Let’s face it, there is 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. How, exactly, do you do that?
There are actually a number of ways you can fill cupcakes which means that no matter what your skill level, no matter what tools you have, you will be able to fill cupcakes easily! Time to get excited.
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 the taste.
You want the filling of your cupcake to match the flavor of your cake and the flavor of your frosting. So sorry mint jelly, you are not a good filling for carrot cupcakes.
You can fill those carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting though! Flavor profile is super important so be sure the extra flavor you are adding when you fill your cupcakes is in line with the whole dessert.
The consistency of your filling is also something to consider. You do not want to fill your cupcakes with something that is very runny and liquid as this can cause a number of issues. The cupcake may absorb the liquid filling, leaving a hole in the center where the filling use to be.
The liquid filling could go through the cupcake paper, tearing it and making a mess. Or, speaking of mess, you could bite into your cupcake and have filling pour out- not good! So skip very soft fillings that will just cause problems.
You also do not want your filling to be too hard. Cupcakes are light and fluffy and the filling should match. It would not be good to bite into a cupcake and hit a hard center. That would not be a welcomed surprise!
A soft filling that can hold its shape is what you want to
aim for. 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!
Now that you have thought about what kind of filling is best, time to take a look at how to fill those cupcakes!
Remove the Middle
The first step in filling a cupcake is to make a place for the filling to go. Now, you can go about this in a few 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 cake so your filling has lots of space.
- 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, try to 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 will help your cupcake hold its shape and also give 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 a 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 are making a cupcake and still want the cake to be the number one component in the dessert- don’t remove so much cake that it no longer qualifies as a cupcake!
Keep the Cake
When you remove cake from the center of the cupcake in order to make a hole for your filling, don’t discard the cake! You can use the cake later on to “seal” the filling in the cupcake (which will be covered later in this article!) or you can eat the cake centers.
This is the perfect way to test the cupcakes and make sure they are delicious- cake center samples!
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 the cupcake. No problem!
1 – Pastry Bag
One of the most common ways to fill a cupcake is to put the filling inside a pastry bag, cut off the tip and then dispense the filling into each individual cupcake. This method works very well especially for fillings that are easy to pipe.
Curds, jellies, soft ganache, nut butters and frostings all are perfect for this pastry bag method. Filling cupcakes with a pastry bag is also very fast and efficient, making it the first choice of many 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 – 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 is also a methodical and clean way to fill cupcakes as you scoop the filling right into the hole in the center again and again- easy and precise!
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 is the perfect size to use when filling a regular sized cupcake.
3 – Simple 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. Grab a regular, old soup spoon and shovel your filling into the cupcakes! It will get the job done for sure!
4 – Teaspoon or Tablespoon
A teaspoon or tablespoon is a great way to fill cupcakes as the deep spoon will hold the filling well as you transport it from the bowl to the inside of the cupcake.
As you guessed, this method is also quite accurate as you can ensure each cupcake has exactly the amount of filling you’d like. Another plus is that anyone who makes homemade cupcakes has a teaspoon or tablespoon measurer on hand!
5 – Use Your Hands
If you are using a more firm filling like cookie dough, brownies or chopped fresh fruit, you can simply use your hands to put the filling in the cupcakes.
Why make things more complicated than they need to be?! Your hands are the perfect tool, after all.
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.
7 – Fill the Cupcakes Before Baking
Rather than filling your cupcakes after they bake, put the filling in the cupcake before it goes into the oven. Place a little jam in the center of the cupcake batter, sprinkle some chocolate chips in the middle of the cupcake batter or scoop a little nut butter into the batter.
When the cupcakes bake, they will solidify around the filling making a perfect, filled cupcake! Sounds pretty easy, right?
Finish the Cupcakes
Once your cupcakes are filled, you can place the cake centers you saved back in the center of the cake, sealing the filling inside so that it is completely surrounded by cake. Ice the cupcakes as desired then serve!
You do not need to place the center cake back on the cupcake if you don’t want to. When you put frosting on top of the cupcake, you will enclose the filling anyway!
Just be sure to add enough frosting to the top of the cupcake to seal the filling in and hide it well- the filing will be a nice surprise when someone takes a bite!
You may want to consider adding a garnish to your cupcakes 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.
You are likely ready to start filling some cupcakes and, by now, you know exactly what you are doing. 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.