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.



Patriotic Whoopie Pies

patriotic whoopiesHappy Independence Day, Americans! Let’s celebrate with some star-spangled sweets. These patriotic whoopie pies take a classic red velvet recipe and add a bit of a twist, using both red and blue food coloring for red, white, and blue treats.

The Brown Eyed Baker (another Pittsburgh-based, self-taught baker and blogger) has a great recipe for red velvet whoopie pies, which I used as the base for these treats. Instead of adding the food coloring with the vanilla during mixing, I made the batter first without any food coloring, then divided it and tinted half red and half blue. I also chose a marshmallow creme-based filling, instead of the original recipe’s cream cheese filling so I didn’t need to refrigerate them.


For the red and blue velvet whoopie pies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 teaspoons red liquid food coloring
  • 3 teaspoons blue liquid food coloring

For the fluffy white filling

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening, brown sugar, and white sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times.

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.

Add the flour and buttermilk alternatively in two batches, beating until just combined after each.

Divide batter into two bowls; you’ll have about 3 1/2 cups of batter in each. Add red food coloring to the first bowl and mix until well-combined; add blue food coloring to the second bowl and mix until very well-combined.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter at least 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheets; you’ll have 6 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until tops spring back just slightly when touched. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely before filling.

To make the filling, place butter in a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla and beat until very well-combined.

Add powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, beating well between each addition and scraping the sides of your bowl frequently. You want a firm but spreadable consistency so that your filling doesn’t ooze out the sides.

Flip cookies over and match up one blue and one red per whoopie pie. Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop generous scoops of filling onto each blue cookie. Using a small offset spatula, spread filling slightly, then place a red cookie on top.

Wrap each whoopie pie in plastic wrap for easy serving and storage. Since they are so large, it’s nice to be able to eat half of one and save the other half for later.