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Holiday Baking: Candy Cane Swirl Cupcakes

I saw this recipe back in October, but I was too focused on Fall and all things pumpkin to give it a try.  I tucked the recipe away, waiting for the perfect occasion.  Today we had a baking “pot-luck” event at work and I decided that this would be the perfect time for these festive cupcakes.  The recipe didn’t require anything terribly out of the ordinary (except for red food paste, which I soon learned was not the same as food coloring and can be purchased in the baking section of a craft store, like Michael’s), and said to be only 25 minutes in prep time.

You will need:

1 box white cake mix, 1 lb 2.25 oz size

Ingredients required by boxed cake mix – water, oil, eggs (refer to box for exact amounts)

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 teaspoon red paste food color

1 container of fluffy white whipped frosting

30 hard peppermint candies

Step 1 – Preheat oven to 350.  Put paper baking cups in each of the muffin cups.

Step 2 – In a medium to large size bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil, egg whites, and peppermint extract with an electric mixer on low-speed for 30 seconds.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scrapping sides of bowl intermittently.

Step 3 – Divide batter in half.  To one portion, add 1 teaspoon red paste food color.  Stir until well mixed and evenly colored.  It may look a little more pink than red, fret not.  Leave the other portion uncolored.

Step 4 – Place 2 tablespoons of red batter in each of the muffin cups.  Then place 2 tablespoons of white batter on top of the red batter in each of the muffin cups.

Step 5 – With the tip of a knife, swirl the batter to give it a marbled look.  Don’t be afraid to really swirl on this one (don’t mix, just swirl).

Step 6 – Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan.  Cool for an additional 30 minutes.  Frost cupcakes as normal.  

Step 7 – Crush peppermint candies.  This was where I found out that my meat tenderizer was missing…I ended up using my potato masher, which turned out to be a fabulous substitute.

Step 8 – Sprinkle tops of cupcakes with crushed peppermint candies and stick a small candy cane in the center.

These were the perfect addition to our holiday pot-luck.  Despite my apparent inability to use a pastry bag, they looked really pretty, too.  I will share a tip with you though.  Don’t put your crushed peppermints on top of your cupcakes until you are ready to serve them.  I put them on last night, and by this morning they were all sliding off and some of the color had transferred from the candy to the frosting leaving streaks behind.  They still looked okay and tasted good, but it wasn’t the same.  Also, if you aren’t a huge fan of peppermint, don’t worry.  The flavor on this is very light.  If you skip the peppermint candies on the top and just use a candy cane for decoration, I think they would be just as delicious.

A special thank you to my good friend and cupcake making companion, Shannon, who is visiting from New Jersey.  I don’t think these would have turned out the same without her (Actually I know they wouldn’t have – I accidentally dumped way too much peppermint extract into the bowl and was tempted to just wing it from there, but she had the smart idea of starting a new batch.  Note to self: Don’t measure over your mixing bowl even though it might be easier sometimes.).  She is also proof that if you stay at my house for more than a day (or sometimes even a few hours) I will find a project for you.