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Marbled Red White and Blue Cupcakes

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With the patriotic holidays – Memorial Day and Fourth of July – right around the corner, my family recently asked what my new dessert would be.

Clearly, I started an annual tradition without even knowing it.

I love making red, white and blue desserts.  And each summer season, I challenge myself to make something new.

Last year, I made these Patriotic Sprinkle Lollipops to take to watch fireworks.  They were a sweet ending to a beautiful day.

Another year, I created these No Bake Berry Tarts for the barbeque.  I used freshly picked berries and they are still one of my go to summer desserts.

And another season, I created a twist on the firecracker with these Firecracker Fruit Parfaits.

Creating patriotic themed desserts seem to be one of my party planning specialties.

So, this year’s patriotic dessert idea is themed on the classic colors red, white and blue.  Lots of red, white and blue swirled together to make a beautiful marbled masterpiece guests will love.

They are sure to be the star of your summer desserts.  My favorite part is the swirled icing on top.  It’s like one big tie dye project for your mouth.


Do I Need to Make the Cupcakes from Scratch?

Simple answer.  Absolutely not.

There is a longer answer.

It’s really up to you and how much time you have.

But let’s start with my secret about cake based desserts.  I rarely make the cake part from scratch.

For some reason, I have not yet mastered made from scratch cake making.  If you have the perfect no fail recipe for me to try, please leave it in the comments below.

I think it’s because of time.  Making cake from scratch takes some forethought and a lot of time.  The process just hasn’t fit into hosting a “simple” party yet.

When I host an event, there are usually multiple desserts involved.  And every time I try to add a cake from scratch into my dessert menu, something goes wrong.

It’s not that I haven’t tried.  I’ve taken cake making classes on Craftsy (affiliate).  And I’ve tried a variety of videos and read cake making tips galore.  There’s even this pastry making class called Keiko’s Cake that’s on my list to try. (affiliateWouldn’t those be fantastic desserts to learn how to make?

I have concluded, though, that the actual making of the cake isn’t the issue.  It’s having time to make it while I am in the middle of prepping the rest of the party.  Planning the perfect party isn’t always easy.  But you make it even harder the more steps you add.

So, from scratch cake making is a step I skip.

I use a cake mix from the store.  It’s easier, tastes wonderfully moist and guarantees that I won’t have to bake the cupcakes twice.

If you prefer to make cake from scratch and it’s your thing, then you can use your favorite vanilla cake mix for these red white and blue cupcakes too.  But it’s not necessary.


What Kind of Frosting Should I Make?

Although I don’t bake the cupcakes from scratch, I do make the frosting.  I find store bought frostings overly sweet and the consistency difficult to work with.

Due to their thickness, you have to spread store bought frostings on top of the cupcake.  I like to pipe my frosting into swirly towers, so it doesn’t work.

And, although you can’t tell when the cake isn’t made from scratch, you always know when store bought frosting was used.

The good news for dessert maker wannabees.  Frosting is one of the easiest things to make.

My favorite cupcake frosting is this cream cheese version from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

If you prefer buttercream frosting, you can make that instead.

Your choice really.  But make your frosting from scratch.  Your cupcakes (and guests) will thank you.


Can I Bring these Cupcakes on a Picnic?

So, that really depends on the type of frosting you use.  In a heat experiment conducted by King Arthur Baking Company, (yes, this really is a thing), they discovered that cream cheese frosting held up the best in hot weather.  .

Although cream cheese frosting is extremely durable, I do recommend that you place the cupcakes in the refrigerator to let them set first.

Then, they are ready to travel.  Take them to an outside dessert table, neighbor’s barbeque or even on a picnic.

Another frosting that stood up to the summer heat was Italian Buttercream.  Add a little shortening for some heat insurance and your cupcakes should do just fine.

How Do I Take Them to the Picnic or Other Event?

One of the first items I put on our registry when we got married was a cupcake carrier.  I wanted to make sure that I had a way of getting cupcakes to and from celebrations.

Since then, my need to transport desserts has grown.  These days I bring everything from brownies to sheet cakes to events.  So, having a container that can move it all safely is important.

My new favorite carrier is this portable dessert carrier from Snapware.  It’s easy to bring up to 24 cupcakes to an event.  I can even mix and match desserts.  So, I can stack brownies on the bottom and a dozen cupcakes on top.  (affiliate) 


How do I get the Marbled Look?

