Heart In A Cupcake – A Cupcake With A Surprise Inside

Do you love to share your love through baking? Well, this is a special treat. Perfect for Valentine’s Day or any other day to show your love. The outside is cute, but there’s a heart in this cupcake!

These are chocolate cupcakes with a pink vanilla heart inside, topped with raspberry buttercream frosting and decorated with a Royal iced mini-sugar cookie. Okay, I admit this is a bit over the top. This will take two to three days to complete all the steps. (Not two complete days – that would be crazy.) You can always decorate with something than the sugar cookie. Pink or white pearlized nonpareils would be just beautiful.

However, since I made them, I’m going to give you the complete instructions and you can decide which direction to take your treat.

The first step is to make the sugar cookies:

Since Royal icing takes at least a day to dry, make and decorate the cookies the day before. OR, even better, make them days ahead of time and store them in an airtight container in the freezer.

If you’ve never used Royal icing before, check out  Sweetopia. She has great tutorials about using Royal icing and I always follow her guidelines.

Sugar Cookies With Royal Icing
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifte
Royal Icing
  • 1 Tbls. Meringue powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Meringue powder
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tbls. warm water and add more water to desired consistency
  • Pink Gel Color
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar.

  2. Beat in the add and vanilla.

  3. Slowly add the sifted all-purpose flour until well combined.

  4. Chill the dough 3-4 hours.

  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie cutters.

  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool completely before icing.

Royal Icing
  1. Beat all ingredients on low speed for a few minutes until incorporated. The icing should be thin enough to "flow".

  2. Add small amount of gel color and mix until blended. Continue to add gel color and mix until desired color.

  3. Using a piping bag fitted with a #2 tip, outline the cookie. In a zig-zag manner, fill in the outline with the frosting. Shake the cookie gently so the frosting flows. Tap down any points in the frosting with a toothpick.

Next, make a vanilla cake to cut the hearts out of:

Pink Vanilla Cake
  • 6 Tbls. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 large eggs (crack 3 - mix up, measure 1/2 and save the other 1/2 for another purpose
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbls. + 2 Tsp. whole milk
  • red food color
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  2. Sift all dry ingredients and set aside.

  3. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until fluffy.

  4. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix completely.

  5. Add a bit of the dry ingredients at a time, alternating with the milk. Mix until each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically during this process.

  6. Mix in the red food coloring 2-3 drops at a time until desired shade of color is reached. The color will lighten while baking, so keep that in mind.

  7. Continue beating the batter on medium-high for another 30 seconds.

  8. Pour about 1 1/2 cups of the batter into a nonstick or lightly greased 9-inch square baking pan. (Yes, there will be batter left over.) Bake for about 20 minutes or until tester comes out with a few crumbs. Allow the cake to cool completely.

After the cake is cooled, loosen the cake from the pan by running a knife around the edges and carefully invert the pan onto a cutting board. Use a 2-inch heart shaped cookie cutter to cut hears from the cake. Set the hearts aside while mixing up the chocolate cake batter.

On to the chocolate cupcake batter and adding the pink vanilla cake hearts: I tried using my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, but it didn’t work well for this project. The mixture is too liquid and the heart cakes ended up floating, and, well, just don’t use that recipe. I tried this one from Taste of Home and it worked great.

Chocolate Batter And Making A Heart In A Cupcake
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a non-toxic marker, make a small dot on the edge of 12 paper liners and place in a standard muffin tin with all dots facing the same direction.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well incorporated.

  3. Combine and sift the dry ingredients. Gradually add to the creamed mixture alternating with buttermilk and coffee. Beat well after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl often.

  4. Spoon in 1 1/2 Tbls. of batter into the prepared tins. Place a heart in each cup - the bottom of the heart pointing down and the front of the heart facing the dot on the cupcake paper. Press the heart gently into the batter. Carefully, cover the heart with another teaspoon (or a little more) with more batter. Make sure the batter covers the heart - but do not overfill as the goal is to crown nicely and not go over the edge of the tin when baked. (You will NOT use all of the cupcake batter.

