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I can’t be the only one who stumbles across Photoshopped images of cupcakes and is briefly wowed – “how did they do that?!” – before my computer brain catches up to my robot eyes and realizes, duh, it’s not real.
So when I came upon an awesome galaxy cupcake photo, with pinks and purples and sparkles, I decided that instead of being sad that such cupcakes don’t actually exist, I’d make my own.
I’ll be honest: this is a time consuming project, but I was surprised at how much fun I had. I’m not much of a creative artsy robot, and long baking projects tire and bore me. But I was actually sad when I ran out of cupcakes and frosting. Though I created the same scene, with every new cupcake I added new colors, new patterns, and used new techniques. I had such a blast making these, and I think “watercoloring” your cupcake frosting would be a really fun project with children or even as a cupcake party!
The trick, I found, is to freeze the frosted cupcakes for about five minutes. You want the frosting to stiffen and be solid enough that the paintbrush won’t go right through it, but if you freeze the cupcakes too long, the frosting won’t absorb much of the color. I also preferred the look of dabbing the color on, rather than brushing, but that’s a personal preference. Do whatever you think looks best!
And if you’re wondering, nope, the food coloring had no taste! It may seem like you’re using a lot, but a little food coloring watered down goes a LONG way. Just two large drops of food gel watered down with a teaspoon or two of water (depending on how much opacity I wanted) lasted the whole batch of cupcakes. I was pretty impressed because I thought it would take a lot more.
I used the white sprinkles I had on hand (jimmies, non-pareils, and pearls) but use anything you want. I wish I had some of that edible holographic (or rainbow) glitter because that would have looked amazing!
First, start with a smoothed mound of frosting. I piped mine on in a large swirl, then used a offset spatula to smooth it out. After freezing for about five minutes, cover the frosting with various colors – I used pink, purple, turquoise, orange, and yellow. (For the record, I used paintbrushes from the dollar store.) Then immediately go over the cupcake, covering the colors as much you like, with black. I left the yellow and orange uncovered to look like stars. Make sure to keep a glass of water to rinse the brush between colors, and keep a paper towel handy to wipe off any frosting that sticks to the bristles. Finally, top with sprinkles!
Note on the food coloring: I used AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste and it worked splendidly. For every drop of gel (and it’s a large drop, as the gel is thick) I added a second drop of white (“Bright White”), to make the color more opaque. Then I stirred in one or two teaspoons of water.
Below is the recipe for my favorite vanilla cupcakes and almond buttercream. Change up the cupcake flavor as you want, but keep the frosting white to better showcase your artwork.
Have fun with this recipe, and if you create your own galaxy cupcakes, share them on Facebook or on Instagram with the hashtag #thebakingrobot so I can see them and finally be glad for awesome colorful cupcakes that aren’t Photoshopped!
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with baking cups.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in vanilla extract.
4. Mix in half of the flour mixture to the butter and eggs mixture. Stir in milk, then add the remaining flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
5. Fill baking cups 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the cupcake tin halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for a few minutes before transfering to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
heavily frosts 12 cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add almond extract, making sure it’s thoroughly mixed in.
Here’s a complete list of all the AmeriColor shades I used:
I used Duff Goldman’s Black and Electric Blue, just because I had those on hand, but I didn’t like the consistency as much as the AmeriColor shades.