This mini cupcake is loaded with the delicious cinnamon flavor of a churro, topped with a cream cheese frosting, and really goes above and beyond with churro popcorn (!!!) on top. Confession time: this “churro cupcake” is only a churro cupcake because it has cinnamon in it. I call it a churro cupcake because I needed a dessert for nacho night, so I had to fit the theme. It could easily be called cinnamon cupcake. But anyways, since today is Tuesday, if you’re like half of America and celebrating Taco Tuesday, you better have a worthy dessert ready – here’s your answer!
They say that cinnamon is supposed to be good for you – they have cinnamon pills, so it must be true. Since these cupcakes have cinnamon in them and on top of them, they must be good for your health! I have no merit to give any medical advice, but I’m just making logical conclusions that are hard to argue…Anyways, back to raving about the cupcake. Whatever you call it, it is mighty delicious, and the best part is that it’s EASY! There are a couple steps because you have to make the cupcake, frosting, and popcorn, but each step is pretty simple and easy to follow along.
First, make your cupcake batter. Mix the contents of one box of cake mix, the ingredients listed on the box, pudding powder and cinnamon. (Side note: whenever I make cake batter from a box, I usually sub the water for milk, oil for butter, and add an extra egg). I used yellow cake mix because that’s what I had in my pantry, but french vanilla or white cake have a milder flavor, so those might be better options. Also, the recipe I was looking at (this one) called for 1 tbsp of cinnamon in the batter – I used closer to 2 tbsp. The addition of pudding powder makes the cupcake texture kind of reminiscent of a pumpkin muffin (a little moist but fluffy, with a touch of stickiness) – if that’s not your favorite texture, leave the pudding powder out. Fill your lined cupcake pan (about 2/3 full) and bake. I used a mini cupcake pan (because that’s what I have, and plus, mini things are just so cute), and they took about 10-11 minutes to bake. I used my tablespoon measurer and had a heaping tablespoon of batter per cupcake. I got 44 minis out of the batter. Feel free to make regular sized cupcakes – just adjust the time they bake to 12-17 mins (you should get about 24 regular sized cupcakes). Once they’re done baking, let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then remove and let cool completely.
Now’s a good time to make the popcorn (I followed this recipe). Put your popcorn kernels in a brown paper bag, fold it closed (about 2 or 3 small rolls should be good) leaving enough room for the popcorn to pop, and microwave for 1.5-2 minutes (mine took 2 mins). Supposedly it’s done when there is 1 second between the pops? Pour your popped popcorn in a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together cinnamon, white sugar, and powdered sugar – set aside. In a small saucepan or pot, melt and mix together your butter and cinnamon chips over medium heat. Once it’s combined, it’s done. While it’s hot, pour it over your popcorn and mix gently but thoroughly with a silicone spatula. This sweetens and flavors the popcorn, but also makes it wet so the sugar and cinnamon can stick. Now pour your sugar mixture over your coated popcorn, and mix gently. There’s your topping! You’ll have some leftover popcorn – you can either just eat it while you’re assembling your cupcakes, or store it in an airtight container for up to 1 day. (A little note about this popcorn: it is very delicious, but the texture is not crispy like a caramel corn, so don’t expect that like I did. In the future, I want to modify this recipe to make kettle corn with this flavor…stay tuned!)
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Beat your softened block of cream cheese and butter until combined. Add salt and vanilla extract. Add and mix in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until desired consistency is reached. I used 4 cups of sugar. Put frosting into a piping bag or ziplock bag. Frost your cupcakes and top with popcorn! If you’re not going to serve your cupcakes immediately, I would recommend 2 things: 1. refrigerate your cupcakes, take them out and let them sit at room temp for about an hour before service; and 2. Wait to put the popcorn on right before your serve them (they’ll probably soak up moisture from the frosting and become soggy).
So there you have it! Your churro cupcake (or cinnamon cupcake) with a deliciously cute topping! You know how churros sometimes come with chocolate dipping sauce? Next time I make these, I might try drizzling some chocolate over the top. Drooling already. I hope you enjoy these!
- 1 box cake mix (french vanilla or white) + ingredients on the box
- 1 small box vanilla pudding
- 1.5 tbsp cinnamon
- 1/3 cup popcorn kernels
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1.5 tsp cinnamon
- 3.5 tbsp butter
- 1/3 cup cinnamon chips*
- 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Mix all ingredients until combined.
- Line cupcake pan (24 regular or 40 minis) and fill about 2/3 full.
- Bake until toothpick comes out clean (12-17 mins for regular, 9-13 for minis).
- Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, remove and let cool completely.
- Put popcorn kernels in brown paper bag. Fold over to close (2-3 small rolls).
- Microwave for 1.5-2 minutes.
- Pour popcorn into large bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix to combine sugar, powdered sugar, and cinnamon.
- In a small pot/saucepan, melt butter and cinnamon chips over medium heat until combined.
- While it's hot, pour butter/cinnamon mixture over popcorn. Mix gently but thoroughly.
- Pour sugar mixture over coated popcorn, and mix.
- Set aside until it's time to top your cupcakes. Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 day.
- Beat cream cheese and butter until combined.
- Mix in vanilla extract and salt.
- Add 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time and beat. Add until desired consistency is reached**
- Fill a piping bag or ziplock back with frosting. Frost all your cupcakes, and top with popcorn.
- * These are found in the baking section. If you can't find them, maybe you can sub white chocolate and add about 1 tsp of cinnamon. I have not tried this, so cannot say if it will turn out the same or not.
- **You can add milk if you need to water it down.