Patriotic Cupcakes

Happy Independence Day, Americans! I haven’t done a lot of red, white, and blue baking, so this year I thought I’d whip up some patriotic cupcakes and practice my frosting tinting and piping skills while I was at it. I also experimented with a new buttercream, based on a Wilton recipe that uses both butter and shortening. I’m pleased to say it turned out very well!

Tint-wise, I wanted to make “colonial” colors – darker blue and red than what you’d get with your standard gel food coloring. To make a color darker, you need a hint of black, and let me stress the word “hint” here – it’s really a teeny, tiny amount. While my colonial blue turned out very well, my colonial red turned out more like raspberry. I’ll use it on something else, but I was glad to have plenty of white frosting for a second batch of red – this red is just your standard red gel food coloring, though in a very generous amount. Design-wise, the flag cupcakes are my favorites; alas, my fireworks cupcakes (the ones on the center ends in the photo above) look far too much like something that contains genetic material for my liking. Oh well…we pipe, and we learn.


For the vanilla cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the Wilton-inspired buttercream

  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – ¬†1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • Royal blue gel food coloring
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Black gel food coloring


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times during this step.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into cupcake wells, dividing evenly and filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the tin; cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, place butter and shortening in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for 1-2 minutes, until very well-combined. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing very well between each addition. Add vanilla and heavy cream, beating for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed; if your frosting is too thick, add another 1/2 tablespoon of heavy cream.

Divide frosting into three portions. Reserve 1 portion for white; using an offset spatula, frost the tops of each cupcake with a base of white.

Tint one portion colonial blue using royal blue and a very, very small amount of black. Tint the other portion red.

Fit two pastry bags with small star tips and pipe designs as you like. I chose the following:

  • Stars (top left and bottom ends in the photo above) – pipe a ring of blue around the edge of the cupcake, then fill in with red stars
  • Fireworks (center ends) – pipe red and blue stars with tails
  • Waves (top right) – pipe alternating red and blue waves
  • Flags (center) – pipe a patch of blue on the upper left-hand side, then add red stripes
  • Full coverage stars (bottom center) – pipe blue stars to totally cover the top of your cupcake, then add red star accents

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 12.