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Debbie, our daughter, has been making cupcake sandwiches in our test kitchen all week.  On Friday, she’ll host Cupcake Sandwich Day at The Prepared Pantry while Merri Ann and I head to Minnesota to see our son who lives there.  She’ll hand out samples, answer questions, and give people instruction sheets.

There are lots of ways to fill cupcakes but making cupcake sandwiches is unusual.  And easy.  Today we’ll explore several ways of filling cupcake sandwiches.

How to Make Cupcake Sandwiches

You haven’t had a cupcake sandwich?!  You take two cupcake tops (just the tops) and make a sandwich with frosting or frosting and pastry filling between the two.  Very simple concept.  But they’re cute.  And they look like whoopee pies

You can make all these with a boxed cake mix and frosting mix—incredible desserts that anyone can make.

So how do you do it?  It’s a very simple concept.  You take two cupcake tops (just the tops) and make a sandwich with frosting or frosting and pastry filling between the two.

But how do you make the tops?  To make it easy, use a box cake mix.  Then scoop batter into the depressions on a muffin top pan.  Instead of making muffin tops, you’re making cupcake tops.  You can “doctor-up” the cake mix by adding colors and flavors. 

The filling is the most fun.  

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You can fill them with frosting or you can fill them with a combination of frosting and pastry filling.  Most are made with only frosting.  But it’s no more work to add pastry filling and I really like pastry filling.  (Pastry filling—that’s the good stuff that your baker puts in filled donuts, apple turnovers, and cream puffs.  It comes in cream fillings like Bavarian cream, chocolate, and cream cheese and fruit fillings like apple, raspberry, and lemon.  I couldn’t resist Debbie’s lemon pie sandwiches the other day.)  Most pastry fillings come in squeeze bags so you don’t need to spread the filling.

These are combinations to try:

What you’ll need:

You’re going to need five items:

  1. A muffin top pan. (You’re making cupcake tops instead of muffin tops.)
  2. A box cake mix.
  3. Buttercream frosting.  (You can use our buttercream mix or your favorite recipe)
  4. Decorations of your choosing.
  5. Pastry fillings such as lemon, raspberry, or Bavarian cream. 

If you’re going to use pastry filling between the cupcake tops, you’ll need a tube of pastry filling.  While you can smear on the frosting with a spatula, it’s nice to squeeze it neatly with an icing tip.

You can purchase the muffin top pans,  frosting mixespastry fillingsdecorationsfood colors, and flavors at The Prepared Pantry.

Step 1:  Bake the cupcake tops.

Mix the batter per the package directions.  Scoop batter into each of the indentations on your muffin top pan.  We use a large ice cream scoop  that holds 1/4 cup to get just the right amount of batter each time.  (The slide action in the scoop cleanly releases the batter.)  Bake the tops and put them on a wire rack to cool.  Since the tops are thinner than cupcakes, they bake quicker than cupcakes—ten minutes in our oven.  Set the timer early and check them with a toothpick.

Step 2:  Assemble the cupcake sandwiches.

Match the cupcake tops up in pairs.  Holding a cupcake top upside down, squeeze a rim of frosting around the perimeter of the cupcake top.  Debbie usually makes a double frosting ring.  If you are going to fill the cupcakes with pastry filling, fill the interior of the ring with pastry filling now.  If not, continue filling the ring with frosting.  Place a top on the filled cupcake, top up, to complete the sandwich.  Shake sprinkles or other decorations on the exposed frosting.

We’ve seen bake shops that make and sell cupcake sandwiches.  They use tons and tons of frosting, twice what we do.  They’re really pretty but we like our balance of frosting to cake better.

To learn more about filled cupcakes and get more cupcake sandwich ideas and recipes, download “Sweet Treats: How to Make Cupcake Sandwiches, Stuffed Pancakes, and Other Sweet Treats.” 

Tips for success:

  • We use brand name cake mixes like Betty Crocker.  Some store brands seem to be more crumbly.
  • Don’t over bake the tops.  Because they are thin, they bake quickly—ten minutes in our oven.
  • Cool the tops in the pan for a few minutes before removing them.  The tops become sturdier and less likely to break as they cool.
  • You can put a scoop of ice cream on top of the sandwiches and serve them with a spoon or fork.
  • If you have a large number of sandwiches to make a small decorator set, use Debbie’s trick:  She scoops all the frosting into a large gallon zipper type bag and then snips the corner and presses the frosting from the plastic bag to the decorator set to refill it.  It’s much quicker than spooning frosting into the decorator set tube each time.
  • When you use pastry fillings, don’t overload the sandwich.  Pastry fillings are intense enough that you don’t need a lot to balance the cake. 

Other Ways to Fill a Cupcake

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There are other ways to fill cupcakes.  Remember those cream-filled chocolate cupcakes that you had as a kid, the ones that came two to a package. When you took a bite into the rich chocolate cake, you got a bit of cream filling. You can make those. It’s easy.

Use a pastry bag or decorator set  to fill the cupcakes with cream, marshmallow cream, or pastry filling.  Insert the tip in the top of the cupcake and press.  You can use a star tip but a long, nozzle type tip is perfect.  When you frost your cupcake, you’ll cover the hole.

