It’s four days post-Valentine’s, and already grocery store aisles are making way for the Easter candy line-up with massive discounts on every heart shaped candy: conversation hearts, heart-shaped Reese’s, heart gummies… The list goes on and so do the baking opportunities. The best way to make the most out of that leftover candy? These cupcakes, which have a place for almost every candy you could imagine!
There’s another bonus to this recipe, too–you can make it with candy from every season. That’s right, an excuse to make cupcakes year-round. Thank me later.
1 cup flour
1 ¼ cup sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 (15.25 oz) box of chocolate cake mix, if you’re pressed for time
¾ cup milk, whole milk preferred
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sour cream or greek yogurt, for moisture
2 tsp vanilla extract
NOTE: You can use artificial vanilla instead, and in any recipe where the final product is baked above 300 degrees. The amount of heat makes it nigh-impossible to tell the difference, and it’s orders of magnitude cheaper.
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter or vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp meringue powder, optional
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup milk
Toppings and Mix-Ins
24 of any “mini” chocolate candy, such as Reese’s or Snickers
Optional: Conversation Hearts, for decoration
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, then prepare two cupcake pans by lining them with cupcake liners and greasing the liners with vegetable oil.
NOTE: If you only have one pan, you can bake two separate batches, allowing the pan to cool before refilling.
Sift your dry ingredients or boxed cake mix into a large bowl, whisking to combine as thoroughly as possible.
In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, milk, vegetable oil and sour cream or greek yogurt into a smooth, consistent liquid. The addition of sour cream/greek yogurt does not affect the flavor of the cake. Rather, it improves the texture by adding fat and moisture content.
Add the egg mixture to your dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl for any remaining dry ingredients before giving it one final mixing.
Fill each liner in the prepared pans with batter slightly more than halfway, then place one candy in the center of each cupcake and press it down slightly so that the top of the chocolate is level with the batter. Feel free to use a different type in each cupcake for a surprise!
Bake your cupcakes in the 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, adding anywhere from 3-5 more minutes based on doneness. To check doneness, insert a toothpick into the cupcake slightly off-center (to avoid poking the candy). They are done when the toothpick emerges clean or with just a few moist crumbs.
While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare your frosting:
Place the stick of butter or vegetable shortening in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment and beat until fluffy. Sift in the powdered sugar and cocoa powder, and add two tablespoons of milk, then continue to whisk until incorporated. Add up to two more tablespoons of milk based on desired consistency.
Place a piping bag or quart sized-bag, corner-down, into a tall drinking glass and fold the ends over the rim of the cup. This allows you to use both hands to fill your piping bag with buttercream. Fill it two thirds of the way using a clean rubber spatula, making an effort to avoid creating large air bubbles in the bag. Remove from the cup when you’re ready to frost and twist the top of the bag to seal.
After the cupcakes have finished baking, allow them to cool until the tops are no longer warm to the touch before you begin frosting. If you’re using conversation hearts for decoration, you can either sprinkle a few on top or crush them into powder–cathartic for the lonely this season–and dust the tops with that powder.