Jul 8, 2010

RECIPE: cotton candy cupcakes

cotton candy cupcakes

At long last! Its time. Time for those gosh darn cotton candy cupcakes. I want you to know something though, before we start. This was not just another cupcake baking experiment, this was....an experience. No joke. Yet again I found myself knee deep in hours of research, because believe it or not, this is my very first vanilla recipe! Bye bye Duncan Hines. So long Betty Crocker. My very first vanilla experience was a hit, and I'm ready to tell you all about it.

So after last night's taste test, I became quite obsessed (re: jealous) on how Sugar Sweet Sunshine landed such an incredible vanilla cake base. Seriously, New Yorkers are very, very serious about where you can find a decent cupcake. A native will tell you to steer clear of Magnolias, while a tourist will tell you its amazing. So this morning I of course went crazyyy looking to see if there was any possible chance that SSS shared their recipe in an interview or online in the last decade. All I found were broken links and a lame lemon something or another. I was lucky enough to find a buttercream frosting recipe by them, which was used below. But I wanted a perfectly approved batter! So next was a search for overhyped (but for all the right reasons) Georgetown Cupcakes recipes, and after a good half an hour, I found a cupcake wars article in the Washington Post where GC obviously won, and was nice enough to share their chocolate ganache recipe. Yay! Oh, just one thing, I needed vanilla. Oh well.

So a little more searching and I landed here (which we will call Batch #1) and here (below as Batch #2). The first, via Egg Beater, churned out the most amazing batter I've ever tasted (yes compared to my store bought box batters) I couldn't even stop licking the spoon, which never happens. But when it came time to baking, I had all the same problems the commenters had. Not yellow, almost white. Didn't rise, in fact they sank completely out of the oven (what did I tell ya, powder and soda together as I found out here). And all around burned after 10 mins. Indeed I halved the recipe because she did not make this recipe for cupcakes, but rather a layer cake, and I don't need 36 cupcakes. Well, my ass doesn't need another 36 cupcakes that's for sure. So instead of trying to retest it, I just moved on to the other recipe via Epicurious.

And who would have guessed one of my absolute fave baking shops, Bake It Pretty, had cotton candy food flavoring! I didn't even know this existed, but with a little googling, turns out its all the rage. Jeez, I really am under a rock sometimes. I mean if mankind can make enough synthetic hair to keep Dolly Parton happy, of course there must be a food flavor liquid in existence. But I wanted the real thing of course, so lots of cotton candy shopping later, and below are my very first vanilla cupcakes with cotton candy buttercream frosting! Enjoy!

Note: Very helpful measurement conversions here.

Cotton Candy Cupcake Batch #1

  • 10 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 14 oz sugar
  • 11 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350F and plop cupcake papers into baking pans.
  2. Cream butter until light. Add sugar all at once and continue mixing on medium speed until very light in color. Stop and scrape down, and continue beating. (Note: The better you scrape down the bowl the better your creaminess will be.) Add salt at this stage.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl. In another bowl, add eggs and yolks together. (Note: if you crack eggs first, the yolks will not stick to the bowl.) In a measuring cup, add milk and vanilla extract.
  4. *You are going to utilize a Dry, Wet, Dry, Wet, Dry method*
  5. Add egg mixture to butter bowl a little at a time (one thirds at a time) making sure mixture comes together fully after each addition. Just after the last bit goes in, scrape down bowl and continue mixing.
  6. In the above mentioned method, you turn mixer down to the lowest setting it can go. Your first "third" of drys will be a big third, the 1/2 of wet will be an exact 1/2 and so on. You are always adding in the next D or W JUST before the batter looks uniform/incorporated.
  7. When batter is done, scrape and use a spatula to do the last few turn-overs of the batter, making sure that no wet or dry spots have hid from you at the bottom of the bowl.
  8. Scoop into baking pans. Bake for 15-22 minutes. Its helpful to set your timer to the halfway point to check on cupcakes and also rotate the pans for even baking.
  9. Let cool for at least 20 minutes. Frost!

THE VERDICT: The first time I tried this during the afternoon, and as mentioned, they completely burned and sank. Utter disaster. However, come evening I was revved up to try again and this time added my trusty baking powder+baking soda mixture and they still bubbled to a HUGE dome in the oven, then sank. It also took more than 26 mins to bake, very runny the whole time. I'm just going to chalk this up to bad halving conversions, opening the oven too much or too much baking poweder on my end and try again next week.

Batch #2

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.) Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
  3. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  4. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.) Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

The only thing that didn't fail...well, not completely, was the buttercream! The cotton candy really has no standout taste once added, but the extra garnish helps in the end and tastes amazing! Just like SSS tasted last night, minus the consistency.
THE VERDICT: So after failing like Americans at a World Cup game on my red velvets, I was so anti-AP flour and thought cake flour recipes would rule all. Boy was I wrong. I don't know why I don't trust my instincts more, but batter tastes like the end product. So go with your finger licking gut. This batter was insanely eggy, and after baking, had the worse egg after taste, as well as floury. The texture was unlike any cupcake I know, it screams home baker. Very fine, and not at all moist or crumby like I'm used to. Damn you King Arthur! So I don't know, could really use feedback from you guys on why you think these flopped.

