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Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Filling

hostess look-alike devil’s food cupcakes

Who can resist a cream filled chocolate cupcake? It brings back childhood memories for almost everyone, whether your parents let you eat them or you bartered for them with other snack items in the lunchroom.

The cream filling recipe I used was given to me a long time ago by a lovely (former) food blogger, Alice (of “My Adventures in the Breadbox” if any of you remember the site). The recipe produces a filling that is very light and creamy, somewhat more substantial than the ethereal, chemical-laden fillings of some snack cakes, but with a very similar flavor profile (i.e. cream and vanilla, but not much more). It originally called for shortening, which contributes to a smooth texture without adding a lot of flavor of its own. I would recommend trans-fat free shortening if you want to stick to the original, of course, but if you want to skip it altogether, you can definitely use unsalted butter in the filling instead. I’ve done it both ways and they work equally well. The cupcakes pictured here had butter in the filling.

These cupcakes have a very slight reddish hue to them (hence the “devil’s food” bit of the name) and are moist, tender and chocolaty. They are neither too light, nor too heavy, which makes them amazing to work with. You can cut into them easily without the cake crumbling in your fingers and both the flavor and the texture stand up well to the indulgent cream filling. I topped them off with a relatively thin layer of quick chocolate buttercream frosting, which is easy to make and tasty, as well as a small white spiral of leftover filling.

I suppose it is just personal preference, but don’t like to use cupcake wrappers for cream-filled chocolate cupcakes. Instead, I prefer just to lightly grease the pans I work with. This is partly because I know that I haven’t pulled too many prepackaged cream-filled cupcakes out of the package with wrappers stuck to the cake, but primarily because I like the way the cakes look without them. After all, isn’t it more inviting to see a cream-filled cake that you can just bite right into, rather than one where you have to fiddle with a paper wrapper first?

devil’s food cupcake cream innards

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Cream Filling
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream (low fat or full)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2-oz dark chocolate
1 cup water, boiling

Preheat the oven to 350F and lightly grease two 12-cup muffin tins.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by sour cream and vanilla extract.
Stir the cocoa powder and the dark chocolate into the boiling water (easiest in a large measuring cup). Pour chocolate water into the rest of the batter and stir until uniform.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Add half of flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the chocolate mixture, followed by the addition of the rest of the flour mix. Stir well between each addition and mix until no streaks of flour remain.
Evenly distribute batter into prepared baking cups. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a tester comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. (It’s fine if you can’t fit both trays into the oven at the same time, just wait until one batch finishes before putting in the second pan)
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and filling.

Vanilla Cream Filling
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup butter (or trans fat-free shortening)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 scraped vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk together the flour and milk and cook in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This will only take a few minutes. Sir continuously to prevent the mixture from clumping and do not bring all the way to a boil. When thickened (consistency will be that of a thin pudding or custard), strain with a mesh strainer into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let cool completely to room temperature.
When the milk mixture is cool, cream the butter (or shortening) and sugar together in a medium bowl until lightl. Add in the milk/flour mixture and the scraped vanilla bean seeds (or vanilla extract) and beat at high speed with an electrick mixer for 7 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip, or a large ziplock bag with the corner cut off, and set aside until ready to fill your cupcakes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat, with an electric mixer, until frosting is creamy, 3-5 minutes. Add additional powdered sugar as needed to achieve a thick, but not stiff, frosting that is easy to spread. Add additional milk, if necessary, to thin the frosting if it gets too thick.

(A photo how-to of the assembly method can be found here.) Take a cooled cupcake and, using a small pairing knife, cut a cone of cake (1-inch across by 1-inch deep) out of the top. Trim off the pointy end of the cone, leaving a flat circle of cake. Set aside and repeat this process for all the cupcakes.
Take the cream filling and squeeze a tablespoon or so into each cupcake cavity, filling the hole up to the top with filling. Top off with a flat circle of cake to plug the hole and keep the filling in place.
Using a butter knife or a small offset spatula, frost each cupcake with a layer of chocolate buttercream frosting. Place a dollop of icing in the center of the cupcake (on top of the cut out circle of cake) and spread from the center to the sides of the cupcake.
If you have leftover filling, transfer it to a fresh ziploc bag and cut a very small opening in one corner. Pipe a swirly line down the center of each cupcake.
Store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Makes 2-dozen.

