Red Hot Cupcakes

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.

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26 Responses to “Red Hot Cupcakes”

  1. #
    Amy of Sing For Your Supper — March 9, 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    How pretty and original! And I LOVE these cupcake liners!!!

  2. #
    Nicole — March 10, 2011 @ 12:07 am

    We just might be twins separated at birth. I love hot cinnamon flavor, in fact, I found a way to have atomic fireballs at my wedding. I’ve been playing around with getting that flavor into some baked treats, so I was pretty excited when I saw these cupcakes. They look delicious!

  3. #
    Melissa @IWasBornToCook — March 10, 2011 @ 1:30 am

    These look amazing! Love this combo too.

  4. #
    Jennifer — March 10, 2011 @ 4:03 am

    Awesome recipe! I saw these on Food Gawker…gorgeous photo!

  5. #
    Nam — March 10, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

    Lovely cupcakes and photo!

  6. #
    Jenn (Cookies Cupcakes Cardio) — March 11, 2011 @ 5:25 am

    Great idea! I have just the friend who I must make these for. Too much icing? No such thing ;)

  7. #
    Anita — March 17, 2011 @ 12:00 am

    The cupcake liners are ridiculously awesome!!

  8. #
    Anonymous — June 21, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

    I had the brainy idea to grind red heart candies and sprinkle them onto cupcakes. I was Googling to see if that was possible. I wasn’t sure i could grind them up. Then I found your site! Your idea is way better, so I am going to do what you did with the syrup, etc. Thanks for being so original and wild and crazy!!! :) I was looking for a butter frosting that wasn’t such a pain to make and yours is the one. Thanks again.


  9. #
    Anonymous — December 8, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    i made this and they are so awesome… i also just to make it different i tinted half of the batter red and spoon both yellow and red batter side by side into the cupcake liner.

  10. #
    COURTNEY W PINNACLE — January 15, 2012 @ 6:59 am


  11. #
    Anonymous — January 23, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    I made these cupcakes yesterday, and I have to say they are far too sweet. I love sweet things, and these were too sweet. They weren’t spicy like I thought they would be! I would suggest to anyone that makes these to be ready for a tooth ache after!

  12. #
    Mandy — February 5, 2012 @ 2:52 am

    Going to try this on the cake part:-)

  13. #
    Mandy — February 5, 2012 @ 2:53 am

    Going to try this on the cake part:-)

  14. #
    Anonymous — April 3, 2012 @ 3:21 am

    great recipe! for those of you that are not to big on frosting (like me) but still want a good amount of red hot flavor stir some crushed red hots into the cupcake batter. the red hot flavoring spreads better this way and you get the flavor with each bite without having to have the frosting

  15. #
    Anonymous — July 12, 2012 @ 1:00 am

    Gorgeous pictures. I could look at them all day.

  16. #
    Anonymous — September 15, 2012 @ 11:40 pm

    Has anyone looking for a spicy version of this tried adding cinnamon or cayenne pepper or something else to the batter or frosting? Or sprinkled on top?

    If so, how did it go?

  17. #
    Bronda Hayes — February 15, 2013 @ 3:28 am

    I did the same thing with the red hots and decided to experiment and tossed some red hots into some white cake batter. I loved them and everyone who tried them did too.

  18. #
    Avery J — February 23, 2013 @ 12:06 am

    Keep the red hot syrup hot or it will be a stringy goopy mess!! This may seem obvious to someone who has melted down sugars before but to a beginner (like me) it wasn’t so.

  19. #
    Megan @ megbakes — February 28, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

    Your blog is beautiful! I looked at these cupcakes for inspiration when making my own variation. Check them out when you can –

  20. #
    CJ M — February 7, 2014 @ 2:23 pm

    I’m having some problems with the icing. I reduced the red hots and water for approximately 23 minutes, no problem, but when I add it to the icing I have major problems. If I let the syrup cool first, it hardens into candy, and if I pour it into the icing warm or hot, it melts the icing and solidifies into a candy again. Any suggestions?

    • Erica — February 10th, 2014 @ 3:42 am

      Hmm that’s strange because all I did was melt the red hots and then kept the syrup in a tupperware for a day or so before adding it to the frosting. Did you let the syrup cool in the fridge or at room temperature? I would recommend room temp. Sorry this didn’t work out for you! Another thing you could try is just grinding up the red hots in a food processor or blender and add that to the frosting instead of melted red hots. Good luck!


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