Make Movie Night even more fun with Buttered Popcorn Cupcakes! Buttery yellow cupcakes are topped with popcorn-flavored Swiss meringue buttercream and garnished with crunchy theater-style popcorn.
I’ve always loved experimenting with the flavor of popcorn in my sweets and baked goods. Back in 2014, when I was writing Sea Salt Sweet, I developed a silky, salty-sweet Buttered Popcorn Panna Cotta (page 147, for those that have it). Corn is sweet by nature, and already holds buttery notes. I think the flavor works remarkably well in desserts.
Today I’m adding another to the recipe index: Buttered Popcorn Cupcakes. They have true butter popcorn flavor, in a Willy Wonka’s Candy Factory kind of way. Or if you’re a fan of Jelly Belly’s Buttered Popcorn Jelly Beans? Well then. These are the cupcake version!
The flavor makers.
Start with my butter yellow cupcake recipe as the base for this confection. Cream together butter, sugar, and eggs, then add in the magic ingredient: Buttered Popcorn Flavoring Oil. Fat is an excellent carrier of flavor, so mixing it in at this stage with the butter ensures it will disperse well throughout the batter.
Add the dry ingredients and mix well until a thick pale yellow batter forms. Then scoop the batter into the cavities of a lined cupcake pan. This recipe makes exactly 12 cupcakes.
This step is optional, but I couldn’t help myself. I lightly brushed the top of each cupcake with melted salted butter. This just creates another layer of buttery flavor.
The right buttercream for the job.
Swiss meringue buttercream is the perfect choice for these cakes, and I’ll tell you why. It does not crust like American buttercream does. When a frosting ‘crusts’ it means the outer layer sets and becomes un-sticky. The popcorn garnish needs to be added just before serving so it’s nice and crunchy. Frost these cupcakes well ahead of time with the Swiss buttercream, and the frosting will keep its freshly piped texture. Well enough to hold on the popcorn just before you serve them to guests.
Pop your own corn, if you’d like. But the color and flavor of this prepackaged Brim’s ‘Movie Theater Butter” popcorn is a ringer for the real thing! I love it, and it’s made right here in Tennessee, too!
Pipe a big double swirl of buttercream on top of each cake and top with a handful of popcorn. I used a large open star pastry tip, which is Ateco 828.
Adventurous eaters and fans of Jelly Belly’s Buttered Popcorn Jellybeans will love these cupcakes! They’re perfect for family movie night. Or bookmark this recipe for next year’s Oscars viewing at home.
Check out my (award-winning!) Olive Oil Jalapeno Cornmeal Cake with Candied Citrus, if you’re just dipping a toe in to experimenting with corn flavor in desserts. It’s a good gateway to popcorn in desserts, and a wonderful ending to any meal.
Buttered Popcorn Cupcakes
- Cupcake pan
- 12 cupcake liners
- 6 "ticket" cupcake wrappers optional
- 6 red and white stripe baking cups optional
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 dram bottle LorAnn Buttered Popcorn Flavor .125 oz
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1/2 cup buttermilk at room temperature
Swiss meringue buttercream and garnish
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups salted butter at room temperature
- 1 dram bottle LorAnn Buttered Popcorn Flavor .125 oz.
- Yellow gel food color
- Orange gel food color
- 3 cups prepared movie theater style popcorn such as Brim’s
Yellow butter cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the buttered popcorn flavor. Scrape down the bowl and mix to incorporate once more.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the creamed mixture. Begin and end with flour, and mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and fold together any bits of remaining butter or flour by hand.
- Using an ice cream scoop, or a 1/4 cup measure, divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes or until they spring back when pressed in their centers. Allow them to cool in the pan for 3 -5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Buttered popcorn Swiss meringue buttercream
- Place a saucepan filled 1/3 full of water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
- In a large stainless-steel bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over the simmering water and cook while whisking intermittently. Cook until the mixture is hot (110°F) and you can no longer feel sugar granules when the mixture is rubbed between your finger and thumb. Transfer the hot mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes or until a thick, shiny meringue forms that holds stiff peaks. The bowl should feel cool to the touch. If it doesn’t, refrigerate the meringue in the bowl for 10 minutes. Return the bowl to the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment.
- Beat the room temperature butter into the meringue one cube at a time on medium-low speed, waiting to add the next cube when the previous cube disappears. The batter will deflate with the butter addition, and may even look curdled (if the butter was the slightest bit cold this happens), but this is normal. When all of the butter is added, beat the mixture on high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the buttered popcorn flavor. Add drops of yellow gel food color until a bright yellow hue is achieved. Add 1 or 2 drops of orange food color to bring the hue closer to the color of theatre style buttery popcorn. Scrape down the bowl and beat on high speed until fluffy and the color is consistent.
- Place the buttercream in a large pastry bag fitted with a large French piping tip, such as Ateco #828. Pipe a large double swirl of buttercream on top of each cupcake. Don’t top cupcakes with the popcorn until just before serving.
- Just before serving or displaying cupcakes, top each with a handful of crunchy theater style popcorn. The popcorn will become hydrated over time, so serve within an hour of garnishing.