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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with {surprise!} Red Velvet Heart Centers

Who doesn’t love a surprise inside of an already amazing cupcake? I used Annie’s vanilla bean cupcakes and her red velvet recipe, as well. I wanted more than 12 cupcakes, which is what the original recipe says that it will yield, so I went this route so that I ended up with 24 cupcakes.

Given that this was the first time I’ve done anything like this, with the cake in the center and all, I think it went pretty well. Not every cupcake had a perfect heart in the center – some feel to the side – but it was still a very fun and tasty surprise.

I halved the original recipe for the red velvet cake and baked it in an 8×8 pan. The cake was too thick to cut through with a cookie cutter so I sliced the cake in half horizontally so that I had two large squares and I cut out the hearts from that. You could probably bake the cake in a larger pan and it would work fine, just adjust how long the cake is baked for.

While the cake cooled (I put it in the fridge after a little while to cool a little faster) I mixed up the vanilla bean batter. Once the hearts were cut out and the batter was ready, I lined my muffin tins with paper liners. I tried a couple of methods but because the vanilla bean batter is pretty thick, the best method I found was to sit the heart in the empty muffin tin and pour the batter around the heart.

Make sure that all the hearts are sitting the same direction and you know which way they are facing so that when you cut into them you get a heart and not just a blob. I actually drew little arrows on my muffin tin with a Sharpie before baking. After removing them from a pan, make sure they all face forward as you frost them.

As far as the vanilla bean cupcakes, these are amazing. Flavorful, super moist, and so pretty with the vanilla bean flecks. And best of all, not dry at all – even after several days. Like I said, amazing.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with {surprise!} Red Velvet Heart Centers

For the red velvet cake (half of the original):

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp. liquid red food coloring
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. distilled white vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8×8 cake pan. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat on a medium speed until mixed together. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until smooth, 2 minutes.
  3. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 22-27 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  4. Remove from pan when cool and using a sharp, serrated knife, slice the cake in half horizontally. Use a small heart cookie cutter to cut out hearts. Set aside.

For the vanilla bean cupcakes:

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together and set aside.
  3. Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla pod and add the seeds to the butter. Beat the butter and vanilla bean seeds on medium-high for 3 minutes, until creamy. Scrape down bowl and beat for additional minute.
  4. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl as necessary.
  5. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the wet ingredients. Begin and end with the dry ingredients. Mix only until incorporated, do not overmix. Scrape down the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  6. Place a red velvet heart into a paper lined tin and while holding the heart in place, carefully pour the vanilla bean batter around the heart and over the top, covering the heart. Continue with all the hearts and the rest of the batter, until you fill all the muffin tins.
  7. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

For the vanilla bean buttercream:
(Good Thymes & Good Food original)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • liquid red food coloring
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place, beat the butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add in the powdered sugar and mix well. Add in the salt, seeds from the vanilla bean, heavy cream, vanilla extract, and a few drops of food coloring (based on desired color – start with 2-3 drops).
  2. Turn mixer up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  3. Frost cupcakes as desired.
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