Cotton Candy Circus Cupcakes

Cotton Candy Circus Cupcakes


What a glorious three day weekend of being unproductive. I can't believe September is finally here and with it the (hopefully) last of summer humidity. It's kind of an enchanting time of year. 

Though I've never been to the circus myself, when I was in the second grade I had an amazingly imaginative teacher who created a student circus. Through stretching our imaginations, we each were challenged to come up with our own act and perform it in front of the parents.  Everything I can recall about that night was magical. Carnival game stands and cotton candy were provided for all, as we performed our practiced feats. Though my tight rope walk consisted of walking a rope on the ground and holding my leg in the air as my grande finale, I truly felt like a part of something special.  I even won a stuffed animal Raccoon, whom I promptly named Pancakes. 

As summer draws to an end and the morning commutes once again become crowded with students, I am growing nostalgic with that back-to-school feeling. Sometimes, I just really wish I could be a kid again. Until time travel is possible, I'll just enjoy some kid-like cupcakes. I mean, who doesn't like cotton candy? The light, airy, sweet taste of whipped sugar brings anyone back to days at the fair or carnival. I'm here to tell you, it also makes a dreamy frosting flavor. Inspired by the circus treat, I decided to whip up something special and nostalgic and, maybe, just a little bit magical. 

Funfetti cupcakes with cotton candy swiss meringue buttercream frosting. 

Ahem, I'll just let that sink in for a minute. Cotton Candy. Meringue. Frosting. Yeah, girl. 

Not only does the funfetti cake bring you back to every childhood birthday, but the fluffy frosting will have you floating on memories of theme parks and magic tricks. It doesn't get much better than circus tent wrapped confetti colored cake and candy buttercream. 

Lastly, we can't skip over these clown cake toppers. In my never ending cake supply search on amazon I came across these vintage looking cuties. Seeing how they fit perfectly into my inspiration of circus themed treats I HAD to have them, only to later discover that my mom and her sisters used the same ones as kids. I was thrilled to discover that these happy little guys brought her memories of 1960s birthday treats and celebrations. Hopefully some of you will feel the same. If you're in the mood for magic and nostalgia, this is the perfect recipe for you. If you've got children of your own I suppose you could make these for them to form their own memories... or you could just eat them all yourself. I'm not going to judge. 

Funfetti Cupcakes
yields approximately 30 cupcakes

  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature

  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature

  • 1 whole egg, room temperature

  • 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (this gives it the box birthday cake flavor)

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  • 1 cup Rainbow Jimmies (or however many you prefer) 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Distribute baking cups evenly on two baking sheets. 

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup whole milk, egg whites, egg, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Set aside. 

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, sift in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix on "stir" setting for one minute until combined. Gradually add in the cubed butter on a low setting until coated with the flour. Increase speed to medium and beat for two minutes. 

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add in egg/milk mixture in three batches, beating for thirty seconds between each addition. 

Finally, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in rainbow jimmies. You can use any sort of colored sprinkle you'd like for this depending on the colors you would like to confetti your cake with. Use a cookie scooper to distribute the batter into the cups, being sure to only fill about halfway. If the baking cups are too full you will end up with cake dripping down the sides... I know this from experience. Oops!

Bake the cupcakes for 22 to 25 minutes on 350°F or until a toothpick can be inserted and come out clean. Let cupcakes cool on a baking rack for a minimum of thirty minutes before frosting. 

Cotton Candy Swiss Meringue Buttercream
recipe adapted via Sweetapolita 

  • 6 fresh egg whites 
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine, granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cool and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Lorann Flavoring Oil, Cotton Candy
  • blue and pink food coloring

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. This is vital for an easy meringue. Do not skip this step!

In the bowl, combine egg whites and sugar, and create a double boiler to simmer over a pot of water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch. If you have a candy thermometer this is around 160°F.

With whisk attachment fitted to your mixer, return bowl to the stand begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch. This takes anywhere from six to ten minutes. Do not add butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm.

Switch over to paddle attachment and gradually add cold butter cubes on a low speed. Mix meringue and butter until it has reached a silky smooth texture.  If the frosting curdles do not panic! Keep mixing and it will come back to smooth. Once it has reached the whipped, desired consistency add vanilla and salt and cotton candy oil, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined. Use immediately or place in gallon bag in the freezer. When ready to use frozen frosting remove from gallon bag and whip on low speed to bring it back to the right consistency.