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  • daphne
    September 17, 2007

    goodness me. This must be the 4th cupcake entry today (including mine)! =) I love it when inspiration knocks on so many doors. Yummy looking-especially with the vanilla cream inside.

  • Josephine
    September 17, 2007

    Saw from the web that buttermilk can DIY, but do not understand what is regular milk? Is it fresh milk, full cream milk or condenser milk?
    Hope to get your reply asap.
    Thank in advance

  • Nicole
    September 17, 2007

    Josephine – Regular milk would be plain cow’s milk.

  • Johnny
    September 17, 2007

    little debbie!

  • gail
    September 18, 2007

    wow looks yummy!

    is there a way for me to make my own sour cream?

  • Nicole
    September 18, 2007

    Gail – There are ways to make your own sour cream. You can find some instructions here: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/recipe_sourcream.htm
    Personally, I prefer to stick with storebought sour cream, since it is more reliable and because I usually buy the low fat and not full fat version

  • Megan
    September 18, 2007

    Yum! You have no idea how large my weakness for cream filled cupcakes is… I’m going to try this one out this week!

  • gail
    September 18, 2007

    Thanks Nicole!

  • Nicole
    September 19, 2007

    If you want more detailed instructions on how the filling gets into the cupcakes, check out this how-to post I wrote up: http://bakingbites.com/2007/09/how-to-make-filled-cupcakes-step-by-step/

  • Kelly
    February 2, 2008

    Hi! I just found your blog a couple of days ago and tonight I made your Vanilla cream filling – it is delicious! Lovely and creamy and not too sweet! I have a question though, does it need to be refrigerated (I’m guessing yes, due to the milk, but wanted to check,as its hard to find good fillings that don’t need refrigerating!) and what is its shelf (or fridge!) life?



  • Amy Jill
    May 3, 2008

    Hello! I found this post by googling for filled cupcakes. I’ve never made cake without a mix, but I’m now happily converted. I will never buy another mix. These cupcakes are AWESOME. Thank you for inspiring me to try something new. I can guarantee you that “ho-ho cupcakes” (as my kids now call them) will be a regular birthday party feature at our house. Thanks again!

  • Sheri
    August 19, 2008


    I have to tell you that this recipe is fantastic! I have made it twice for family members on their birthdays. Someone always asks for the recipe! It always turns out perfect and the flavors are so delicious! This will definitely be a keeper of a recipe for me! Thanks so much for sharing it on the blog!!! 🙂

  • lionheart
    August 19, 2008

    What! Those look amazing! I want one now.

  • lyndsay
    September 14, 2008

    thanks for posting this! great method for filling cupcakes too!

  • kate
    November 16, 2008

    these are truly the BEST cupcakes I have ever tasted. and i have tasted ALOT of cupcakes. the cupcakes turned out so PERFECT that i opted Not to do the filling because i was worried i’d ruin the perfection. Huge hit at the birthday party. THANK YOU!!! will definately go for the filling next time.

  • Liz
    February 26, 2009

    Awesome recipe!! thank you!! i’ve been looking for a new cream-filled cupcake recipe since my other one had a ton of corn syrup in the filling… I wanted something more simple.

    Also a note, you can easily use plain yogurt in place of sour cream in your cakes, since I always have it on hand instead of sour cream. It has the same texture, has less fat, and I find the finished product tastes about the same anyways.

  • dana
    February 26, 2009

    i love you. thank you for sharing this..i am in process of making filled cupcakes and the little pastry bag tip only deposited a too small amt of filling, so this is perfect. thank you so much!

  • lieben
    March 3, 2009

    Interessante Informationen.

  • Lynne
    March 3, 2009

    This is a delicious recipe. So moist. Not too sweet. I used Hersheys dark cocoa so they were really dark. Fantastic!

  • Shawna
    May 9, 2009

    Is the butter salted or unsalted? These look fabulous!

  • michelle
    August 10, 2009

    These instructions are great thank you for doing this!

