Today I’m showing you how to make these fun, surprise-inside Pinata Cupcakes! Made with my favorite vanilla cake batter, these cupcakes are light and springy and topped off with my recently shared vanilla frosting recipe. The sprinkle filling can be easily color-customized to suit any occasion, and I’ll show you how to use your favorite colors to add a pretty swirl to the frosting!
Today’s Pinata Cupcakes are exactly what I need after mother nature dropped over half a foot of snow on me on the first day of Spring!
They’re light, cheery, colorful, and the perfect way to add some brightness to your day, which is especially helpful if your day is otherwise blinding white from this springtime snowstorm!.
The best part is that these Pinata Cupcakes are so simple to make! Making them is as simple as baking a batch of vanilla cupcakes (you can, of course, substitute any flavor, but you can’t go wrong with these), making a minor incision, filling with sprinkles, and topping with frosting!
Let’s get into the details and break down exactly how you can make your own Pinata Cupcakes.
How to Make Pinata Cupcakes
You’ll want to start with a solid cupcake recipe, one that’s not too light and delicate as you need it to be sturdy enough to withstand being carved. I used my vanilla cake recipe for the base of these pinata cupcakes, if you haven’t tried that recipe yet this is a great excuse to do so.
Let the cupcakes cool completely before carving into them, and once they’ve cooled use a knife to cut a hole about ¾-1″ in diameter into the center of the cupcake, cutting about 1″ deep.
Remove the core that you’ve just cut out and slice off the bottom, reserving about ¼″ of the top. You’ll use this use as your plug to cover your sprinkle filling and to give you a level surface on which to pipe your frosting.
Now comes the fun part: the sprinkles!
You can use your favorite variety of sprinkles in your favorite colors. I like to make my own sprinkle blends that I use for most of my decorations.
Each Pinata Cupcake center should hold about 1 Tablespoon of sprinkles, but add as many as you need, filling each cavity to just below the top of the cupcake. Return your reserved cupcake “plug” and gently press it down over the sprinkles so that it is level with the rest of the cupcake.
Now our Pinata Cupcakes are ready for their frosting!
You can, of course, use your favorite variety of frosting (I have a cream cheese frosting and a chocolate frosting you may want to check out), but for today’s recipe I’m using my vanilla frosting that I recently shared. It’s easy to make, great for piping, and colors beautifully.
How to add a colorful swirl to my cupcake frosting:
To decorate your cupcakes as you seen in these photos, you’ll need a large piping bag fitted with an open star tip (I used an Ateco 848), your favorite food coloring colors (I recommend choosing no more than 3 for the effect shown here), and a clean, never-before-used paintbrush.
Coloring the frosting is simple, all you need to do is dab a small amount of food coloring onto your paint brush and then use it to draw a straight line (as straight as possible, as you can see in the photo above, mine are a bit crooked, but it still turned out fine!) up the inside of the piping bag. Repeat with the same color on the opposite side of the bag.
Clean and dry your paintbrush, and then repeat with your second and then third color. Make sure to space each line evenly across the piping bag.
While I really love filling my cupcakes with sprinkles, you can of course use mini M&Ms or other small candies that you think would be appropriate!
- ¼ cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (56g)
- ¼ cup canola oil* (60ml)
- ¾ cup sugar (150g)
- 2 eggs room temperature preferred
- 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (188g)
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup buttermilk
- 1 batch Vanilla Frosting
- Food coloring optional, I recommend using gel food coloring
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and prepare cupcake tin by lining a 12 count muffin tin with cupcake liners
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using an electric mixer) cream together the butter, canola oil and sugar until creamy and well-combined.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Stir in vanilla extract.
- In a separate, medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Using a spatula and gently hand-mixing, alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined after each addition. The batter should be smooth and completely combined, but avoid over-mixing.
- Evenly divide batter into your prepared muffin tin (I use an ice cream scoop to neatly portion the batter), filling each liner ⅔-¾ of the way full (do NOT overfill) and bake on 350F (175C) for 17 minutes.
- When the cupcakes are finished baking, the surface should spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out mostly clean with few moist crumbs (no wet batter).
- Allow cupcakes to cool completely before continuing.
- Once cupcakes have cooled completely, use a knife to cut a hole about 1" in diameter and 1" deep into the center of each cupcake. I carve a hole using the knife and gently lift out the center. Cut the bottom off of each insert and set aside the top, which will serve as the plug for your cupcakes.
- Fill each carved hole with sprinkles (about 1 Tbsp), filling just below the brim of the cupcake. Top with your cupcake plug and gently press down. Top with vanilla frosting.
- To get the colorful swirls shown in the pictures, you will need a large piping bat fitted with a large star tip (I used an Ateco 848) and a small, clean, never used paintbrush. Dab a small drop of food coloring on the paintbrush and then use it to draw 2-3 stripes up the side of your frosting bag. Clean and dry the paintbrush well, and then repeat with two other colors. Fill the bag with frosting, and pipe over cooled, filled cupcakes.
- These cupcakes keep well when stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days or 1 week in the refrigerator.
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
The best cupcakes I’ve ever made! The flavor of the cake was to die for. So moist! My daughter loved them for her birthday!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy they were such a hit! Thanks for using our recipe 😊
I made these for my sons birthday and it was a huge hit! He has autism and love sprinkles. I couldn’t keep him away from them. They made his day so special. Thank you!
I also made the the coffee cake recipe
For the adults which everyone loved as well. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy he loved them, Chrissy! Thanks so much for trusting our recipes; it means a lot to us. Happy birthday to your son 😊
I made these for my daughter’s 6th birthday and they were a huge hit. I substituted nerd candies for the sprinkles and we really enjoyed them.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Thanks for letting us know how everyone loved them, Jennifer! We hope your daughter had a wonderful birthday 😊