Festive DIY loaded hot chocolate dessert station

Nothing says winter better than a steaming mug of hot chocolate. And nothing elevates that quintessential experience more than a loaded hot chocolate. With this Thursday, December 21, being the first official day of winter, just add a crackling fire and you’re good for the rest of the season!

 Hot chocolate is also a great way to create a do-it-yourself dessert station when you’re entertaining a crowd, from friends to family, over the holidays.

For the adults, adding a little “spike” of alcohol really kicks things up a notch. Or go non-alcoholic with flavoured coffee syrups to add a little kick.

What makes this idea extra special is that with a variety of toppings to choose from, every mug will be unique to each person’s imagination. To make it truly memorable, be sure to take a photo of each wild concoction with its creator for a really fun memory to look back on.

Setting up the hot chocolate station is half the fun. Let your imagination run wild. Start with your favourite hot chocolate recipe, or find one online. We’ve included a slow-cooker recipe below for maximum convenience. Next, you’ll need a selection of sturdy mugs. You can get seasonal mugs for minimal expense at the dollar store, and guests can take them home afterwards as a gift if you’re really feeling extra festive and generous!

Set up jars or bowls with plenty of toppings to choose from. Differently sized bowls and jars in holiday colours and shapes add to the excitement. If you’re really motivated, you can add labels to each.Decorate the area until it looks like a candy store. Think Santa’s workshop!

Decadent Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

The best way to serve a crowd without slaving over a hot stove is to use a slow cooker. This rich and steamy hot chocolate couldn’t be easier and tastier.


• 6 cups (1440ml) whole milk (1% or 2% are OK)

• 2 cups (480ml) heavy cream

• 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar

• 8 ounces (226g) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped, or semi-sweet chocolate chips

• 1/4 cup (21g) unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder

• 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

• Toppings: (aka the fun part): whipped cream, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, candy canes or sticks in various flavours, chocolate syrup, salted caramel, pretzels, rainbow mini marshmallows, chocolate or coconut covered marshmallows, strawberries, gingerbread cookies, cinnamon sticks, crushed peanuts, candied pecans, sprinkles, brownies, mini or full-sized donuts, fun flavoured syrups like vanilla or pumpkin spice, various liqueurs, spiced rum, etc. For some items, like the marshmallows and strawberries, you can create mini skewers and drizzle them with melted chocolate and sprinkles.


1. Place all of the ingredients into a large slow cooker. Vigorously whisk to get the cocoa powder as mixed in as possible — you don’t want it floating on the top. Keep whisking for a minute or 2 until it’s all combined.

2. Cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours. Make sure you whisk it every 45 minutes to an hour to make sure the chocolate isn’t burning on the bottom.

3. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the refrigerator and warm up on the stove or in the microwave for an anytime treat.

Assembly: You can make each hot chocolate as elaborate as you choose. If you’re adding flavoured coffee syrups or alcohol, add that to the hot chocolate first. A hand-held frother will really mix it in well and add extra richness and yummy foam.

Start with marshmallows so they get a good melt going. Next, top with whipped cream, as tall as you want to go. You should have a big bowl of homemade whipped cream on hand. A tub of Cool Whip is fine, too, but remember that you can’t control the sweetness if you don’t whip it up yourself. Canned whipped cream is especially fun to use, particularly for the kids, and is also not as sweet as the tubs.

Next, drizzle the whole thing with chocolate or caramel syrup. Decorate with chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, crushed candy canes or seasonal sprinkles. At this point, you can plop in a cookie or brownie, but if you really want to get some dramatic height going, add a candy stick or even a tall straw and start skewering cookies, brownies and donuts onto this. Drizzle with more chocolate syrup and sprinkles, and prepare to revel in the oohs and aahs that will follow.

If you and your guests are really going all out with your creations, include plates and spoons so you don’t end up with a sticky mess on your floor. And be sure to monitor the little ones around the hot beverages. We recommend setting their mugs aside to cool off prior to opening up the dessert station so they don’t have to wait.

Better yet? Prepare mugs of instant pudding ahead of time and let the kids decorate those to their heart’s content. Zero spills or risks of burns, but 100% mini-me satisfaction. Bonus tip: Gives the kids pretzel sticks, marshallows and candy and let them create tiny snowmen. They’ll have a blast watching them melt into their hot chocolate, or simply gobbling them up on their own!

Let the revelry begin! And don’t forget to save a mug for the man in the red suit!