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piñata cupcakes on a plate with a bite taken from one showing the sprinkles in the middle

Party people! Are we ready to say hello to a new year? Let’s do it with cupcakes that literally burst with confetti.

piñata cupcake on a white plate with a bite taken from it showing the sprinkles in the middle

I’ve gotten a few email requests for a cupcake recipe like this over the past year. Piñata cake in cupcake form. Usually it’s for gender reveal showers and parties– wouldn’t these be so fun for that with pink or blue sprinkles!!!– but, for my blog, I wanted to share a version that could be used for virtually any holiday or event. And I saved the recipe idea to share before New Years Eve because… rainbow sprinkles. ♥ ♥ ♥ 

When you bite into one and discover the surprise sprinkles/candies inside, you can’t help but smile. And while these piñata cupcakes may look tricky and complicated, trust me when I say they don’t require any special talents. If you know how to carve a hole in a cupcake and pour sprinkles inside, you can make party piñata cupcakes.

2 images of cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a colorful whisk and batter in a cupcake pan

We’re going to start the recipe with a basic vanilla cupcake. My recent favorite, simply perfect vanilla cupcakes, have secured their spot as my go-to vanilla cupcake. They’re fluffy and soft, sweet and light, moist and buttery all in one. We owe all of this magic to 4 power ingredients:

And honestly, every time I make them I can’t get over how fluffy they are. These homemade vanilla cupcakes are as fluffy and moist as box mix cupcakes, but are packed with the freshness and quality of homemade. That’s hard to come by with a from-scratch cupcake.

The only difference today is that I left out the vanilla bean. I ran out! But the extra vanilla flavor wasn’t missed because of all the sweet sprinkles packed inside.

One thing to remember: fill your cupcake liners only 2/3 full. Less is more. 2/3 full isn’t a lot. In fact, you might even question yourself and be tempted to add more. Don’t succumb to the pressure! Don’t overfill those liners! You’ll end up with mushroom looking oddballs, complete with flat tops and crisp edges. Quite the opposite of the soft and fluffy cupcake goal.

overhead image of vanilla cupcakes with the centers removed and filled with sprinkles

Once the vanilla cupcakes are baked and cooled, we’ll carve a hole into the centers, fill with sprinkles, and place the carved section back on top. Some detail:

These cupcakes are about 1.5 inches tall. You’ll want to carve a 1 inch deep section of cupcake out. This can be roughly 1 inch, a little less is perfectly fine. The section of cupcake you remove will be the shape of a cone (see above). I slice off a little of the narrow end of the cone because it won’t fit back on top with all the sprinkles inside. Does this make sense?

2 images of cupcakes filled with sprinkles and placing the cupcake top on and piping frosting on top

When you frost the piñata cupcakes, you won’t be able to tell that there’s anything inside. You can use any frosting– vanilla frosting, chocolate frosting, strawberry frosting, you name it. For these, I used my basic vanilla frosting. If you’re interested, the piping tip I used on the pictured cupcakes is the big Ateco #849 closed star tip. Working with this particular piping tip is very easy. All I do is start in the center of the cupcake, apply pressure to squeeze the frosting out, and slowly lift straight up. No swirling around the cupcake; just start on the center and lift straight up.

When I use the Wilton #12 tip (used and explained here), I do the same thing. Center of cupcake, lift straight up. These are 2 extremely simple piping tips to work with.

piñata cupcake with vanilla frosting

And for the surprise piñata filling?! I used Sweetapolita “Luxury Sweet Twinkle Sprinkle Medley” sprinkles. You can use any sprinkles or even fill with a mix of mini M&Ms, mini chocolate chips, chopped nuts, other tiny candies, etc. Those larger sprinkles are like Nerd candies and the silver balls are chocolate!!

piñata cupcake on a white plate with a bite taken from it showing the sprinkles in the middle

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piñata cupcakes on a plate with a bite taken from one showing the sprinkles in the middle

Party Piñata Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • Yield: 14 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American


Party piñata cupcakes filled with sprinkles are easy to make and ready for any celebration!


  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature*
  • 1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles, for filling*

Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 45 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream or whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners – this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites and vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners – fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan to cool completely.
  5. Fill the cupcakes: Using a sharp knife, cut a circle/hole into the center of the cupcake to create a little pocket about 1 inch deep. This piece you removed will be the shape of a cone. Set it aside. Place about 1 heaping teaspoon of sprinkles inside the cupcake. Slice off the pointy end of the “cone” piece of cupcake you removed so that it can fit on top of the sprinkle filling. See photos above for visual. Repeat with all cupcakes.
  6. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes. I used the Ateco #849 closed star tip.


  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Cupcakes, without filling, can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator then continue with step 5.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 5-qt Tilt Head Glass Measuring Bowl | Rainbow WhiskKitchenAid Hand Mixer | Cupcake Pan | Cupcake Liners | Icing Bag (Reusable or Disposable) | Icing Tip
  3. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, make this homemade cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups of cake flour in this recipe.
  4. Whole milk and full fat sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
  5. Instead of sprinkles inside, try mini M&Ms, crushed nuts, mini chocolate chips, and/or other small candies.

Keywords: piñata cupcakes, sprinkle cupcakes

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I made these cupcakes with my daughters for our NYE party. They were so much fun to make. We added sprinkles to the batter and filled the baked cupcakes with mini m&m’s. I didn’t have any cake flour on hand so I swapped out a couple tablespoons of all purpose flour for cornstarch – sifted it together and wha-la!, I saved myself a trip to the store. I followed your recipe almost exactly, however, I added 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract to the batter and buttercream frosting because the combination of vanilla and almond is divine – well, my daughters and I think so! Thanks for sharing! I enjoy reading about your baking process and many of your recipe’s are the ‘go to’ in our house! Happy New Year!

