It has been my quest to bring on Spring, and dream up some sweets that keep us chanting, “Think Spring!” Even as the snow continues to fall.
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I walked the aisles of the grocery store thinking on what I flavors and ingredients I could try throwing together for a springtime treat. As I turned the corner I was struck full-force by a Technicolor gleam: from the Easter display. Plastic eggs, Easter basket grass, foil-wrapped chocolates, boxes of marshmallow Peeps in ever-expanding choices of flavors and shapes, and bags upon bags of candies. All these goodies were bathed in brilliant never-seen-in-nature shades of pink, blue, yellow, purple and green.
There were chocolate rabbits too of course: deep, chocolaty brown in that rainbow sea. The cheaper, chocolate bunnies all stared out from plastic wrapped boxes with that one white candy eye that gives them a terrified expression, as if they’re wondering if their heads are next to be bitten into. Or maybe they’re stunned by all that gleaming color around them.
Though I had not intended to make an Easter treat, it was hard to look over all that sweet stuff and not feel inspired.
One treat I found on the Easter display that was new to me were Iddy Biddy Bunnies from Russel Stover: just a little package of little chocolate bunnies! Once I saw these the idea for these cupcakes came together very quickly.
The cupcake itself is a simple yellow cake, but it hides a surprise: jellybeans! They are secreted away in the center of the cupcake.
When you bite into the cupcake and find the jellybean stash, you will experience in miniature that color explosion of the Easter aisle at the grocery store.
On top of the cupcake is some grass-green buttercream frosting in which the Iddy Biddy bunnies get to frolic. Have you ever watched the animated Wallace & Gromit movie “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit”?
The bunnies on the tops of these cupcakes will make you think of the hundreds of bunnies playing on the grounds of Tottington Hall!
These cupcakes would make a fun treat at an Easter brunch or party…
or just as a treat for the hungry bunny-loving fans in your house!
Easter Surprise Cupcakes
Soft cupcakes with a playful scene of bunnies in the grass on top. And a sweet surprise in the middle!
For the cupcakes:
- 2-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unbleached
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 4 egg yolks at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-1/4 cups milk, lukewarm
For the buttercream frosting:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, like Crisco
- 6 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Green food coloring
- 1-1/2 cups jelly beans, like Jelly Belly or Starburst brands
- 2 1.4-ounce packages Russell Stover Itty Bitty Chocolate Mini-Bunnies
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare two 12-cup standard cupcake pans: grease and flour the cupcake wells or use paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the 1 cup plus two tablespoons of butter and the granulated sugar for 5 minutes: the mixture should be fluffy and pale yellow in color. Add in the whole eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition. Slowly add in the egg yolks while the mixer is running on low. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix the batter on low speed. Add in half of the milk and mix it into the batter. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the milk and then the last of the flour until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth.
Fill each cupcake well about 2/3 full with batter (about 2 ounces in each well.) Place the pans in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean or with only a few crumbs. Turn the cupcakes out onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely.
Prepare the buttercream:
Beat together the 3/4 cup of butter and the 1/4 cup of vegetable shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the salt. Beat in 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar, followed by a little of the milk. Continue alternating the sugar and milk until all of the sugar has been mixed in. (You may not need all of the milk.) Add in the vanilla and a few drops of the green food coloring. Beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy. Keep mixing in more green food coloring a few drops at a time until you get the right shade of grassy green.
Assemble the cupcakes:
Cut out the centers of the cupcakes: I like to use the tip of a straight vegetable peeler or you can use a knife. Cut a circle about 1 inch in diameter by inserting the knife or peeler 2/3 of the way down into the cupcake. Use the knife or peeler to pull out the cylinder of cake: cut off most of the cylinder to just leave the top that will go back on the cupcake. Scrape out the well inside the cupcake just a bit so that the jellybeans will fit. Drop some jellybeans into the well: I had success with 6 jellybeans per cupcake. Place the cake cap over the jellybeans and press it in place gently to make the cap flush with the top. Repeat with the rest of the cupcakes.
Spread a thin layer of green frosting over the top of the cupcakes as a crumb coat. Place the rest of the green buttercream into a piping bag with a star tip. Cover the tops of the cupcakes with star-bursts of frosting. (Alternatively if you'd rather not pipe, just use a knife to spread frosting on each cupcake. Make the frosting thick and rugged: the kind of texture little rabbits would like to frolic in.) Add Iddy Biddy Bunnies to the frosted tops, pressing them in just a little to sit in the frosting. Enjoy!
The cupcakes can be stored in a cupcake storer or covered in plastic for up to three days.
Notes: Because I have grouped the ingredients for each part of the cake, you'll see some of them are listed more than once. Be sure to read the recipe all the way through before starting!
The eggs and milk in this recipe should be at room temperature. To make this happen quickly, place cold eggs into a bowl filled with warm (not hot) water. (Do this before separating yolks from whites.) They should come to room temperature in about 20 minutes. The milk can be microwaved for 20-30 seconds until it has just lots its chill.
For the jelly beans in this recipe, I recommend using Jelly Belly or Starburst varieties, as they are smaller than generic jelly beans and therefore you can get more of them into each cupcake. Not to mention they have great, intense flavors!
Cake recipe slightly adapted from a recipe in The Baker's Manual by Amendola/Rees. The buttercream frosting is slightly adapted from the Easy Buttercream recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion.