Cotton Candy is great. Cupcakes are great. Together, they make something even greater! These Cotton Candy Cupcakes are a super fun and delicious treat that kids (and your inner kid) will love!
Today is National Cotton Candy Day! Woo hoo!! I never knew national food days were a thing until I started this blog, but I’m so glad they are because it gives me an excuse to make more and more creative desserts! I had a gazillion recipe ideas for National Cotton Candy Day, but in the end, I found that cupcakes were the easiest and best choice. So here we are!
These cotton candy cupcakes are so delicious, moist and fluffy, and have real cotton candy inside of the cupcake AND the frosting!
I’ve been a huge fan of cotton candy since I first tasted it at an amusement park when I was a child, so these cupcakes were my inner kids dream come true. Not only are they super tasty, but they’re so adorable!
The cupcakes are made entirely from scratch, no box mix in sight. When it comes to most of my cupcake recipes, I like to use my Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes or Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes recipes as a base and change up or add certain ingredients to make a new flavour.
This time I decided to do something different. Instead of my usual “2-step wet ingredients mixed into dry ingredients” recipe, we’re gonna be using the butter/sugar creaming method. The main reason for this is because I wanted my batter to be nice and thick since we’ll be adding some real cotton candy to the batter!
The first step is mixing the dry ingredients together. Pretty easy stuff. Then we need to beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer for a few minutes until they’re pale and fluffy. This creaming method is what gives the cupcakes the ultimate fluffy texture, so make sure you beat that butter and sugar good.
We’re then gonna mix in some egg whites instead of whole eggs, because I wanted to keep the batter light so our colours can pop. Although egg whites increase the lightness and fluffiness of the texture, they can be drying so to add moisture back into the batter, we’ll need to add a bit of vegetable oil.
Now we need to alternate between adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk. The buttermilk is another key to providing these cupcakes with a super soft and tender crumb!
If you add the buttermilk all at once, the batter will separate and ruin the cupcake texture. If you add all of the dry ingredients all at once, the batter will be too thick, which means you’ll end up over mixing, which ultimately leads to a tough cupcake. So start by adding ⅓ of the dry mixture, then ½ of the buttermilk, another ⅓ of the dry mixture, remaining buttermilk, then finish off with the remaining dry ingredients.
You’ll end up with a nice, smooth, silky batter that’ll turn into light, soft and fluffy cupcakes!
But how do we make them taste like cotton candy?
This is where things can get a bit complicated, simply because cotton candy flavouring can be so difficult to find. Also, some cotton candy flavourings don’t taste like cotton candy at all! I just picked up some cotton candy flavouring at my local baking supply store, but it didn’t really smell like cotton candy to me.
I looked everywhere on amazon to find a good cotton candy flavouring, but most of them had mixed reviews so I couldn’t decide which one to choose. Now you can choose either to get the flavouring or the extract, although you will need about 2-3 bottles of flavouring because they’re really small. You guys can get one of those cotton candy flavourings and try them in these cupcakes and let me know how they turn out. You can also substitute the cotton candy flavouring for vanilla extract instead, because I have another trick up my sleeve — REAL cotton candy!
After reading reviews, I knew the cotton candy flavouring wasn’t gonna add a strong cotton candy flavouring so I thought — why not add some real cotton candy?
Cotton candy dissolves easily, so I figured it would dissolve just fine in my batter. And it did! Sorta. Once I finished mixing up the whole batter, I evenly divided it between 2 bowls and added pink cotton candy to one bowl and blue cotton candy to another. I only used ½ cup each because I was afraid it would ruin the texture if I added like, the whole container.
I used a hand mixer to blend it in evenly, which by the way, I should mention that this batter is gonna be overmixed. There’s really no avoiding it since we have to mix in both the cotton candy and the food colouring after the batter is completely mixed. Luckily, this seemed to have very little affect on my cupcakes because they were still the perfect fluffy texture!
As for the cotton candy, it blended into the batter perfectly! It even tinted the batter pink and blue, though the colours were pastel so I had to add some gel food colour.
When adding the batter to the liners, you’re gonna alternate between adding 1 tablespoon of pink batter and 1 tablespoon of blue batter, then one more tablespoon of each for a total of 4 tablespoons.
The batter looks nice and vibrant before baking, but unfortunately they will brown in the oven, making your colours look a little dull.
You’re gonna do the same thing with the frosting. Make a large batch of buttercream with cotton candy extract, then divide it between two bowls and add pink cotton candy to one bowl and blue to the next. The same thing happens where the cotton candy makes the batter a pastel pink and blue, so we need to add some food colouring to make the colours more vibrant.
