What's red inside and white all over? Vanilla bean cupcakes complete with fresh raspberry filling, of course! It's no secret I love to make cupcakes. After all, it's typically the first thing I volunteer to bring to parties and gatherings. So when I offered to co-host a baby shower at our home two weekends ago, I was excited to make a new cupcake as a sweet ending to the party.

Personally I see nothing wrong with boxed cake mixes or store bought frosting. They're a huge time saver, and often an inexpensive way to create a tasty dessert. But recently, after years of store bought exclusivity, I've gained some comfort with venturing out on my own, making complex cakes from scratch, as I did with last year's Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, and even perfecting a simple buttercream frosting, like when I made the cherry almond vanilla cupcakes recently for a friend's birthday. With these experienced under my belt my approach to cupcake creation has become an equation involving time and effort necessary/available and desired end result.

Knowing that I'd be juggling hostess duty, which means making the other party food as well as whipping the house into shape, I opted to take a hybrid homemade and prepared mix approach on my baby shower cupcakes and opted to use a high end Williams-Sonoma cake mix and frosting, which I baked in turquoise and multi colored cake wrappers that worked with the color palette of the party.

Making the cake was a snap. After following the recipes on the package, I was ready to get fancy.

My only experience making a cupcake filling was last year's Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, complete with Jameson whiskey ganache. While those cupcakes took nearly three full hours to make, I'd refined my process and streamlined my game. With my confidence bolstered, I tried my hand at a raspberry filling. It was relatively simple to start. In a medium saucepan, I combined:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
I let the mixture come to a boil, and after it thickened, I stirred in 2 cups fresh raspberries.

Using a small whisk, as them cooked I gently broke up the raspberries for a smoother consistency. Because I planned on piping the filling into the cupcakes, this consistency was important as it needed to flow through the small hole in the cake decorating tip I planned to use. I allowed the filling to heat and reduce until it resembled a warm jam, and then i immediately put it in the refrigerator to cool.

While the filling cooled, I started on the vanilla buttercream frosting. The thought of homemade frosting used to scare me, but it's actually a simple process. All you need is:

  • 1 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2% or skim milk (optional/as needed)

Simply cream 1 cup butter in a mixer then slowly mix in 3 cups confectioners sugar a little at a time. Once the mixture is combined, add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and blend until the frosting is the desired consistency. If needed, add a tablespoon of milk, one at a time, to thin the mixture if needed.

Tip: While it still makes me cringe to hear Ina Garten spout pretentious tips like "use really good vanilla" on Barefoot Contessa, there's something to be said for using high quality ingredients. I recently discovered a fantastic vanilla extract, Nielsen-Massey's Madagascar Bourbon pure vanilla extract, and now I won't be using anything else. 

I do hope you just read this part with a stereotypical pretentious rich and snobby person accent, perhaps like Thurston Howell III.

Once the frosting was done and the raspberry filling cooled, I added the filling into a disposable frosting bag in order to fill the cupcakes. This process was a bit tricky, and threatened to be a total mess. Unlike frosting where you must apply pressure, you need to account for the fact that the raspberry can easily flow out of the bottom of the bag. Learning the hard way, I realized you need to pinch the bag closed while you spoon in the filling. Oops.

One by one I filled each of the 24 cupcakes, opting not to remove any of the cake but rather forcing the filling in. You can see from the photo above that I actually depressed the tip into the cake a bit. Next time, with a little more time to work with, I might experiment with removing a small section of the cupcake in order to allow more room for the filling. This method worked well, but my preference would be to have more filling in the cake.

Once the cupcakes were filled, I set out to pipe on my buttercream frosting. The simple step of piping on frosting makes cupcakes look elegant and store bought, and I've found it actually takes less time than spreading on frosting with a knife.

For a final touch, I added a fresh raspberry to the top of each cupcake, which effectively acted as a cue for the flavor.

All in all, the cupcakes were a huge hit. They were beautiful, tasted wonderful, and the raspberry filling drew a lot of compliments. In fact, the mom-to-be commented that they reminded her of her wedding cake. This was a happy accident, but I was thrilled that I could whip up a dessert that made guests smile.

Do you have a go to dessert that you like to make for friends and family? Is anyone else a cupcake junkie like I am? Any suggestions on new desserts or new cupcake flavors to try? I'm tempted to jump on the cake pops wagon, but have heard that they're a ton of work. Does anyone have any experience? In my opinion, there's nothing better than a sweet treat to end a meal or a special event.

Comments 8


6/10/2013 at 10:31 AM
Have you considered making your own vanilla extract? I'm doing that right now ... ordered premium Madagascar beans from Amazon for $12. Half are in a mason jar of vodka that's turning into extract (beans have been soaking for 3 months), another bean is in a jar of sugar for vanilla sugar, and the rest are available for culinary adventures.
I've always wanted to give that a try, but had no idea you could purchase the beans for such an affordable price. Thanks for the tip, Jan!
Karin K
6/10/2013 at 4:35 PM
Haha! I know what you mean about Ina - I always chuckle when she says to use "really good mayonnaise" and you can tell that (even though the label is turned around) it is Hellmann's.
Cracks me up. And don't even get me started on Jeffrey! :-)
7/26/2013 at 7:44 PM
Hi Wendy , I am a cupcake enthusiast as well and take pride in making a cupcake from scratch. I recently set out to find a way to change the sexy red velvet cupcake and make it more adventurous. I think I will try your raspberry filling . It seems quite easy . I think it's so rewarding when you create your own batter and decorations. Well done
8/15/2016 at 3:10 PM

What kind of whisk did you use for the filling? Do you have the brand name and product number?


Hi Jessica. I received this whisk as a gift and it was purchased from Pampered Chef roughly 14 years ago. I'm not sure if they still sell them, but here's a link to a similar one from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2aWggl5 Thanks!

8/16/2016 at 7:46 PM

Thanks! One more question. I will be spooning the filling into cupcakes rather than using a piping bag. Do I have to make the filling thicker? If so, how?

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