  2. I made these cupcakes and it turned out awsome. My family was so suprised when the sprinkles poured out. Thank you for your amazing recipes.

  3. I made these on a trial run and they were easy, fun and DELICIOUS! My husband said it was better than some fancy bakeries! (I’m typically not a baker, so this is a great comment!)

    One question…in your make ahead tips I see I can make the cupcakes a day early and the frosting too. Will it be okay to add refrigerated icing to a room temperature cupcake the morning of? I guess I mean will it stick to the cake and also pipe out well after being refrigerated? OR would it be better for me to ice the cupcakes when both are room temperature and then put all the iced cupcakes in the refrigerator?

    1. Hey Angela! That’s a great question. You can add cold refrigerated frosting on room temp cupcakes. That’s not a problem at all. If you aren’t piping the frosting, however, it might be difficult to spread with a knife if it’s very cold.

  4. I made these today for my sister’s birthday celebration. We had a Fiesta theme so the piñata cupcakes were perfect! I made these exactly by the recipe and was so happy with the way they turned out. My
    9 year old daughter loved filling them. We chose mini m&ms, mini bunch a crunch and star sprinkles. Everyone enjoyed them! 

  5. I have made these several times, they are a staple for special occasions! Question though…sometimes I make them and they remind me of cornbread…I figure it must be something I’m doing in the process. Can you help me determine what might be causing a cornbready flavor (when there is no cornmeal in the recipe? Overmixing? Undermixing? Temperature? I have followed your recipe to a T but perhaps I’m missing something.

    1. Overmeasuring the flour perhaps? How about spooning and leveling, if you haven’t already. Or weighing the flour to make sure you don’t have too much. Did you make any slight changes to the recipe, preparation, or ingredients?

  6. Hello Sally! These look absolutely lovely and I plan on making them for my husbands 30th birthday! I noticed you mentioned the only thing different in this recipe is the left out vanilla bean. If I added that half of vanilla bean seeds will these cupcakes be overly sweet?? 

    Either way can’t wait to make them!! 

  7. Hello,
    I’m just wondering how long the sprinkles stay nicely in the cupcakes? I want to make these cupcakes the day before my Bridal Shower but don’t want the sprinkles to get soft.
    Thank you!

    1. They won’t get too soft at all, especially only 1 day later. Enjoy!

  8. As you’ve already addressed this I am probably being rather redundant …  I’m concerned about the sprinkles bleeding.  I wonder if there are different kinds of sprinkles?  Perhaps I should do a test run.  The party isn’t until the end of August anyway.

    1. Using regular rainbow jimmies (the longer strands) typically will not bleed. I would avoid nonpareils. Enjoy!

  9. Sally, this is a stupid basic question, but what size is the scoop you use to scoop the cupcake batter into the liners? That’s a great way to get the same amount of batter into each liner.

  10. Hi Sally! Love this recipe.

    I have a question pertaining to the cake flour. If i use regular all-purpose flour would it make a big difference in taste and consistency?

  11. These were such fun cupcakes to serve! I use Wilton’s rainbow sprinkles. They’re a little soft and great for a cupcake filling.

  12. I just made these cupcakes and they taste awesome!
    I used a chocolate buttercream instead; I just whipped up random amounts of butter, unsweetened cocoa, and icing sugar, then added a few tbsp of milk till I reached a good consistency.
    Tastes amaaaziiinngggg!

  13. Absolutely! Add about 1/4 teaspoon more to the batter since you will lose a little flavor. (Pure is stronger than imitation.)

  14. Is it possible to follow this recipe for mini cupcakes? How long would you bake mini cupcakes? Also, what did you use to poke a hole into the cupcakes? Thinking of making some regular sized and some mini sized.

    1. This recipe makes around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. I use a knife to cut the holes – no fancy tools! You can see photos of this above.

  15. Amazing! Made today for my daughter’s third birthday tomorrow!

    Question: I always have issues with my buttercream turning out…curdled? Not sure what the right word it for it but basically ends up not the smoothest (not lumpy – I do get all the lumps out). What can I do to help prevent this?

    1. Hi Amanda! That’s an easy fix. Try using room temperature milk or cream in the frosting instead of cold milk or cream. And add a couple more Tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar to help soak up any of those wet curdles.

  16. Good afternoon,
    Could you use this recipe for a 6 inch layer piñata cake?

  17. Hi Sally,

    Can this recipe be doubled? I read in some of your other cupcakes recipes not to double so just wanted to ask.


    1. Hi Alex, For the best texture we recommend making one batch at a time.

  18. These look delicious! I’d like to make for my daughter’s birthday, is it possible to fill with whipped frosting/filling (so it’s not so heavy) instead of sprinkles? If so, do you have any recipe recommendations for a whipped frosting?

  19. These were tasty and fun for Zoom-baking with our niece. The cake is a bit more dense than our usual white cake. If you were in a pinch for time, think you could use any white cake and let them set overnight to be sturdy enough to cut the tops. What a fun time!!!

  20. Thos was a fun idea! Made these for one of my kid’s birthday and was a fun surprise!

    A little tip: I used an apple corer to get out a little cylinder of the cupcake, poured in the sprinkles, then popped the “plug” back in. It was so easy! Thanks for the great recipe:)

  21. I made these for my son’s daycare for his 3rd birthday and they were a huge hit! I had to use 3 different types of sprinkles, but that made it even more of a surprise for each kid. The cake itself was enjoyed by everyone, even the picky eaters.

  22. I made 4 batches of these this weekend for my niece’s graduation party. I stuffed them with the party themed color and graduation cap sprinkles. It was stated many times that “this is the BEST cupcake I’ve ever eaten!” Thanks Sally!

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