The only challenge that we experienced was determining how much cream was going into the cupcake. So we broke open several cupcakes to see. The first few were overfilled but we quickly got the hang of it. Just fill the cupcakes until you feel them start to bulge.


 

 

 

 

 

Pastry fillings make an excellent choice for filled cupcakes.  They’re luscious.  They’re easy. And your cupcakes can be left out all day without being refrigerated.

There are two other ways to fill a cupcake that we know of: spoon the filling onto the batter in a half-filled cup then spoon on more batter, or spoon the filling onto the batter and let the batter rise around the filling as it bakes.

With the latter method, the filling is not always covered with cake. You may leave the filling exposed or cover it with frosting.

 

Eating cupcakes with perishable fillings that have not been refrigerated may be hazardous.  If the fillings are perishable, please keep the cupcakes refrigerated or eat them promptly.  Cupcakes made with commercial pastry fillings like those found in the bakeries usually  do not need to be refrigerated. 

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

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These are big boy cupcakes—though your kids will love them too. They are made like a Boston Cream Pie: yellow cake, Bavarian cream filling , and fudgy topping.

Make your cupcakes. Instead of putting Bavarian cream between layers, fill your cupcakes.

Frost them with ganache. The secret of ganache is the consistency. For the Boston Cream Pie, you want it thin enough to drizzle down the sides but thick enough to pile up on top a little.

For cupcakes, we couldn’t agree on what was better. I let the ganache cool in the refrigerator and then beat it with a hand-held electric mixer until it was soft and smooth and frosting-like. But Melissa and her crew, they double dipped the cupcakes in the warm ganache. Admittedly, their cupcakes were prettier . . . but I had more chocolate.

Lemon Sunshine Cupcakes

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We made lemon cream cupcakes by modifying another favorite recipe.  But we couldn’t get them lemony enough—with lemon zest, lemon extract, and lemon juice.  Finally, we realized that we have baking soda in the recipe and that the soda was neutralizing the acid in the lemon and tartness in the muffin.  We took the soda out and they worked just fine.

Low Altitude

1/3 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon flavor 
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup milk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Lemon pastry filling

High Altitude

1/4 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon lemon flavor 
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Lemon pastry filling

Frosting

1/3 cup cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. With your stand-type mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together.  Add the egg and beat in.  Add the flavor, juice, zest, and milk.  Beat until mixed. 
  2. Whisk the flour and baking powder together.  Add to the creamed mixture and beat until just mixed together.  Do not over-mix.
  3. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins lined with paper liners.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the cupcakes test done.  Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Once cooled, use a thin decorating tip and decorating tool or pastry bag to press the lemon filling into the cupcakes.  You can do so by pushing the tip through the top of the cupcake to the center.  You will cover the small holes with frosting.
  5. To make the frosting, mix the powdered sugar and juice together, adding more of either to get the right consistency.  Add the zest.  Frost the cooled cupcakes. 

Bavarian Banana Cream Cupcakes

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This is a very good, banana-rich cupcake.  You can fill it with whipped cream or pastry cream.

Our test kitchen is at 4,800 feet and many cake recipes must be adjusted for altitude.  We made the low altitude recipe twice.  The second time, it had a little too much spread and dimples in the top—signs of altitude.  In the high altitude version, we added a little more flour and another egg, both of which give structure, and the cupcakes were perfect.

We have included both versions. 

Low Altitude

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon banana flavor 
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 large, ripe banana, mashed

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Filling

Bavarian cream pastry filling

Frosting

1/3 cup cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

High Altitude

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon banana flavor
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 large, ripe banana, mashed

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Filling

Bavarian cream pastry filling

Frosting

1/3 cup cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. With your stand-type mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together.  Add the egg(s) and beat in.  Add the banana, flavor, and buttermilk.  Beat until mixed. 
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together.  Add to the creamed mixture and beat until just mixed together.  Do not over-mix.
  3. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin tins lined with paper liners.  (If you are using the high altitude recipe, you will have two or three tablespoons of batter left over for perfectly-sized cupcakes.)  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the cupcakes test done.  Remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.
  4. Once cooled, use a thin decorating tip and decorating tool or pastry bag to press Bavarian cream filling into the cupcakes.  You can do so by pushing the tip through the top of the cupcake to the center.  You will cover the small holes with frosting.
  5. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese until soft.  Add the powdered sugar and milk and beat until smooth.  Adjust the consistency with more milk or powdered sugar if required.   

Peanut Butter Chocolate Brownie Cupcakes

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Here’s a great recipe to tackle with your child. It’s quick, easy and sure to please. (How can it miss—brownie cupcakes with a peanut butter filling?)

Bake up these brownie cupcakes with a dab of peanut butter. The peanut butter sinks into the cupcake as it bakes. The trick will be to keep the big kids from eating them all before junior gets his.  If you want to make these surprise cupcakes, cover the tops with a fudgy frosting. 

Ingredients 

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Directions 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  1. In a medium bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave, stirring as needed.
  2. Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Stir the eggs and vanilla into the mixture. Stir in the flour.
  3. Line nine muffin cups with paper liners. Divide the batter between the nine liners. Put a teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each.

  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Do not over bake. A toothpick should still have gooey crumbs on it if tested. Cool on a wire rack.

Dennis Weaver is the president of The Prepared Pantry at www.preparedpantry.com