall and top with a pretty, festive plaid blanket, disposable coffee cups, a Keurig machine, hot cocoa K-Cups, gourmet syrups, jars filled with chocolate-covered stirring spoons and jars of marshmallows and crushed peppermints.

Related: How to Clean a Keurig Coffee Maker So Your Morning Brew *Always* Taste Its Best

Customize mugs of cocoa with merry mix-ins

Hot chocolate bar: toppings for hot cocoa in glass mason jars on wooden bark tray
Big Dot of Happiness

The event pros at party site fancied up hot chocolate with a toppings bar. To re-create, set out jars of marshmallows, chocolate chips, candy canes and cocoa powder. Tie chalkboard labels to each jar and arrange on a wood slab. Tip: Dress up Hershey’s Kisses with Buffalo Plaid Labels (Buy at, $9 for 108) and add to slab.

Spark instant smiles with cute reindeer toppers

Hot chocolate bar: reindeer marshmallow cocoa topper shown atop mug of hot cocoa

Reindeer marshmallows add adorable holiday flair to mugs. To do: Melt chocolate candy wafers to package instructions, cool slightly, then spoon into a plastic zip-top bag. Snip a corner of bag and pipe antler shapes onto wax paper and 2 V-shapes onto the flat end of each marshmallow for “eyes.” Let harden, then attach antlers and a red candy “nose” to each marshmallow using melted chocolate.

Boost holiday joy with a blooming woodland display

Hot chocolate bar: Rustic woodland bouquet table arrangement in wooden crate box
Regina Zigmond, Regina’s Garden

Bring festive charm and seasonal beauty to any corner with a woodland-inspired centerpiece, like this one created by floral designer Regina Zigmond. To get this look, fill a wooden window or pallet box (Buy from Amazon, $12 each) with cut-to-fit floral foam. Then, create a soft base by inserting handfuls of cut evergreens (like pine, fir and the like) into the foam. For added texture, hot glue pinecones and real or faux berries to wooden kitchen skewers, then press skewers into foam throughout the evergreens. To finish, tuck in a plaid bow, decorative snowflakes and more. Optional: Hot glue a DIY holiday sign to the front of the planter. No time to arrange a centerpiece? No problem! Check out a wide variety of gorgeous ready-made displays from Zigmond on her Etsy shop, ReginasGarden.

Make serving so much easier with these tricks

Hot chocolate bar: Easy serving trick for hot cocoa image shows a mug of cocoa with marshmallows in a blue mug

Party pro Savannah Kokaliares used a Keurig to make cups of cocoa, but if you don’t have one, simplify serving with a batch of slow-cooker cocoa. Stir 2 oz. of unsweetened chocolate, 6 oz. of chocolate chips and 1 (14 oz.) can of sweetened condensed milk in a slow cooker. Cover and set to high for 30 minutes, then whisk in 8 cups of milk and 1 Tbs. of vanilla extract. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours; stir often. Set to low to keep cocoa perfectly warm.

Another fun serving idea: Showcase a hot cocoa board, like the one below by entertaining pro Leanna Laming of LifeByLeanna on Instagram. This display not only adds holiday cheer and eye-catching charm to your buffet or tabletop, it serves as another option for a help-yourself hot cocoa station. Watch Laming’s video below for the easy step-by-step tutorial:

Gather guests for an on-theme game

A game of marshmallow “snowball” toss will get everyone smiling instantly! To start, simply form teams of two and have everyone sit across from their partner. Give one person a plastic cup and the other a bowl of marshmallows. Set a timer for 1 minute and have teammates try to catch as many marshmallows in their cup as possible. Award the team that catches the most a prize like lottery tickets, a winter-scented candle or a jar full of hot cocoa mix.

Delight with charming chocolate cupcakes

Hot chocolate bar: hot cocoa inspired cupcakes on a wooden trivet

Take homemade or store-bought vanilla-frosted chocolate cupcakes from simple to so-special with a few clever hot cocoa add-ons. To do: Sprinkle mini chocolate chips on each cupcake, pressing them gently to secure them into the frosting. Next, use the tip of a butter knife to make small impressions in the frosting; pop a mini marshmallow into each spot. Garnish each with a mini candy cane.

Related: Christmas Cupcakes to Make Your Holidays Merry and Bright — 10 Easy Recipes

Add a gorgeous glow with a twinkling candlescape

Hot chocolate bar: Christmas candles decorated with natural material. Slices of fresh dried apple, orange and spices for cooking or baking. Rustic style.

A few flickering battery-run candles adorned with seasonal extras lends lovely ambience to a dark corner or empty tabletop nook. To do: For each, place a white or ecru battery-run votive candle onto a small cupcake pedestal or coaster. Next, wrap a rubber band around the votive. Tuck seasonal extras (like cinnamon sticks, bay leaves or evergreens) into the band and all the way around the votive. To cover the band, simply tie a long length of twine around a few times. For extra fragrant flair, thread a dried orange or apple onto the twine. Cluster a few candles together on a tabletop for maximum impact.

Related: 6 Expert Tips to Make Candles Burn Longer & the Common Hack That Can Backfire

Put hot chocolate leftovers to delicious use

Hot cocoa mix is starting to go on sale this time of year, so if you’ve stocked up for your buffet, you might have some leftovers. Put the powder to tasty use by stirring 1–2 packets into your favorite pancake batter or into a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough for a hot chocolate-inspired twist. Also smart: Add 1–2 packets to brownie mix to add a richer chocolate flavor to the tasty treats.

Click through for more inspiring DIY Christmas ideas:

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