Hot Chocolate Fans Told Daily Meal Their No. 1 Favorite Topping - Exclusive Survey

Nothing makes cuddling up under a blanket or gathering around a campfire as comforting as a steaming mug of hot chocolate. It's easy enough to make homemade hot chocolate, spike it with a splash of Bailey's, or brew a whole pot for a crowd. And it always seems to hit the spot.

However, Mental Floss points out that you might actually be more familiar with hot cocoa. Hot cocoa is more than just a playful pseudonym used for hot chocolate — it's actually an entirely different drink. Hot chocolate is made using pieces of shaved or ground cacao. That means that it still has all of its original fats intact and has a slightly more bitter taste along with it. Barand Cocoa adds that this whole food approach to chocolatey drinks also tends to be more nutritious than classic cocoa. Hot cocoa, on the other hand, is made using a refined cocoa powder and has those natural fats stripped away. Doing this also removes some of the natural nutritious benefits found in cacao.

Of course, whether you're drinking the finest hot chocolate, a gourmet cocoa, or an expired bag of Swiss Miss, everyone knows that hot cocoa is only as good as its toppings. There are plenty of unexpected hot cocoas around the U.S., but Daily Meal wanted to know what readers make at home, so we created a survey to find the most popular topping.

Classics come out on top

More than 600 Daily Meal readers answered the question, "Which is your go-to hot chocolate topping?" And while there is some love for less traditional toppings, the classics still crushed the competition. Coming in first place with nearly half of the votes was whipped cream. 283 people said that this was their go-to hot cocoa topping. Coming in behind that is another classic option — marshmallows. These fluffy candies had about one third of the total votes cast in their favor.

From here, the numbers start to drop off pretty significantly. Continuing down the list with 11% of the votes is cinnamon. While sea salt, and crushed candy canes both had about 5% of the vote. It seems that creamy and rich takes the top spot when it comes to Daily Meal readers and their hot cocoa recipes.

Art Chocolat claims that sea salt might be the best topping for hot chocolate purists, though. Adding a pinch of sea salt can help to counter bitterness and increase sweet notes in drinks such as hot chocolate. While it doesn't add a new dimension like other toppings, it will help you get the most chocolatey goodness out of your favorite cocoa.

The best whipped cream for hot cocoa

If you've ever had the joy of sampling homemade vanilla whipped cream, you might find it hard to go back to the store-bought stuff. If you're looking for something to top your hot cocoa, though, there are a few things to keep in mind.

According to Nunuch Chocolates, adding homemade whipped cream to hot chocolate might be more complicated than you'd think. While it's simple enough to whip up a bowl of cream and turn it into a topping, it doesn't always want to stay that way.

Shugary Sweets points out that whipped cream made without stabilizers, such as powdered gelatin, tend to collapse quickly. Add the heat of hot chocolate to the mix, and you might as well be pouring liquid cream into your mug of cocoa. Nunuch Chocolates says that it can help to ensure your whipped cream is fresh and cold to keep it from melting into your cocoa too quickly. What you really need, though, is a stabilizer. Veena Azmanov says that common household items such as corn starch, confectioner's sugar, and pudding mix will all do the trick. And if all of this has your plans for the ultimate whipped cream topping feeling deflated, Nunuch Chocolates adds that some of the most stable options are the store-bought options.