I thought I would try something fun this year for Valentine’s Day. I’ve been spending the last few days making tons of Heart Pieces pinback buttons, so I thought I ought to keep the theme going through the weekend. I made these adorable Heart-Filled cupcakes and I want to share the recipe with you!
The perfect Valentine’s Day treat!
Last year I made some Star Wars cutout cookies that were delicious, but a little tricky to make. I’ve seen some similar recipes online to the one I made tonight, but I thought I would give it a go. So grab your aprons and let’s get started!
STEP 1 GATHER YOUR SUPPLIES:
I got most items from Trader Joe’s. Of course!
1 Box Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cake Mix (it has real vanilla bean flecks in it!)
1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Oil (recipe called for butter, but I wanted a lighter color)
Red Food Coloring (I used magenta gel food coloring. I would not recommend it)
Nonstick Cooking Spray
Small heart-shaped cookie cutter
Sharp, small knife.
Whisk. Mine is silicon on the whisk part…brilliant idea. It works almost like a spatula too.
Non-stick baking sheet (*small one if you do 1 batch, medium or large if you make a double batch)
Cupcake baking pan
*I made a double batch because I wanted to make more than 10-or-so cupcakes. Feel free to make as many or as few as you like.
STEP 2 PREPARE THE CAKE MIX:
You can see the real vanilla bean flecks in this mix!
Preheat the oven to the temperature listed in the baking directions for your mix.
Follow the instructions for your boxed mix. Add wet ingredients together into a large bowl and blend well. Stir in dry mix until incorporated.
Once mixed, divide the batter into two parts to add food coloring to the part that will become the hearts. I divided mine in 1/2 and that seemed to be a little too much for the heart mixture. I would suggest 1/3 to be red and 2/3 to be plain. Set aside the bowl of batter that will not have coloring added to it.
Mix well before adding more color.
Take your batter and add food coloring one drop at a time and mix it until you reach the desired shade. The mix will darken slightly once baked, but I would o err on the side of “too much” food coloring so as to create enough contrast in the finished cupcakes.
This reminds me of The Shining…
Once you’ve gotten the mix to the correct shade of red, pour into a prepared non-stick pan. Spread evenly and place in oven. Bake at 375 for approximately 10-15 minutes, turning halfway through. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean. Do not over bake as these will be baked once more inside of the cupcakes.
STEP 3 PREPARING THE CUPCAKE LINERS:
This scoop (from my protein powder) was the perfect size.
While you are waiting on the red cake to bake and cool, complete this step. Fill each cupcake liner with approximately 2 TB of batter. I used a scoop from my protein mix that measures 2TB. You can use a big spoon or ladle, but I found that this scoop worked splendidly. Placing a shallow layer of batter in the cupcake liners will help make sure that the hearts stay in place when they bake. If you were to try and insert the red hearts straight into a full tin of batter, it would make a huge mess.
STEP 4 ASSEMBLING THE HEARTS:
You could even cut out the shape with a knife, but the cookie cutter is easier.
Remove the red cake from the oven and let cool COMPLETELY. Once cool, begin cutting out small hearts to fill the cupcakes. I used the small cookie cutter shown in the photograph above. Unfortunately, I found that it was too tall for the cupcakes and ended up trimming each piece with a sharp knife.
Make enough hearts for every cupcake…and then make a few extra.
The finished hearts. You can see that they are slightly shorter than the cookie cutter. Make sure you double check that your hearts will fit inside of the cupcake paper with very (or none) of it sticking out of the top. You will want to prepare at least a dozen of these little hearts at this time and have them ready to go. The next step is a little tricky.
STEP 5 ASSEMBLING THE CUPCAKES:
Don’t go breakin’ my heart…
This step requires a little patience (and would be best with an extra set of hands). One at a time, you are going to be placing the red hearts inside the partially-filled cupcake liners. Then you will evenly pour enough batter to fill the cupcakes a little more than 3/4 full. And make sure to pour some of the batter over the heart. I used my little 2TB scoop for this part too and it helped evenly distribute the batter on either side of the heart. If you pour the batter only from one side, it is possible that the heart will fall over or even crumble. I had 2 break and crumble on me during this process, so please make sure you cut a few extra hearts ahead of time.
You want to make sure that each of the hearts is facing the same direction as well. This will help make the end result much more striking. I used a mechanical pencil to make a small mark on one side of the paper liner where the middle of the heart is. That way if you were to cut right where the little line is, you would cut the heart right in half and both cupcake pieces would have a heart in them (which is what we’re trying to do!). *Once the cupcakes are frosted, it will be hard to tell where that midline is.
Follow the package directions for the baking time. Mine took approximately 13-15 minutes with one rotation half-way through. Keep an eye on the cupcakes in the last few minutes so as not to burn them.
A few are less than perfect, but I’ll just eat those ones…
Here is what a few of my cupcakes looked like after baking. Some of them were perfect, a few of them got a little wonky. The ones that did not turn out as well either had the heart fall over during baking or just did not have enough batter in the tin. Most cupcakes turned out like the two up top.
Allow the cupcakes to cool a few minutes in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely.
If you have any remaining batter and hearts, make another batch.
STEP 6 DECORATE:
If you haven’t marked on the paper liner where the midline of the cupcake is, you should do that now. Again, I just used a small pencil line so that I will know where to cut to get the best result.
Now on to the fun part: decorating!
You will want to prepare your frosting. I used a pre-made frosting that I added food coloring to. You can use any type of frosting you like, but I would suggest that you apply it with a pastry bag. They’ve changed my life.
The pastry bag is a lifesaver. Perfect frosting every time!
I use disposable pastry bags from a small kit that I bought at the grocery store. I am sure somewhere like Michaels or Bed Bath and Beyond sells a fancier version, but this one works very well and doesn’t require much maintenance (and cost me about $4). You could also look online for cheaper DIY versions.
Scoop the frosting into the pastry bag and start at the outer edge of your cupcake. Work your way around the cupcake and towards the center. It should look something like soft-serve ice cream or Fro-Yo when you are done.
Pink and white swirls are easy to make.
**Optional: To achieve the lovely pink and white swirl shown on the cupcake in the middle, follow these directions. Put a little pink frosting in the pastry bag and spread it around the sides of the bag with a long spoon. Make sure it is enough to line the sides of the bag. Then open up the bag and add the white frosting. You will want a little pink frosting on the outside and lots of frosting white in the middle, then apply to the cupcakes normally. As the two colors pass through the bag, they will create the lovely swirled look.
Be sure to come up with an Instagram-worthy presentation…
STEP 7 THE MOMENT OF TRUTH:
While everyone loves cupcakes, these ones are something special and you deserve to show off your handiwork!
Let them eat (cup)cakes!
Making the cut: This is where the marking on the cupcake liner will come in handy. Make sure you have a sharp knife to make this cut. I used a sharp, flat-bottomed knife that is a little larger than a paring knife. Make a quick cut and carefully separate the two halves of cupcake and remove the liner.