  • Barb
    August 14, 2009

    I was impressed at how well they turned out. LOVE the filling!

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  • Maude
    February 10, 2010

    I made these today while I was snowed in and they were absolulety delicious!! I little more work than I am used to but it was well worth it!!

  • annie
    May 11, 2010

    did not turn out help, when i added the vanilla it never thickened it just got runny and had to throw it away

  • Ellen
    July 30, 2010

    I used this with a marble cake for the filling. Ironically, it was a cupcake shaped cake! I’m glad I have some left over because I’m going to eat up the rest with some vanilla cake I made. This is a keeper.

  • Sara
    August 13, 2010

    I tried making the filling. The flour and milk part was fine, and the creaming of the butter was fine.. But when I added all of the ingredients and beat for seven minutes, the mixture was still soupy and it looked as though the milk had curdled. Not sure what happened..

  • Tyra M
    August 13, 2010

    The filling tastes great (unlike the shortening and marshmallow cream version I tried first). The frosting is really rich and delicious too. This will be a hit for my son’s birthday. Thanks!

  • Dani
    August 25, 2010

    Can I refrigerate the cream filling if I do not intend on using it right away? Or, will it be okay if I leave it out for a few hours? Since it has milk in it, I am concerned…

  • jamie
    August 27, 2010

    Annie and Sarah,
    My thoughts:
    1. Did your flour and milk mixture get thick enough? Mine actually got too thick and I added a little warm milk to get it similar to a thin pudding?
    2. Was your butter at room temperature?
    If it was melted completely it could have caused it to become soupy.
    3. Was your milk mixture cooled completely?
    If not it probably melted the butter and sugar mixture some giving you the soupy result.

  • Shannon
    October 29, 2010

    Hey, I just wanted to say that not only did these cupcakes turn out unbelievably tasty but the guests at my halloween party scarffed these down very very quickly! Her method of filling the cupcakes was a cinch and the cream filling was a dream. 🙂 I highly recommend this to anybody 😀

  • mary
    December 2, 2010

    I loved this recipe– I actually make a square (glass) 8×8 cake of this chocolate cake mixture and I cut the baked cake in good sized squares when cooled–and then, I run a knife in the middle of each lifted out square and added the cream filling in-between (so that it looks like a sandwich filling) I individually frost the top –then serve it. Each portion is nice and fresh–because I top the square glass cake pan with saran wrap ! You can do this to any kind of flavored cake with this vanilla filling!

  • Erin
    March 8, 2011

    I was looking for a cream filling recipe similar to hostess for my daughters cake. She wants that as the middle..vs frosting! Thank you! 🙂

  • Jeff
    July 22, 2011

    This cupcakes are so devilicious 🙂

  • alysha
    August 12, 2011

    Well, I tried the filling and it’s TERRIBLE. Sorry but I did it according to directions, it looked AMAZING and tastes great. Then right after, it starts to separate. When I tried to fill my cupcakes, all I had was liquid coming out of them. :/ ruined the entire batch and I needed them tonight for my fiancees bestfriends girlfriends 21st bday (ya, lots to say)

  • Jenn
    September 29, 2011

    Thanks so much for this .
    i just finished making these .
    they’re GREAT , i love them 😀 !

  • salpal
    January 16, 2012

    These were wonderful and tasty! I suggest cutting the icing recipe in half. I generously iced my little cakes and had half the icing left over. Oh well….. 🙂 🙂
    I accidentally let the “pudding” become too thick (happens quickly!), so I added a bit more milk. Worked like a charm, and everyone at the adult birthday party raved. Thank you! Oh, and I didn’t strain it, I just used a kitchen tool that looks like a spring with a flat end, (name??). That took care of any lumps.

  • Loni
    April 4, 2012

    Hi, Thanks so much. I love the recipe, and it received my daughters standing ovation as well. I tried the marshmallow cream version first, and was entirely disappointed as I love marshmallow. This recipe tastes much better, and wasn’t any harder to make than the marshmallow recipe. Excited!

  • madison
    July 3, 2012

    the cupcakes were great neer tasted a cupcake like this

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