Let’s face it; there’s always a way to make your cupcakes better. One easy way to take those cupcakes from good to absolutely fantastic is to fill them with delicious fillings.
But do you know that there are actually a number of ways you can fill cupcakes, even if you don’t have a dedicated tool for it?
In today’s guide, I’ll walk you through 7 creative techniques to fill up your cupcakes easily and without making a lot of mess.
Let’s dive right in!
Fillings for Cupcakes
Before you start stuffing your cupcakes with just any old ingredients, you should think about what type of fillings you can use.
The first thing to consider when choosing a cupcake filling is how it tastes. You want it to match the flavor of your cake and frosting.
Sorry, mint jelly, you are not a good filling for carrot cupcakes! Instead, you can fill those carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
The consistency of your filling is also something to consider. You don’t want to fill your cupcakes with something too runny as this can cause plenty of problems.
For instance, the cupcake may absorb the liquid filling, leaving a hole in the center where the filling used to be. The runny filling could also go through the cupcake paper, tearing it and making a mess.
You also don’t want your filling to be too hard. Cupcakes are light and fluffy, so the filling should match this as well. It wouldn’t be good to bite into a cupcake and hit a hard center.
Now that you have an idea about the type of filling that goes well with your cupcakes. Here are a few you may want to consider:
- Jelly and Jam
- Chopped Fruit
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cookie Dough
- Nut Butters
Of course, you may have other cupcake-filling ideas in mind but everything on this list is tried and true!
Remove the Middle
The first step in filling a cupcake is to make space for the filling. You can go about this in various ways.
- Using a small round cookie cutter (about ¾”), press the cutter into the center of the cupcake and gently twist as you pull the cutter out. The center cake will lift up with the cutter, leaving a nice hole in your cupcake for you to fill.
- Use a large pastry tip as a cutter. Use the bottom of the pastry tip (not the pointy end) and press it into the cupcake center, removing the middle cake.
- Use your finger to poke a hole in the center of the cupcake, pressing the center cake down and creating a hole for your filling (be sure your hands are clean or wear gloves!).
- Use a small paring knife to cut a hole in the center of your cupcake, removing the middle part to create space for the filling.
- An apple corer is the perfect size to take out the center of your cupcakes and is fairly inexpensive. Press the apple corer into the center of the cupcake and then twist it upward, removing the middle cake.
- Skip it; don’t make a hole and just use your pastry bag to inject the filling (more details on this later in the article!).
When you make a hole in your cupcake for the filling, leave a little cake at the bottom rather than removing the center cake all the way down to the paper. Having a solid cake base at the bottom helps your cupcake hold its shape and also gives the filling something to rest on.
Gauge the size of the hole by considering how much filling you would like in your cupcake and also the type of filing you are using.
If you have a softer, runnier filling like lemon curd or raspberry jam, a little bit will go a long way- you don’t want half the cupcake to be jam!
When using a more firm filling, such as cookie dough, you can make the hole a little bigger and use a bit more filling.
Keep in mind that you’re making a cupcake and still want the cake to be the number one component in the dessert, so don’t remove so much that it no longer qualifies as a cupcake!
Keep the Cake
When you remove the cake from the center of the cupcake to make a hole for your filling, don’t discard the cake!
You can still use it later on to “seal” the filling in the cupcake (which will be covered later in this article!)
Of course, you can also eat the cake centers, which is a perfect way to test them and make sure they’re delicious!
For more ways to use your cake centers, see my suggestions on creative uses for your cake trimmings.
Fill the Cupcakes
Now that your cupcakes are prepped and you have chosen your filling, time to get into the details on how to actually fill them!
1 – Pastry Bag
One of the most common ways to fill a cupcake is putting the filling inside a pastry bag. This method also works with Ziploc bags as well.
Cut off the tip and then dispense the filling into each individual cupcake. This method works quite well, especially for fillings that are easy to pipe. Curds, jellies, soft ganache, nut butters, and frostings all are perfect for this method.
