4th of July Cupcakes

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I was going to tell you about my new honeybees (!) for eco-friendly Friday, but since you might want to make these 4th of July-inspired cupcakes for the holiday, I’ll save the beekeeping post for next week.

(The cupcakes aren’t gluten-free or healthy but don’t give me a hard time about it, ok? They should be easy enough to convert to gluten-free, though, so I will add it to my to-do list).

Ever since the July issue of Martha Stewart Living arrived in our mailbox, my daughter Maddie’s been begging me to make the fireworks cookies that were on the cover.

The begging intensified this week. Her brother’s been at sleepaway camp, and each day when she’s gotten up, she’s looked at me with those sweet blue eyes and pleaded: “Can we make those cookies today”? Since the 4th of July is just around the corner, I finally did say “yes”; but as you can see, we used the fireworks decoration technique on cupcakes, not cookies.

Maddie is a picky kid, even about her sweets, but she absolutely loves this cupcake recipe.

One of the things she strongly dislikes, however, is buttercream frosting. Which was fine in this case, really, because the fireworks design needs to be done with royal icing. So I used this recipe from Nigella Lawson (but substituted heavy cream for the lemon juice) and it worked very well. I did have to add a bit of water a few times to thin the icing while I was working with it (it’s important that it’s a little loose, but not at all watery) though, because it hardens as it stands.

I am not going to describe the icing technique here, but if you want to see a nice tutorial, Lori’s got one over at RecipeGirl. Because these were cupcakes and not cookies, I did not do the edging or flooding steps: I simply used an off-set spatula to spread the white icing before proceeding with the circle-drawing step.

I don’t have much patience for pastry decorating projects (occasionally I make something pretty cool, but it’s rare, I swear), and the following statement is even more true when I am making something with my kids: I really don’t care if stuff like this turns out perfect.

I think next time I do this, though, I’ll put the colored frosting into little plastic squirt bottles (I made such a mess using pastry bags, for some reason). Also, I couldn’t find toothpicks so I used my cake tester thingy to “drag” the lines through the frosting (not recommended). This type of decorating is fairly forgiving, though, so I was pleased with how these came out (and when I posted a photo on twitter, my sweet friends thought they were pretty, too).

Most importantly, Maddie and I had fun making these together and she was very proud of our efforts. Plus she enjoyed the cupcakes immensely; I had to stop her from eating more than 2 (or was it 3?) so we could share these with friends.

If YOU are looking for something fun and festive to make and share this 4th of July, I highly recommend these fireworks cupcakes.

That said, if you aren’t into the whole food coloring thing (I usually stay away from the stuff but I am not gonna say sorry about using it here because I already apologized at this top of the post), you could always make the cupcakes and the icing and do the decorating with fresh berries :)

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More 4th of July Fun:
Red, White and Blueberry Sour Cream Tart from Nutmeg Nanny
4th of July Cupcakes in a Jar from The TomKat Studio
Red, White and Blue Chocolate Dipped Strawberries from Life Tastes Like Food
Watermelon Blueberry Popsicles from Everyday Occasions by Jenny Stephens

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Recipe for Delicious Yellow Cupcakes

I always suggest using organic ingredients in my recipes whenever possible (the butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and milk in this case), but if you think that's silly for cupcakes, I am ok with that. I used these American flag cupcake holders from Cupcake Creations- I think they're adorable and I love that you don't need to put them in a muffin tin.


  • *1/2 cup 1 stick salted butter at room temperature
  • *1 cup sugar
  • *2 eggs at room temperature
  • *1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
  • *1 teaspoon baking powder
  • *1/2 cup whole milk at room temperature
  • *1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line up the cupcake holders on a baking sheet.
  • 2. Using a stand mixer, cream butter for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.
  • 3. Add sugar and beat for several more minutes.
  • 4. Crack eggs into a small bowl. Add them one at a time to the butter/sugar, beating well after each addition.
  • 5. Whisk flour and baking power together in a medium bowl, then mix milk with vanilla extract in a small bowl.
  • 6. Turn the mixer to the lowest speed, and add half of the dry ingredients. Add the milk mixture, and then the rest of the flour, beating after each addition to ensure all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Don't overmix, though.
  • 7. Fill the cupcake holders 1/2 full only (you want the cupcakes to bake up flat) and bake for 20–25 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.
  • 8. Allow to cool completely before proceeding with the decorating.

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