There are many different ways you could create the pink and blue swirl on top of the cupcakes:
- Spoon the pink frosting on one side of the piping bag. Then spoon the blue frosting on the other side and pipe onto cupcakes.
- Scoop pink and blue frosting into 2 separate ziploc bags and snip off the tips. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter and pipe one line of pink and one line of blue right beside it, alternating between each. Cover with plastic wrap and roll into a cylinder. Place into a piping bag and snip off the excess plastic that comes out of the piping tip.
- Fill 2 separate disposable piping bags with the pink frosting and the blue frosting and snip off the tips. Place both bags into a larger piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.
I used the first method when piping these cupcakes, because I was too lazy to do anything else, but method 3 is the easiest in my opinion.
I topped the cupcakes off with some homemade cotton candy pops. I made one with 2 marshmallows on a paper straw that I lightly dabbed with corn syrup so I could stick the cotton candy on. As easy as it was, it was a bit too tedious for my liking so I simply pressed both colours of cotton candy on a paper straw and it worked just fine.
I highly recommend waiting until the day you plan to serve before topping the cupcakes. Remember, cotton candy melts and it’ll melt all over the cupcakes after a short while. If you have any leftovers, remove the cotton candy before storing the cupcakes.
These cupcakes are perfect for a birthday party or any celebration. A classic treat turned into a fun and delicious dessert. They’re sure to be a crowd pleaser, and anyone who lays their eyes on these beauties will be dying to take a bite!
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Let’s get baking!
Cotton Candy Cupcakes:
- 1 and ⅔ cups all purpose flour
- 1 and ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon Baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 and ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- ⅓ cup vegetable oil
- 1 and ½ teaspoon cotton candy extract (see notes)
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- ½ cup pink cotton candy
- Few drops of pink gel food colouring
- ½ cup blue cotton candy
- Few drops of blue gel food colouring
Cotton Candy Buttercream:
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup Hi-ratio Shortening
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
- ½ cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 1 teaspoon cotton candy extract
- ½ cup pink cotton candy
- Few drops pink gel food colouring
- ½ cup blue cotton candy
- Few drops blue gel food colouring
- Cotton Candy
For the Cotton Candy Cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350° F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Lower the speed to medium-low and mix in the egg whites, one at a time until just combined. Mix in the vegetable oil and cotton candy extract.
- Alternately add dry ingredients in 3 additions and buttermilk in 2 additions to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until combined, before adding the next.
- Pour half of the batter into a separate mixing bowl and leave half remaining in the same mixing bowl.
- Add ½ cup of pink cotton candy and a few drops of pink gel food colouring to one half of the batter. Using a hand mixer, beat until the cotton candy and food colouring are fully combined. Do not overbeat.
- Repeat with the next half of batter using blue cotton candy and blue food colouring.
- Alternate between adding 1 tablespoon of pink batter and 1 tablespoon of blue batter, then one more tablespoon of each for a total of 4 tablespoons.
- Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
- Allow to cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
For the Cotton Candy Buttercream:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the butter, shortening and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.
- Turn the mixer to low, and gradually add half of the sugar one cup at a time. Once incorporated, add heavy cream and cotton candy extract and beat until combined.
- Add the remaining powdered sugar one cup at a time and mix on low until combined.
- Once the sugar is combined, increase mixer speed to high and whip until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add half of the frosting to a separate bowl. Add ½ cup of pink cotton candy and a few drops of pink gel food colouring to one half of the frosting. Using a hand mixer, beat until the cotton candy and food colouring are fully combined.
- Repeat with the next half of frosting using blue cotton candy and blue food colouring.
- Fit a large piping bag with a large star tip, I used Wilton 2D. (See above post for how to create frosting swirl) Pipe a pink and blue swirl onto each cupcake and decorate with cotton candy. Enjoy!
- To make the cotton candy pops, I placed 2 marshmallows onto a paper straw and lightly dabbed the marshmallows with corn syrup then stuck the cotton candy on.
- Another option is to simply press both colours of cotton candy on a paper straw and pinch the seams so they could stick.
- I highly recommend waiting until the day you plan to serve before topping the cupcakes. Remember, cotton candy melts and it’ll melt all over the cupcakes after a short while. If you have any leftovers, remove the cotton candy before storing the cupcakes.
- If you have a hard time finding Cotton Candy flavouring, it can be substituted with vanilla extract. Although the cotton candy flavour may not be as strong.
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