Vanilla Bean Hidden Heart Cupcakes

13 Feb 2017

It's that time of year again where the shops are filled with all things pink, covered in hearts and bunches of roses. That's right, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, so of course, I had to bake something to celebrate! I'll be honest, I'm not really a Valentine's person. My boyfriend and I have been together for a little over 4 years, and while we made a big deal of it in the first year (our local cinema was showing Moulin Rouge, how could we not?), we don't get too involved with it now. We both work a lot, so this year, we're just making a conscious effort to enjoy the evening together and be present in the moments. We're thinking a pamper night, takeaway and cuddling up on the sofa! But anyway, back to cake.

These cupcakes are simply decadent. If you look super closely, you'll see little black flecks in the icing and the white part of the cake. That's because I used real vanilla to give these guys a gorgeous, full vanilla flavour! The way to someones heart is through their stomach, so if your other half is a lover of vanilla, you're on to a real winner with these cupcakes. This is contrasted against the red velvet heart that runs through the middle of each of these cupcakes. I'll admit, I had the help of Betty Crocker with making the red velvet cake, but I definitely wouldn't have been able to get that gorgeous red colour on my own! Together, the vanilla and chocolate work perfectly - it's enough to set any hearts racing!

Let me tell you a little bit about the icing. This is no ordinary icing - yes, the primary ingredients are butter and icing sugar, but instead of using milk to loosen it up, I used vanilla-infused double cream. While this makes the icing very naughty, it also makes it super smooth and melt in the mouth. Seriously, it's worth making the extra effort!

While these cakes do look a little complicated to make, you'll be surprised at how easy it is once you get started. Plus, it looks so impressive. I sent my sister the image above, and her response was "HOW DID YOU DO THAT?" You can really revel in the compliments, and choose whether or not to let people in on how you captured the heart in the centre.

For the cupcakes, you will need:
Betty Crocker's red velvet cake mix, plus items needed to make it (3 eggs, 105ml vegetable oil, 200ml water)
210g plain flour
Half teaspoon baking powder
Quarter teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Half teaspoon salt
200g granulated sugar
115g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 large egg whites
60g vanilla or plain Greek yogurt
180ml vanilla almond milk or semi-skimmed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Seeds scraped from a whole vanilla bean

For the icing, you will need:
100ml double cream
Seeds scraped from a whole vanilla bean
230g unsalted butter, softened
450g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and grease a rectangular cake tin. 
  2. Follow the instructions on the red velvet box mix, then once you've made the batter, pop it into the oven for around 20 minutes. As you aren't creating a 'proper' cake like the box mix is supposed to be used for, you may need to monitor it as it bakes. Once done, remove from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin.
  3. Whilst the red velvet cake is cooling, line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Set aside.
  5. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave, taking care not to burn it. Whisk in the sugar - the mixture will become gritty. Then whisk in the egg whites, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract until combined. Split a vanilla bean down the middle lengthways and scrape the seeds into the batter. If you have a bit more time, you could throw in the bean once you've removed the seeds and allow it to infuse for half an hour or so. Remove it afterwards, if you do decide to do this.
  6. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. This will thicken the batter up.
  7. Using a heart shaped cutter that is smaller than the height of your cupcake cases, cut 12 shapes from your red velvet cake. I had a ton of scraps leftover from this part, so I've stuck them in an airtight bag in the freezer for future use!
  8. This is the fiddly part. Put a tablespoon of the vanilla cake mix into each cupcake case. Then take one of your red velvet hearts and position it in a case, nestled in the cake mix. You'll need to keep hold of it, so that it doesn't topple over, then add more vanilla mix to cover it up. Continue this process with the rest of the cakes. Then pop them into the oven for 20 minutes, before removing them and allowing them to cool in the tin.
  9. Whilst they're cooling, you can make your buttercream. In a small pan, heat your double cream on a low heat. Scrape in the vanilla seeds from a whole bean and add the empty pod to the pan and stir. This will only take a few minutes, as you don't want to burn the cream, so once it starts to steam, remove from the heat. 
  10. Beat your softened butter in a large bowl, then add your icing sugar in 100g increments. Add in the vanilla extract and your cooled, vanilla-infused cream to your liking or when the mixture becomes too thick to mix. If it is too thin, add more icing sugar, or if it's too thick, add a dash more cream.
  11. Using a piping bag and your favourite nozzle (as always, I went for my trusty large star nozzle), add a swirl of your icing to each cooled cake. Then decorate in any way that you like! I was really after heart sprinkles, but I had to settle for thee pink and white shimmer pearls instead.
And that's all there is to it! While there are a fair few steps to this recipe, the concept is really basic, so when people are amazed at the results and quiz you on how it's done, you can be all smug at how simple it was. These are ideal for whipping up as a gift to your other half or for a party!

Whould you like to comment?

  1. These look gorgeous - perfect for Valentines Day (I now want cake! lol)

  2. That little heart in the cupcake is so cute! :O :) It really catched my eye in the twitter feed, I had to click and see if you are sharing your secret how to make it :) and you do! :)
    Have a happy Valentine's day! :)

    1. Thanks Madara! It was a little bit of a faff on, but it's relatively easy to do and looks great (if I do say so myself haha) x

  3. Mmmmmm they look delicious! Very jealous, my cupcakes always come out flat and the icing runs down the sides - oops!

    Chloe / Mojichlo

    1. Thanks Chloe! Definitely keep trying - don't give up! x

  4. Oh my goodness! These look and sound incredible, I would love to have a go! This could possibly be my favourite recipe ever haha :D xx

    elizabeth ♡ ”Ice Cream” whispers Clara
    (lets follow each other on bloglovin or instagram)