Filling cupcakes with a pastry bag is also remarkably fast and efficient, making it a common choice for resourceful pastry chefs.
If you opted to keep the center of your cupcake intact, a pastry bag fitted with a pastry tip will definitely help you get the filling into your cupcake. Have the pastry bag filled and ready then stab the tip deep into the cupcake.
Squeeze the filling in until it starts bursting up through the top. Remove the pastry tip and continue with the next cupcake.
2 – Basters and Syringes
Another reliable technique to get the liquid filling inside your cupcakes is to use a baster or a syringe.
The way these items work gives you excellent control of how much liquid you want to inject into the cupcakes, which also eliminates mess and saves you the hassle of coring the cupcakes beforehand.
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that the tools are clean, especially if you’ve used the baster with savory dishes.
As for syringes, a plastic oral syringe will do the trick just fine, as they have a relatively wider nozzle that won’t get clogged up easily.
3 – Ice Cream Scoop
Use a small ice cream scoop to get an even amount of filling into each cupcake. This method will ensure that all of your cupcakes have exactly the same amount of filling.
It’s also a methodical and clean way to fill cupcakes as you scoop the filling right into the hole in the center precisely!
Using an ice cream scoop to fill cupcakes will also work for any type of filling you are using from a loose jam to a firm cookie dough.
A number 100 mini ice cream scoop should be a suitable size to use when filling a regular-sized cupcake.
4 – Use a Spoon
While using a spoon to scoop your filling into the cupcakes isn’t as precise as using a measured ice cream scoop, it still works well all the while being far easier and more accessible!
Simply grab a spoon and shovel your filling into the cupcakes! Soup spoons are the best for the job because they’re quite deep.
Smaller spoons are also quite accurate as you can ensure each cupcake has exactly the amount of filling you’d like.
Another plus here is that anyone who makes homemade cupcakes has a teaspoon or tablespoon measurer on hand!
5 – Use Your Hands
Why make things more complicated than they need to be?! Your hands are the perfect tool, after all!
If you are using a firmer filling like cookie dough, brownies, or chopped fresh fruit, you can simply wash your hands properly and use them to put the filling inside the cupcakes.
6 – Pitchers and Measuring Cups
When using softer fillings like jam, curd, or a melted ganache, put the filling into a pitcher or measuring cup, and then pour it into your cupcakes.
The pointed spout of the pitcher will help guide your filling right into the center of your cupcake, but remember to take it slowly to avoid overfilling.
7 – Fill the Cupcakes Before Baking
Rather than filling your cupcakes after they bake, you can put the filling in the cupcake before it goes into the oven.
For instance, you can place a little jam in the center of the cupcake batter, sprinkle some chocolate chips in the middle of the cupcake batter, or add a scoop of nut butter before topping it off with more batter.
When the cupcakes bake, they will solidify around the filling making a perfectly filled cupcake. Sounds pretty easy, right?
Finish the Cupcakes
Once your cupcakes are filled, you can return the cake centers you saved back in place, sealing the filling inside so that it is completely covered. All that’s left is to ice the cupcakes as desired and serve!
However, you don’t need to place the center cake back on the cupcake if you don’t want to, as the frosting will enclose the filling anyway!
Just be sure to add enough frosting to seal the filling in and hide it well. The filing will be a nice surprise when someone takes a bite!
Remember to garnish your cupcakes with frosting that mirrors the filling. For example, if you used raspberry jam, put a dollop of jam on top of the cupcake frosting.
If your cupcake is filled with chocolate ganache, add a few chocolate sprinkles to the cupcake. Lemon curd inside your cupcakes? Use a candied lemon zest as a garnish.
A topping that reflects the filling is a nice way to tie the whole cupcake together, showcasing all the flavors for everyone to see.
There you have it! A brief guide that shows you how to fill cupcakes in 7 unique and creative ways without using filling tools!
In the end, remember to assess the consistency of the filling before trying out these techniques, as some will be better suited than others.
Time to fill those cupcakes like a pro. Happy baking!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.