Day two, its a little after 2 am and had a large pasta dinner so wanted something light and sweet to fall asleep. Nothing else to eat except these cupcakes, and guess what...they taste amazing! Still an eggy after taste, but perfect fluffy texture and the buttercream is divine. So definitely worth you trying it!

Cotton Candy Buttercream

  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • pink food coloring (or 1 drop of red)
  • Tiffany blue food coloring (or two blue drops, one green drop)
  • cotton candy, pulled into small pieces

Using the paddle attachment on a mixer hand beater, cream the butter. Add half of the sugar and half of the milk. Cream these ingredients until well blended. Add the rest of the sugar and the milk and combine. Add the vanilla and mix in. Separate the frosting into two containers. Add food colorings to each bowl and mix until even. Add cotton candy pieces until well combined. Frost cupcakes. Garnish with remaining cotton candy.


  1. oh my god. i love your blog beyond belief. i'm going to feature it on http://dropdeadkawaii.blogspot.com i'm so excitedddddddddd. i want to feature it early in the next week when most people read!

  2. @petsugar Oh WOW, that would be lovely! thanks! it will be my first feature me thinks :)

  3. These look great!! I'm still looking for a good vanilla cake recipe that taste like the one from the box! I think my taste has been too accustomed to the boxed vanilla cake mix that my taste for home-made cake is off! Did the batter of your first batch taste similar to sugar cookies? That's what I hear homemade vanilla cakes are supposed to taste like....But I have no clue if that's true! haha

    1. This is an old recipe for vanilla cake from my Mom who got it from her first cookbook. It REALLY GOOD and has a great texture.

      Vanilla Cake
      1 1/2 cups flour
      1 cup sugar
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/3 cup soft shortening
      2/3 cup milk
      1 teaspoon flavoring
      1 egg

      First put dry ingredients into mixing bowl. Then add shortening and half of the milk. Mix until blended but not too much. Then add remaining milk, egg, and the flavoring. Mix until just smooth. It will be smooth, a little thick with a slight texture in the batter. Pour into greased and floured pan Bake in 350 degree oven.

  4. @AJ, man oh man, I totally never thought of it that way, but it totally makes sense!! I NEVER, ever succeeded with homemade sugar cookies, they always tasted like egg. So yes, this tastes of sugar cookies, but not in a good way like it seems you were saying haha. But promise to find us both an awesome vanilla recipe ;)

  5. Ah now I want to make cotton candy cupcakes also!
    My favorite vanilla cupcake recipe comes from magnolia bakery, its buttery goodness with subtle vanilla taste, the recipe combines two flours (AP and self rising) and its a super simple recipe just like how the grannies used to make.
    And about cake flour, what I've learned from my baking experiments, that cake flour produces a lighter and softer cakes while AP produces a heavier cakes.
    Hope that helps!


  6. Would you like to send me one?:D

  7. @GrandeMarine haha, even better. I will bake you some myself and bring them when I eventually make it to Paris! xx

  8. I've had good luck with Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla cupcake recipe. You can find it lot's of places on the web but I know it is on Martha's site. Good rise and great taste and crumb. Love the cotton candy cupcake idea. Might have to try it myself!

  9. These look so yummy!I must try it. :)

  10. I just came across your blog and love it!! SO lovely and inspirational!

  11. @Jennifer, thank you so much!! how did you stumble across my lil blog? :)

  12. Awww these cupcakes are so gorgeous. I love cotton candy, reminds me of when I was little, and these look like a perfect way to incorporate a little cotton candy into your day without the sugar overload.

    Beautiful site by the way :)

  13. Oh my goodness, these cupcakes are adorable!! I bet they taste as good as they look :)


  14. These look amazing!!♥

  15. I have a question....does the cotton candy melt shortly after coming in contact with the frosting? Mine does and I wanted to know if there is a way to make this not happen

  16. Hi, there!

    I stumbled across your blog when I found a picture of these SWEET cupcakes on Pinterst -- I love them! The cupcakes became part of an inspiration board for a "Lorax" party. I've directed readers to this post, but if you prefer that I not, please let me know and I can remove your information.


    r h i a n n o n

  17. Hi there,

    Just wanted to let you know that I will be featuring these cupcakes on my blog tomorrow. Such a cute and sweet idea. hopefully will be trying them out sometime soon too! :)


  18. These look great! Two questions: Would like to make these cupcakes in March, do you know where I can get the cotton candy, and any tips on if they melt when touching the frosting?



  19. These look tempting. I know my kids would love them.


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