  5. Bake for about 20 minutes until toothpick inserted (not in the center as that's where the heart is and already baked!) comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cool completely.

Are you still with me because we still have to make frosting!

Finally, we’re going to make Raspberry Buttercream Frosting: I like tons of frosting, so this recipe will generously cover 12 cupcakes with some left over.

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 or more tsp. liquid from frozen raspberries
  1. In an electric mixer, cream the butter on medium-high speed.

  2. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the sugar until all is incorporated.

  3. Add vanilla and raspberry liquid and beat for another few minutes until light and fluffy. Do not add too much liquid or the frosting will not be stiff enough to pipe.

Finish: Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag fitted with a #6B tip. Add a mini-sugar cookie.

To see the heart inside, look for the dot on the cupcake liner and cut the cupcake in half parallel to the dot.

What to do with the left over batter and frosting? Add some of each into lined muffin tins and bake for 18-20 minutes. Pip on a dollop of frosting and add a mini-sugar cookie. Go with the theme, “Mixed Up Over You.”

Happy baking!



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Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #wistfullywarped.






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Ice Cream Sundae Cupcakes

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It’s summer! What goes better with summer than an ice cream sundae? Ice cream sundae cupcakes!

It’s also time for short cuts. Use a base of a store-bought chocolate fudge cake mix and amp it up.  Add the directed amount of vegetable oil, but instead of water, add 1 cup buttermilk.  Instead of the directed amount of eggs, add 4.  Instead of dividing the mixture into 24 cupcakes, divide it into 28 (okay, well that’s an ALWAYS when using store bough mixes if you want to achieve neat little cupcakes.)

So, we now have the chocolate fudge cupcakes – we need to add a scoop of vanilla buttercream frosting, drizzle on some chocolate syrup, add chopped peanuts and top it off with a cherry. Deliciousness in a cup that won’t melt!

* Don’t need that many cupcakes? No worries – freeze the remaining cupcakes in a tightly sealed container and they should be good for at least a month.

Ingredients and Method for Cupcakes (Yields 28 cupcakes)

  • 1 box chocolate fudge cake mix (Duncan Hines always yields the best results for me)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (in place of water)
  • 4 large eggs (in place of number of eggs called for)
  • Vegetable oil – amount specified on the box

Preheat the oven to 350°  SIFT the cake mix first.  This will eliminate those clumps that always seem to occur and will never break up when the wet ingredients are added.  Add the buttermilk, eggs and vegetable oil and mix to combine.  Turn up the mixer and mix for another 2 minutes. Divide batter evenly into cupcake liners and bake for 15-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean.

Ingredients and Method for Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(NOTE – this recipe will make enough to frost 12 cupcakes so please adjust it accordingly to your needs)

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks) room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (or more to adjust to your taste)
  • 5 cups shifted powdered sugar
  • Milk to thin

Cream the butter until light and fluffy and add the vanilla.  Turn the speed of the mixer to low and slowly add the powdered sugar a bit at a time. For the frosting to be scoopable, it will need to be thick but not too thick.  If it needs to be thinned, add a teaspoon of milk at a time to achieve the right consistency.

Ingredients and Method for Toppings

  • 1 jar maraschino cherries with stems (drained thoroughly)
  • peanuts (chopped)
  • chocolate syrup, chocolate ice cream topping or chocolate ganache

Drizzle the chocolate over the cupcakes.  Sprinkle on the chopped peanuts. Top it off with a cherry!

Happy baking!



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Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #wistfullywarped.

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Vanilla Chai Cupcakes With Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Recently I was asked to create Panda Cupcakes. Honestly, I’m not so much into cute, but if someone asks for it, I can do that.  My “It’s Pandamonium” post featured a cute panda cupcake.  However, my first thought when faced with a request for panda cupcakes was this:  Vanilla Chai Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting and Royal Icing decorations.

