Piñata Cupcakes

My loathings are simple. stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music. My pleasures are the most intense known to man: writing and butterfly hunting. -Vladimir Nabokov

Whenever I encounter a butterfly, my mind is immediately flooded with thoughts of the author Vladimir Nabokov.  While he is most famous for Lolita, I prefer his other works, especially Speak, Memory, where the author’s personal character is more transparent.  While Nabokov’s memoir may be embellished upon, one thing remains true, that man loved his butterflies.  Anecdotes displaying his love for them flap playfully in and out of his flowery paragraphs.  It fascinates me how different artistic pursuits and hobbies can be in dialogue with each other within the same person.  Go read some Nabokov and let’s talk!

Recently I visited the butterfly conservatory inside of the American Museum of Natural History.  It’s pretty clear that I needed every reminder of warm weather that I could get.  Surrounded by floating flashes of color and clouds of air so humid that you could almost faint, it was a brief respite from the melting-but-cold world outside.

Now that 50 and 60 degree temperatures are finally here, it’s time to celebrate.  In honor of spring weather (which is full of surprises), I made piñata cupcakes with butterfly sprinkles.  When you bite into the cupcake, the secret sprinkles come pouring out.

These cupcakes are yuzu flavored.  Yuzu is a Japanese fruit with an invigorating citrus sweetness.  The cupcakes are also topped with yuzu buttercream.  They must be pretty good, because my roommate’s cat stole an entire cupcake from my table and ran off with it… that’s a first!

Scroll down for the recipe!

Yuzu Piñata Cupcakes

Makes about a dozen cupcakes


  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup yuzu juice
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 eggs at room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine white chocolate chips, almond milk, butter, and yuzu juice over a double boiler, until melted.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In an electric mixer, use a paddle attachment to beat the chocolate mixture together with the confectioners’ sugar.  Add eggs one at a time.
  5. Gradually add dry ingredients until well incorporated.
  6. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Let cupcakes cool before using a cupcake corer or a sharp spoon to carve out the center of each cupcake.

Yuzu Buttercream


  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yuzu juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • yellow food coloring, if desired


  1. Beat butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Gradually incorporate the confectioners’ sugar.
  3. Beat in yuzu juice and vanilla extract.
  4. If desired, add lemon zest and yellow food coloring.

To assemble:  After the cupcakes have cooled and you have removed the cores, fill with desired sprinkles.  Top with frosting to hide the secret interior.  Pro top: for the full piñata effect, use little Pocky cookies as mini baseball bats.  Blindfold and enjoy!


Cutie Pies

In honor of Pi Day, I decided to make cutie pies… adorable little pies that are literally made out of Cuties California Clementines!

cutie and pie

These California clementines are so sugary sweet that they can be eaten as candy.  Their size makes it easy to demolish a handful of them.  Luckily, you don’t have to feel bad about it!

barrel o cuties

Though I can’t recommend eating a handful of these miniature pies in one sitting, I can guarantee that you’ll want to!  Making clementine curd filling is very simple and took me about 15 minutes.

side by side

These treats are a refreshing update on the simple lemon tart.  While experimenting, I found that these cutie pies turned out a little too sweet when I used exclusively clementine juice to make the curd mixture.  To remedy this, I used half clementine and half lemon juice to add back the zing that many people associate with citrus pastries.

choco cutie

To make the pie crusts, I used left-over sablé tart dough that I brought home from pastry school.  Sablé means “sand” in French, and the crust crumbles apart with a sandy texture.  Any tart crust recipe will do the trick for these cutie pies though.

half and half

The time is now… whip up a cutie pie for your cutie pie!

cutie pie long shot_1


1/4 cup clementine juice, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3 large eggs, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 4 tablespoons of chopped unsalted butter, zest of two clementines, pinch of salt, tart or pie dough


  1. Combine all ingredients excluding butter in a saucepan but do not put on the heat yet.  Whisk ingredients together until well incorporated.
  2. Place on the heat and continue to whisk.  Stir constantly so that the eggs don’t cook and scramble.  Soon, the mixture will thicken.
  3. When mixture thickens, add the butter.  Adjust heat to low.
  4. Stir until the mixture no longer has lumps of butter and has a smooth consistency.
  5. Strain mixture into a container and let chill in the fridge.
  6. After the mixture has cooled, fill a piping bag and pipe the mixture evenly into chilled or room temperature tart shells.

cutie pie filling

cutie pie long shot