Hot cocoa bombs are the perfect storm of viral food trends

Emily Heil & Becky Krystal

THE WASHINGTON POST – It takes certain qualities to fuel a viral food trend. There’s sheer novelty (cloud bread!), or maybe a gross-out factor. (Remember when people eating cereal from each other’s mouths was a thing for a minute?) And for many, sourdough baking was our pandemic kitchen therapy.

And then there are some that check all the boxes. In that rarefied category of things that seem engineered to dominate our social media feeds, we’ll put hot cocoa bombs. When these filled chocolate spheres are submerged into steamy milk, they erupt in a delightful explosion of marshmallows swimming in hot chocolate.

The confections, which started catching on last year via TikTok videos and snowballed in recent weeks, have creeped through our screens to become IRL holiday objects of desire, akin to that Baby Yoda doll you can’t find anywhere this year.

Of course you can try to make them at home, but still, bakers are reporting selling out of cocoa bombs. Frantic mom groups on Facebook are fretting about procuring them for the holidays.

S’mores cocoa bomb. PHOTO: SITHIYA RESHMEE

Sithiya Reshmee, who runs the online, Arlington, Virginia-based F&R Sweets with partner Farah Bahr, said they were fully booked through December.

The cocoa bombs have been their biggest seller since they put them on the menu three months ago after discovering them on TikTok (Reshmee and Bahr are high school seniors, so they’re more native to the platform than many other retailers). Before that, chocolate-covered strawberries had been a signature confection.

Reshmee sees the appeal of the novel bombs to both children and their parents. “It explodes and the marshmallows pop out and there’s all this goodness,” she said. “It’s fun – it’s a really great gift as well.”

Kara Nielsen, who tracks food for the trend-forecasting firm WGSN, agrees that it’s the visual element that has made cocoa bombs catch on. “It has a sensory engagement that is very of-the-moment,” she said.

Other factors are at play. Since all things pumpkin spice latte (a flavour now known simply as PSL) came to dominate fall, seasonality has been an important quality in food trends, she said.

And the pandemic winter has heightened the demand for both DIY activities and cosiness, which the cocoa bomb provides.

“It offers warming comfort at a time when we’re all wondering how can we bring some joy into our lives – it fits with the season and the situation this year,” Nielsen said.

But once the pandemic is in our rearview mirror (soon, please?) can cocoa bombs endure? In other words, are they more of a cake pop – the confection that started as a novelty but soon came to be a legitimate part of the pastry canon – or a pancake cereal, which enjoyed a brief moment of social media virality?

Eric Torres Garcia is betting on the former. He’s claims to have created the very first cocoa bomb, which he showed off in a TikTok last year. In the video, he plunks a chocolate orb into a mug and pours hot milk over it, as Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas plays. Marshmallows pop out and then bob to the surface of the frothy concoction. He captioned it, “Would anyone buy these?”

The answer turned out to be a resounding yes, and the video garnered 1.7 million views within 10 hours (it’s now up to 2.5 million). Garcia trademarked the name, set up an online shop at Cocoabombs.com, and now fills orders for thousands of the confections in such flavours as peppermint and Mexican chocolate. “It was insane,” he said of the initial response.