This holiday season, the internet is being bombed — with chocolate.
The spherical confection known as a hot cocoa bomb has become a social media sensation. As of earlier this month, about 40 million videos on TikTok were either tagged #hotchocolatebombs or #hotcocoabombs, according to a recent story in USA Today.
Many of the videos are there only to offer us the sheer pleasure of watching the “bombs” explode, scattering marshmallow shrapnel as they’re attacked by scalding hot liquid. Others are how-to-make-a-bomb tutorials.
Omaha-area entrepreneurs and foodies are caught up in the craze. On Facebook, local cooks are trading bomb-making secrets. Savvy food peddlers, meanwhile, are posting online ordering information on pages dedicated to discussions about area food purveyors and buying local products.
And bomb-makers say they’re having a hard time keeping up with demand.
“They have been super-duper popular,” Lori Manoj, owner of Sugar Coma Custom Treats near 142nd and U Streets, said this week. “My phone has been ringing off the hook today so I just stopped answering.”
Manoj said she stocked up one recent Saturday with more than 150 bombs and they were sold out by noon.
Marnesha White has made close to 1,000 bombs in only six weeks for mom Christine White’s business, Wee Willie’s Sweet Treats in Council Bluffs.
When they first started popping up on the internet, the bombs were fairly simple. Make two sides of a sphere in separate molds, put hot cocoa mix and marshmallows in the middle, then seal it together. They usually had a drizzle of some sort on the top.
They’ve evolved into a myriad of flavors; some of the most popular are chocolate mint, peppermint, salted caramel, cookies and cream and s’mores.
Manoj has a peanut butter bomb and one featuring the ever-polarizing pumpkin spice.
Mariah Rhoades of MJs Creations has a Fruity Pebbles version: a white chocolate bomb with bits of cereal inside and on top of the finished product.
She also has done a gender-reveal bomb: When it exploded, a layer of pink marshmallows appeared, signaling a girl. It’s available in blue, of course.
Rhoades didn’t have to use dye.
“I just got a bag of fruity marshmallows and pulled out all the pink ones,” she said.
Mindy Leslie of Sweet Tooth Haven is one of a couple of makers who offer an Abuelita Mexican chocolate bomb.
She said she sets her version apart with “a little kick.” A small chile pepper decorates the top.
In addition to the different flavors, the makers also use different molds such as gift boxes, ornaments, hearts, Santas and Grinches. White said a skull mold was popular at Halloween.
The trend is new enough that most of the entrepreneurs we talked with have been making them for only a couple of months.
Leslie got an earlier start over the holidays last year. She was noticing them on a cottage food group Facebook page and when a couple of fellow members sent her how-to videos, she was all set.
Now she has regular customers, including a standing order with the local Rico Pan bakery for about 300 a month. She has access to a commercial kitchen through her full-time job as a bakery manager for Spartan Nash Co., so she can sell through a third party without breaking Nebraska cottage food laws.
By all accounts, the bombs aren’t complicated, just a little time-consuming.
“They are fairly easy to make,” Manoj said. “I was just timing myself. If the shells are prepared, it takes me an hour to make 75.”
Marnesha White of Wee Willie’s Sweet Treats said she has spent about five hours a day most days since she began making the bombs. She does it when her kids are at school or later at night, fitting it in around her part-time job as a server at HuHot Mongolian Grill.
She does it because her mom has her hands full with bakery orders. Marnesha also handles its marketing and social media pages.
The bombs are $3 to $5 a piece.
Some are big enough to make multiple servings in a saucepan of hot milk or water. But most people use big mugs or cups.
“When you do that, there’s more of a show to watch,” Rhoades said.
Leslie agrees with that, and so do kids.
“It’s just mesmerizing for them,” she said. “The magic happens and (the bombs) explode into an amazing cup of hot chocolate. They’re so cool.”