First of all I want to thank you all for the kind comments and messages concerning the loss of my friend. That was a hard post to write, but I’m so glad I did because her story reached so many, and I know she will continue to touch people in the years to come. Last week was extremely tough, but I also turned 24 amidst the tragedy. Although it was hard to celebrate, I took the American Cancer Society’s current mantra as the “Official Sponsor of Birthdays” to heart, and just felt lucky to reach 24, which is not guaranteed for all. So for my own personal celebration (mostly because I wasn’t sure if anyone would also enjoy this flavor), I baked up some Red Hot Cupcakes. Anyone who knows me well knows I have 2 very important favorites: the color yellow and Hot Tamales candies. I LOVE cinnamon, the ground kind, but more importantly, the red, artificial, super spicy variety. Since I wasn’t sure how the chewy center of Hot Tamales would melt, I opted to use red hots and did not regret it…
Now this flavor combination might not be ideal for everyone, but if you know someone who loves cinnamon like I do, these cupcakes will rock their world. The spiciness isn’t overpowering, it’s more of a subtle tribute to my favorite flavor. The cupcakes themselves are just a white cake with a few red hots thrown into the batter. I made a red hot syrup by melting red hots with a little water, then spread it over the baked cupcakes and also incorporated it into the frosting. My apartment smelled so heavenly I refused to leave my kitchen for hours. Or maybe I was just doing dishes for hours, but either way I was in there for a long time and loved it.
I was a little nervous about how this brainchild of mine would turn out because with all the cupcake recipes out there, it was unnerving that I couldn’t find a red hot cupcake recipe and was thinking maybe there was a reason for that. Surprisingly, it really worked and I’m glad I took the risk to conceptualize my own recipe. The red hots in the batter melted and slightly solidified, giving a nice crunch without breaking your teeth (as can be the case with “raw” red hots). The frosting is sweet, as you’d expect from a standard buttercream, with a spicy kick and a fun texture from the ground up red hots. I baked them in zebra cupcake liners (because I’m wild and crazy like that) and topped them with black sparkling sugar both from Layer Cake Shop.
Red Hot Cupcakes
For the white cupcakes:
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
12 tbsp butter, at room temperature
2 whole eggs + 2 egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
5-10 red hots per cupcake
For the red hot syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup red hots
For the red hot frosting:
1 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp red hot syrup
1/4 cup crushed red hots
* If you want to frost all 24 cupcakes with as much frosting as I’ve pictured above (which is probably too much, but it’s pretty) you’ll want to double this recipe. If you want a less sweet version, try folding in 1/2-1 cup of whipped cream to break it up
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add eggs and egg whites one at a time, beating on low between each addition. Add vanilla.
- Add flour slowly in 3 additions, alternating with milk, starting and ending with flour.
- Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and place 5-10 red hots in each cupcake, using a clean finger to push them halfway down into the batter.
- Bake 15-17 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the red hot syrup, bring water to a simmer in a small saucepan.
- Add red hots and stir occasionally until completely melted. A gummy clump of red hots will form, but keep stirring and eventually it will break up and melt.
- Allow syrup to reduce for 15-30 minutes.
- For the frosting, beat butter in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
- Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, until completely mixed.
- Add the red hot syrup and beat until well combined.
- Mix in crushed red hots (I used a food processor to crush them).
- Poke holes in the tops of the cupcakes and brush some red hot syrup on each before frosting.
- Load frosting into a piping bag fit with a large tip and decorate as desired.