These red white and blue cupcakes have two kinds of marbling going on.  The cake and the frosting are both marbled.

I know.  That’s a lot of marbling.  But I couldn’t help myself.

To make the marbled look of the cupcakes, start by layering the batters in the cupcake liners.  I added a spoonful of the white batter.  Then, a spoonful each of the red and blue batters.  I finished off the layering with a spoonful of the white batter.

Since the look of marbling works best with white swirled in, topping the cupcake mixture with the white batter at the end is important.  This gave the baked cupcakes a more marbled look.

After the batter has been layered, use a toothpick to swirl the cupcakes.  They might look a little messy before going in the oven.  But the baked result will be a marbling masterpiece.

For the frosting, start with a basic white frosting.   Scoop the frosting into one side of the frosting bag.  Then, add the red on the right side and the blue on the left side.  Squeeze all of the colors down the icing bag toward the tip.

When frosting your cupcakes, the first icing to come out of the bag will probably be just one color.  This is normal.  Use that for a test cupcake.  After the first cupcake, you will get the swirled colors.

Do I have to marble my frosting too?  No.  I just wanted the entire cupcake to have a marbled look from top to bottom.  You can definitely leave the frosting white and just decorate.

What Kind of Cupcake Liners Should I Use?

When making cupcakes for an event, I like to use coordinating cupcake liners.  I try to match them to the party’s colors or holiday theme.  They make your cupcakes look like they belong on the dessert table.

For these red white and blue cupcakes, choose a patriotic cupcake liner mix (affiliate).  You could also bake them in red silicone liners (affiliate) if you don’t like the paper version.

Another idea is to place the finished cupcakes in baking cups before serving (affiliate).  After you have decorated your cupcake, add a baking cup around the base.  This will give the cupcakes a festive look for serving on the dessert table.


How Should I Decorate my Red White and Blue Cupcakes?

There are lots of ways to make your red white and blue cupcakes shine on the dessert table.  And give them a more patriotic look.

To the top of the frosting, add a patriotic sprinkles mix.  For my cupcakes, I used basic red and blue sprinkles.  You can also try this Star Spangled Sprinkle Mix (affiliate) for some more patriotic fun.  I love the gold jimmies and white stars that are mixed in.

Or add some edible red and blue luster dust (affiliate) for a shimmery look.

To the top of the cupcake, you can add a handmade star cupcake topper.  Or try this Mylar spray pick (affiliate).  It will make your cupcake look like it’s an exploding firework.  These vintage firecrackers are also fun (affiliate).  Or even these exploding fireworks made of paper (affiliate).  You can even choose the color of glitter cardstock you want to use.

Other cupcake topper options include red and blue fruit – strawberries and blueberries work well.  Or even red and blue candy (affiliate).  I love using patriotic M&Ms or Skittles to add a wonderfully sweet crunch to the top of the cupcake.

Do I Need to Use Food Gel?

Back in the day (and it really wasn’t that long ago), if I wanted to dye a food a color, I grabbed liquid food coloring.  Although it made the food a different color, the color was always washed out.  Especially after I baked it.

Then, I discovered the “real” bakers use food gels.  It took one experiment when making a tie dye rainbow cake for this ABC Birthday party to decide that I should also be using food gels.

Luckily, you no longer have to visit the specialty baking store in New York City to get them.  They are readily available all over the Internet.  So, now I use food gels for most recipes.

And it isn’t really an option.  The colors are much bolder and don’t disappear when you bake it.  I use them for egg dying, pasta necklace making and baking of all sorts.

My favorite food gels are from Americolor (affiliate). I love these because they use squeeze bottles.  Food gel is thick and sticky.  When they come in little tubs, it’s hard to measure out.  With the squeeze bottles, you can drop a specific amount into your batter easily.

For this recipe, I used a No Taste Red and Royal Blue (affiliates).  Each color comes in multiple color variations (a huge benefit over the regular liquid food coloring).

Why do you recommend a no taste red?  Although I love the squeeze bottle food gels from Americolor (affiliate) for ease of use, I like the No Taste Red from Wilton even more (affiliate).

When I first started using food gels in my baking, I discovered that there were two different kinds of reds.  The regular red sometimes left a bitter taste when eaten.  The No Taste Red doesn’t have this bitter after taste.  It actually doesn’t really have any taste once baked.  (I’ve never eaten it not baked.)

