Tropical Vanilla Sunset Cupcakes

My good friend Christen had a birthday recently so I made her some extra special cupcakes. They were inspired by a name given to her by her sister Stephanie (during a Skype call, involving glasses of wine, I'm told) - vanilla sunset- because Christen is the only blonde sister in the family. I thought that was just the cutest thing, and when I heard those words I immediately thought - vanilla sunset needs to be a cake!

These were so much fun to make. The cake portion is flavored with pineapple juice, and in addition to that, the colorful layers are flavored with pineapple, orange and coconut extracts. See that little pipette sticking out from the side? That's where the magic happens. It's filled with a mixture of coconut rum and grenadine. Just give it a squeeze before you take a bite - yum! Such an easy way to spike a cupcake, and it adds some interactive novelty for parties and special occasions.

Let's talk about these cupcake toppers for a minute. Too stinkin' cute, right? I found them in this Etsy seller's shop.  I had to have them for these cupcakes, because once when I was having a very bad day, Christen told me my cardigan was everything. Sometimes that's all it takes to turn things around - a little bit of kindness - your friend telling you that your cardigan is everything.

The pipettes can be found for purchase here. They open up a whole new world of possibility for flavoring sweets. I can't wait to use them with other desserts (I'm looking at you, choux puffs!).

A few notes about these cakes:

I used Tahitian vanilla bean seeds in both the cupcake and frosting recipe, and I recommend you do the same. Tahitian vanilla has just the right fruity-floral aroma for this cake. It's a pineapple and coconut flavor-elevator!

I baked these cupcakes in white cupcake liners. I usually double up on cupcake liners because it looks neater (cleaner?) somehow, but not this time. A single liner will allow all those pretty layers of color to show through.

Christen loves Passoa, a Brazilian passion fruit liqueur. It's hard to procure here in the states, but if you have access some I strongly suggest you try it in the pipettes!

Tropical Vanilla Sunset Cupcakes
Author: Heather Baird
Yields 13 cupcakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
Seeds of 1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon red gel food color
1/2 teaspoon orange gel food color
1/2 teaspoon yellow gel food color
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/2 teaspoon pineapple extract (or 4 drops Lorann pineapple flavoring oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan (two if you have them) with white paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until well creamed. In a small bowl combine the sugar and the seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean. Mix together with your fingers until the vanilla beans are well dispersed into the sugar. Add the sugar mixture to the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup pineapple juice and 1/2 cup sour cream. Add flour mixture and pineapple juice mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Divide the batter evenly between 4 medium bowls (biodegradable paper bowls will make cleanup easy). Tint one bowl of batter red, one orange and one yellow with the gel food colors; leave one bowl untinted. Stir the coconut extract into the red batter, Stir the orange extract into the orange batter. Stir the pineapple oil into the yellow batter.

Transfer each batter to disposable piping bags or zip-top bags. Snip the tip of the piping bag (or corner of the plastic bag) and pipe the red tinted batter evenly into the bottoms of each cupcake liner. Repeat process using the orange next, then the yellow and finally the plain batter.
Note: in a pinch, you may also layer the batters into the cupcake papers with a spoon.

Bake for 17-22 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when pressed in the centers. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.

Double vanilla frosting and rum pipettes
2 sticks of butter softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
Seeds of 1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut rum or Passoa passion fruit liqueur
1/4 cup grenadine
13 cupcake pipettes

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream softened butter and powdered sugar together. Add the vanilla seeds; beat again until the frosting is thick and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again briefly. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star decorator tip and pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

Combine the coconut rum and grenadine in a small bowl. Fill pipettes with the rum mixture. Insert the pipettes into the cupcakes up to 3 hours before serving.

link Tropical Vanilla Sunset Cupcakes By Published: Tropical Vanilla Sunset Cupcake Recipe


  1. Absolutely beautiful cupcakes! I am now having a "why didn't I think of that?" moment over those pipettes. I am definitely adding this to my "must try" list.

  2. They are soo cute and the toppers too.
    You are 100% right.
    A small kindness can turn a day around..and sometimes even a life.

  3. These are so pretty! And I love those cake toppers, so awesome!

  4. I love how they were inspired by a complete random source! They are gorgeous to look at and I bet they taste even better. How clever are the pipettes to add in extra flavor!

  5. these are awesome!!! one of my favorite things you've made, ever! love them!

  6. Absolutely amazing!! Love all your recipes. Your presentation is perfect evertytime, that's the best part. Im sure they taste divine too

  7. omg, those cupcake toppers. i die. <3

  8. Love the colors of the cake and the toppers are great too!

  9. Beautiful! I bet that was the best present ever!

  10. I love how these cupcake just scream summertime and how you added the rum pipettes too! Awesome idea, I bet they taste delicious!

  11. I bet Christine felt very special -- what a personal homage to a good friend!

  12. These look amazing. I totally need to learn how to make this. I feel a recipe test coming... (when I am bold enough!)

  13. I have a friend who is so anti-orange flavored anything it is absurd. If I swapped the orange out for lemon in that one layer do you think it would still be tasty, or do you think it would mess the overall tastiness up?

    1. Hi Caroline,

      Lemon extract will work well in place of the orange. The overall flavor will still be tropical!

      Thanks for asking! -h

  14. Could I use Lorann oils instead of orange and coconut extracts? Also can I leave out the pineapple juice so the untinted portion is just vanilla and not more pineapple?


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