Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


"You're a Star!" Surprise Cupcakes for Back-to-School

I always like to mark the beginning of the school year with a special treat – either tucked into a lunchbox or waiting with a big glass of milk at the end of the day.

I made a "surprise" birthday cake for my son last year that had a hidden shape inside, and have been smitten with the idea ever since. I decided that cupcakes with a star hiding within would be the perfect treat to kick off the new school year.

I went with green and white (our school colors) for the cupcakes and stars, and lots of rainbow colors for the liners, décor and toppers.

Making surprise cupcakes are "surprisingly" easy — given how impressive they look— but here are a few helpful hints to ensure success:

* You want to use a dense cake batter, to keep your shape from rising too high while baking. Boxed cake mix is perfect, but of course you can go homemade — just avoid angel food or sponge cake batters.

* For maximum impact, use gel paste dye to tint your shape, versus traditional liquid food coloring. The gels result in rich, deep colors, which contrast beautifully with the surrounding cake.

* Don't worry if your shape sticks slightly out of the top of the cupcake. You'll be frosting the tops, which will cover any flaws perfectly!

* I chose a star shape but the sky's the limit. You can use letters, numbers or any shape imaginable. You can use this same idea for a pumpkin during Halloween or Thanksgiving, a heart for Valentine's Day, and even a 4-leaf clover for St. Patrick's Day!

See the dot? This is the front of the cupcake. Encourage guests to bite into it starting here.

Recipe: Star Surprise Cupcakes

Yields: 12 cupcakes


  • 1 box white cake mix
  • 1 can frosting
  • gel paste dye
  • assorted toppers and decor, for decorating


  1. Place a dot on the outside of each of 12 cupcake liners. Place in a cupcake tin, with all the dots facing the same direction. This will be the front of the cupcake so you can arrange your stars in the right direction. Grease an 8" x 8" baking pan.
  2. Pre-heat oven and prepare cupcake batter according to package directions. Transfer about 1/3 of the batter to a small bowl and tint with the gel paste dye till the desired shade is reached. Pour into your prepared baking pan and bake for 12 minutes (place remaining batter in fridge till ready to use). Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely (you can pop in the fridge or freezer to speed things up).
  3. Using a small cutter (about 1-2"), cut out 12 shapes from the cooled cake. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of plain batter into each of your cupcake liners. Place your shapes standing up — and facing the same direction as the dots into the batter. Carefully scoop or pour remaining batter around and on top of the shapes.
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or till a toothpick comes out clean.Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired, placing decor on top facing the same direction as the dots, so that when your guests bite into the cupcake the shape is revealed.

How will you celebrate your "stars" in September?

Images via Sheri Silver

More from food