I made Royal icing pandas a day before. The greatest thing about Royal icing decorations is they last almost forever. Store them in the refrigerator and I can assure you that you will find a way to use them in future projects.

Vanilla Chai Cupcakes With Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
Servings: 12 Cupcakes
Vanilla Chai Cupcakes
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 eggs
  • 1/8 cup apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 chai tea bags
Vanilla Chai Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.

  2. In a bowl, sift and combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.

  3. In a small saucepan, warm the milk until simmering. Remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and allow the chai milk to cool to room temperature.

  4. In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs until combined. Add the apple sauce and scrape the bowl until all is incorporated.

  5. Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, add the flour mixture and chai milk mix until fully combined. Do not over mix.

  6. Evenly divide the batter into the prepared liners and bake for 14-15 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs.) Cool completely.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting
  1. In a stand mixer on medium-high, cream the butter until light and fluffy.

  2. Add 1/2 of the powdered sugar and combine. Scrape down the bowl and add the rest of the powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix until all is incorporated.

  3. Add heavy cream to reach the desired consistency.

Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag fitted with an Ateco #806 tip. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top and add a Panda.  A slightly slicker cupcake for a more sophisticated pallet.

Happy baking and Pandas!




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Cheesecake Cupcakes with a “Night In Atlantis” Theme

It’s always so exciting to receive requests for unusual cupcakes. It’s a challenge to find or create a great cupcake recipe. Then, it’s a challenge to design the decorations. I recently had a request for cheesecake cupcakes for a “Night In Atlantis” themed prom party.

My first thought on decorations with an underwater theme was seahorses. Now, I love to paint on Royal icing, so I knew that was the direction I wanted to take. I started by coloring the royal icing light brown and piping and flooding the outline of a seahorse. After 24 hours and the seahorses where dry, I painted them. Using brown food color (mix, red, blue and green together) I used a food safe sponge to dab on color and a food safe brush to paint on the details. (A tutorial for painting on Royal icing is here.)

Note: If you choose to make Royal icing decorations, they must be made 2-3 days ahead of time. They can be stored in the refrigerator for almost forever.

The “seaweed” is melted white chocolate. Pour a small amount of chocolate into a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 5 second intervals until chocolate is melted. Pour into a zip-lock bag and cut off a small corner. Pipe irregular lines into a fan shape. Make extra to allow for breakage.

Now on to the best cheesecake cupcakes recipe (credit:  Joy of Baking ) and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.
Note: It’s best to make the cupcakes a day before decorating and serving to give them time to set up.

Cheesecake Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Cupcake recipe credit: Joy of Baking

Servings: 12 Cupakes
Cheesecake Cupcakes
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • t Tbls. sugar
  • 4-5 Tbls. butter, melted
  • 2 8 oz. pkgs. full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla bean paste (or 3 Tbls. vanilla extract) 1
  • 1 Tbls. heavy cream
  • blue gel coloring
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line muffin tins with 12 paper liners.

  2. Make the crusts: In a small bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, 1 tablespoon sugar and melted butter. Press a heaping tablespoon of crumbs into the bottoms of the 12 cupcake liners. Press down the crumbs with a juice glass. Cover and refrigerate while making the filling.

  3. Filling: On low speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Add 2/3 cup sugar and salt and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and sour cream and beat until incorporated.

  4. Remove the crusts from the refrigerator and evenly divide the filling among the 12 cups. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until firm but centers still wobble. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours or overnight.

  1. In a stand mixer, beat 1/2 cup unsalted butter until creamy.

  2. Slowly add the sugar until incorporated. Add vanilla bean paste (or extract) and heavy cream and beat for another minute.

  3. Add small amount of blue coloring and mix well. Continuing adding small amounts of color until desired color is achieved.


  1. Pipe a small bit of frosting onto each cupcake.
  2. Add a royal frosting seahorse.
  3. Add white chocolate seaweed.

Happy baking!




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Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #wistfullywarped.


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