If you only have the small pots of food gel instead of the squeeze bottles, you can use a popsicle stick to get it out.  The popsicle stick is also good for mixing the color without getting your fingers dyed.


How to Make Red White and Blue Cupcakes

You Will Need:

Favorite Vanilla Cake Box Mix or Vanilla Cake Recipe

No Taste Red and Royal Blue Food Gel (I recommend these squeezable ones from Americolor.  It’s much easier to get the color out of the bottle. (affiliate))

1. Make the vanilla cake box batter according to the directions.

2.  Divide the batter into bowls for coloring.  The box cake batter makes about 3 cups of batter.  If you made the vanilla cake batter from scratch, you might have more batter.  So, decide how much to use for each color based on the amount of batter you made.

Keep in mind, though, to create the marbled look, you will need more white batter than the colored.

Place 3/4 cups of batter into a small bowl.  Add 2 to 4 drops of No Taste Red Food Gel.  Mix with a spoon.  If the red isn’t dark enough or looks more pink, add more food gel.

Place another 3/4 cups of batter into a different small bowl.  Add 2 to 4 drops of Royal Blue Food Gel.  Mix with a spoon.  Continue to add food gel until you get a dark blue.

A few more tips when using food gel…

You can always add more, but you can’t take some out.  When using food gel, start with only a little bit.  The color can be quite bold.  If you want more color, then add more.  If you add too much food gel in the beginning, you will have to live with the color or start over.

A little bit goes a long way.  Food gel is much more dense than the liquid food coloring.  So, use sparingly.

The batter will lighten when it bakes.  If you want a bolder batter color, then make it a little darker.  The batter tends to get a little less bold as it bakes.

3.  Once you have the dyed batter, it’s time to fill the cupcake liners.  Place 1 1/2 spoonfuls of white batter in the bottom of each cupcake liner.  A spoonful is a dinner spoon.  You can also use a cupcake batter scoop (affiliate).

Then, add a spoonful of red followed by a spoonful of blue.  Finally, add another spoonful of white on top.


4.  Using a toothpick, swirl the batter together.

Be sure not to over swirl the batter or you will turn it purple.

red white and blue cupcakes

5.  Bake the cupcakes according to box directions.  Let them cool completely before frosting them.

Event tip…  When making cupcakes (or even a cake) for a party dessert, I try to leave ample time for cooling.  The results are never good if you frost a warm cupcake.

To have enough time, schedule the cupcake baking the night before.  Then, they can cool over night and you can frost in the morning.

If you don’t have enough time, you can cool them down a lot faster by placing the refrigerator or even the freezer.

6.  Make the cream cheese frosting.  Here is our favorite cream cheese frosting recipe.  You can also choose a different kind of frosting.  See notes above.

7.  Divide the frosting into thirds.  Although you can measure, I estimated based on the amount of frosting in the bowl.  Keep it simple when you can.

8.  Place a third of the frosting into a bowl.  Add 2 to 3 drops of No Taste Red Food Gel and stir.  If the color looks too pink, add some more food gel until it is the desired color of red.

Place another third of frosting into a bowl and repeat with the Royal Blue Food Gel.

9.  Prepare your piping bag.  I use this star tip for piping my frostings (affiliate).  You can also use a round tip for a smoother look.

10.  Add the white frosting to the piping bag.  Smear along one of the edges.

Add the red frosting next to it.  Then, add the blue frosting.  The frostings should be in a circle in the frosting bag.

11.  Trim the bottom of the bag and squeeze the frosting down.  Frost the first cupcake.  For the first one, the frosting will probably be all one color.  Not to worry, though.  By the second frosted cupcake, you should have a marbled effect with all three colors.

red white and blue cupcakes

12.  Frost the cupcakes.  Then, decorate with your favorite patriotic themed toppings.


These marbled red white and blue cupcakes are perfect to serve at a Fourth of July picnic, Memorial Day barbeque or even a summer pool party.   They are delicious and sure to be a crowd favorite on the dessert table.

Love this recipe and want to pin for later?  Pin it here.


Looking for more Fourth of July ideas?  Add some patriotic fun to your Fourth of July water bottles with these Free Printable Fourth of July Water Bottle Labels.  Or if you are looking for some home décor ideas, create this beautiful Star Button Art for your mantel and hang this rustic Patriotic Yarn Bunting.

There are so many fun ways to celebrate the red, white and blue.

Happy Celebrating,

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