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Jackson Pollock cupcakes!

June 17, 2011

Also known as, paint splatter cupcakes! How amazing are they?

I first saw this concept done by Retro Bakery in Las Vegas. I can’t say for sure what they use for their paint splatters, but they come out amazing (view some here & some here). I’ve wanted to do it for a while, but I was putting it off for a few reasons: 1) I wasn’t sure what they used as “paint”, 2) It seemed messy & I was always dreading the clean-up, and 3) Everytime I remembered it, something else was going on… too hot out, I had to bake something else, etc. But I finally had the right conditions & frame of mind to do it, and went for it. And let me tell you- the clean-up was nothing. So I decided, after Googling, that Retro Bakery probably used something with a similar texture to Candy Melts, and also that using Royal Icing wasn’t for me. Some people do seem to use that, and some even use thinned-out buttercream, but I definitely wanted to use the melts for my “paint.” It just seemed like that would make a better consistency “paint” than anything else, and also be more pleasant to eat. Royal Icing isn’t always nice when you’re not expecting the slight crunch, and who would expect that when eating a cupcake? So I used 4 colors of Wilton Candy Melts; blue, red, yellow and green. Typical “paint” colors, right?



I decided I wanted to try it one night during a relative cool spell (68º degrees & breezy at 11 p.m. in New York in June! It’s a miracle! … but one that didn’t last very long, haha), and I think they came out spectacular. I also tried out a new vanilla cupcake recipe, one from Crumbs Bake Shop. I got the recipe online but it’s actually from this little boxed set. Not bad, I must say. Very moist and “bouncy” with a nice texture. However… I halved the following recipe and ended up with 18 cupcakes. Don’t ask. No idea. That always happens to me!



  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and almond extracts.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a small bowl. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.
  4. Fill each cup ¾ full with batter. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center of the cupcakes spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting.



  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream (perhaps more)


  1. Place the butter and shortening in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add the first pound and a half of powdered sugar, a cup at a time until all is incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl very well. Add the vanilla and mix again.
  2. Slowly add half of the heavy cream while the mixer is on, and beat for one minute.
  3. Add more cream or sugar as needed to achieve a frosting consistency that’s suitable to piping.


For the paint effect; bake the cupcakes and allow them to cool completely. Frost them as desired (I used a plain vanilla so the paint was more obvious, with this tip) and let the frosting “set” in a cool area for 10-15 minutes, or pop them in the fridge for a bit. Meanwhile, melt the Candy Melts according to the package and cover your work space with parchment paper. Set up your cupcakes on the paper and using a spoon and fork, “splatter” the melts on the cupcakes. You may need to “thin” the melts out a bit with some vegetable oil before you use it to splatter. Do a test run on the parchment, and if it’s too thick, add vegetable oil by the ¼ teaspoon, making sure to incorporate it thoroughly, until you reach the right consistency.

These are perfect for a kid’s party, or even for the 4th of July! Just use red & blue melts, and red & blue solid liners with a vanilla cake & vanilla frosting; you’ve got yourself a perfect “firework” cupcake. Or, how about an 80’s party? Use 80’s colors and alternate the frosting color with different color melts. You could adapt it for any holiday, really. But I think it’s really an idea that was just made for a little kid’s birthday party. I had no particular reason for making them, so I dubbed them “Jackson Pollock cupcakes.”

Oh- and if you don’t know who Jackson Pollock is, he was a painter, and here’s an example of his work called Convergence (click to see larger):


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  1. How fun. And I love your new photo too. I’ll have to try the paint splatter cupcakes, but it will have to wait until I get back from our motorcycle trip through Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. I totally agree with you about royal icing. It’s just the wrong texture to use on these babies.

  2. 80s cupcakes!!! that sounds amazing. i am obsessed with neon so that sounds like my ultimate bday cupcakes!! and these ARE spectacular! what a great job. i never saw this type of cupcake before, but am so happy you introduced us all to it! i did use a sort of splatter technique on some chocolate covered peeps this easter, but only used boring white over dark. this bring it to a whole other level.

  3. The 80’s cupcakes do sound like a lot of fun, don’t they? I kinda want some myself haha. If you could get a neon-y colored set of melts, and you used them on a dark chocolate cupcake with dark chocolate frosting, they’d look spectacular! I hope you like them!

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