Imagine making homemade Hostess cupcakes, without all the questionable ingredients and that, we swear, taste like an exact copycat of the original, including the fluffy white filling and the drizzly icing for those cute curlicues.
These homemade Hostess cupcakes are unspeakably better than those preservative-laden, shrink-wrapped chocolate cake imposters you grew up on. Swear. In the words of one of our recipe testers, these are “the soft and squidgy cake of my childhood dreams.” And they come complete with the “oddly alluring plastic-like chocolate frosting with white squiggles which spreads across the top like a bedspread, hiding the chocolate crumb cake and creamy center beneath,” according to the genius who devised this copycat recipe, Jennifer Steinhauer. Don’t let the various components of the recipe deter you. As Steinhauer says, “It sounds like a lot of work, but it all goes pretty quickly.” –Renee Schettler Rossi
Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
- 6- and 12-muffin tins
For the cupcakes
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 sticks (8 oz) salted butter at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 cup natural cocoa powder such as Hershey’s Baking Cocoa sifted
- 1/2 cup whole milk
For the filling
- 1 cup marshmallow fluff
- 1/3 cup (2 2/3 oz) salted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
For the frosting
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup bittersweet chocolate morsels
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 oz) salted butter softened
For the frosting decoration (optional)
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Make the cupcake batter
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line both a 6- and a 12-muffin tin with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and sea salt.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and the granulated sugar just until light and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix just until combined after each addition.
- In a small bowl, vigorously whisk the hot water and the cocoa together until smooth. (If the mixture clumps, whisk a little more vigorously or reach for an electric mixer and beat until smooth.)
☞TESTER TIP: You can avoid the potential for clumping by instead simply beating this in your stand mixer for 10 seconds.
- Add the cocoa mixture to the mixture in the stand mixer and beat on low speed for 10 seconds. With the mixer still on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating just until the ingredients are blended after each addition.
- Dollop some of the chocolate cupcake batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each halfway. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the tin(s) for about 5 minutes and then remove and cool completely on a wire rack. [Editor's Note: The chocolate cupcakes may seem a touch dry and crumbly when they come out of the oven. Once the cupcakes have been allowed to cool, pumped full of marshmallow fluff filling, and have had a moment to collect themselves, though, they turn to be wonderfully moist through and through.]
Make the filling
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the marshmallow fluff, butter, and confectioners’ sugar together until well combined and fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a hole in the top center of each cake. Gently rotate the utensil in each hole to create a small cavity in the center of the cupcake that's slightly wider at the bottom than it is at the top.
- Transfer the filling to a piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with a bottom corner snipped off. Pipe just enough marshmallow mixture into each cupcake to fill each hole. You want a keep a firm grasp on your cupcake as you infuse it with the filling so as not to allow it to explode; once you feel it growing in size, show restraint—stop pumping the cupcake full of marshmallow fluff and return it to the muffin cup. Use a wet fingertip or the back of a spoon to tamp down any marshmallow peaks, ensuring that the filling is even with the top of the cupcake. The top of each cupcake should be flat.
Make the frosting
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream just until bubbles begin to form at the edges. Add the chocolate and remove the pan from the heat, stirring until the chocolate melts. Add the butter and continue to stir until smooth. Let cool for 3 minutes.
- Scrape the chocolate into a large, deep, glass bowl. Dip the top of each cupcake into the chocolate to coat, letting the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl, or use an offset spatula to frost the top of each cupcake. Let the cupcakes rest on a wire rack set over newspapers until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.
Make the frosting decoration
- In a small bowl, beat the butter and the confectioners’ sugar together until smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag and decorate the top of each cupcake with a curlicue pattern.
Serve the cupcakes
- Wait! Your cupcakes are not ready yet. Stash them in an airtight container for at least 6 hours and up to 2 days before serving. This allows the cakes to take on some of the moisture from the filling and to achieve that classic, coveted, soft-but-not-mushy, authentic Hostess cupcake-like texture. You're welcome.
If Your Favorite Part Of Hostess Cupcakes Is The FillingIf the best part of a Hostess cupcake, for you, is the filling, then you’ll want to ensure space for even more of the filling in each cupcake. To do so, use a small knife to cut a little inverted cone shape in the top center of each cupcake. Remove the cones and pipe lots of filling in each cupcake. Trim some of the point off of each cone and carefully reinsert the cone into each cupcake. The surface should be smooth and then simply frost right over it. Reserve those trimmed cupcake parts from the cones for nibbling.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Hello, childhood! These homemade Hostess cupcakes were delicious.
They took a while to make, with the 2 idle periods—cooling the cakes and waiting for the frosting to harden before you pipe on the decoration—but none of the steps were particularly difficult, so this made for a good lazy Sunday activity. The recipe took just over 3 hours from start to finish.
The only tricky part about making the cake was getting the cocoa to blend into the small amount of water the recipe called for. Once that was done, the rest was easy.
I filled each cupcake liner halfway, but ended up with 24 cupcakes, not 18. They baked in 22 minutes in my convection oven. Filling all 24 cupcakes required 1 1/2 times the amount of filling in the recipe. When making the holes for the filling, I had to be careful to put the wooden spoon handle straight down through the top, and then to carefully hollow out an area underneath it—the cupcakes had a dry, crunchy top and opening up too big a hole at the top of the cake made a couple of them crack.
The amount of frosting in the recipe was more than enough for all 24. I dipped about half, but since not all the cakes had come up level with the liners, I had to spoon frosting on the rest to avoid making a mess. Both methods worked really well, so go with your gut on that step—it’s hard to go wrong and the frosting isn’t very drippy so it’s easy to handle.
The cakes were, as I suspected from how dry the batter was, very dry, crumbly, and difficult to eat straight out of the oven. The top was still crunchy and I was not feeling warm and fuzzy Hostess memories. But then, about 7 hours later, I sampled another one and the genius of the recipe revealed itself—the filling and frosting had given a bit of their moisture to the cake, softening the top and making it the soft and squidgy cake of my childhood dreams. With a glass of milk and one of these, I was in heaven.
When I decided to try this homemade Hostess cupcakes recipe, it sounded labor intensive. Plus marshmallow fluff? Hmmmm. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The dark chocolate frosting and the cocoa in the batter keep it from being too sweet, and the marshmallow inside is a pleasant surprise.
Yes, there are really 4 stages—the cupcake, the filling, the frosting, and the curlicue design on top. (My husband asked me why the eeeeees were on it!) It went relatively quickly, though, with no issues. It isn’t really complicated once you start.
There was enough batter to make a few extra cupcakes but not enough filling so I made some plain chocolate cupcakes. There was plenty of frosting. The cupcakes were easy to dip in the frosting, but I also found it simple to use a small offset spatula (or a knife) to swipe the frosting across the top. With all the fancy cupcakes these days, this one stands out as being a little different. We liked them, and they were pretty, too!
Originally published February 02, 2021
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This homemade Hostess cupcake recipe was an amazing recipe on several levels. First off, it’s probably the only recipe I’ve ever made where the yields for each part of it were absolutely perfect. The batter made exactly 18 cupcakes. The ganache was also perfect in this regard. Ditto the filling.
Each step came together easily and exactly as directed. Making the center holes for the filling was a snap with a wooden spoon, and they filled easily with the cream. I did cool the cupcakes in their pans and was glad of that when filling them since the cupcakes do expand when the cream is squeezed in and the cupcake tin kept them from exploding in my eager zeal.
These were a huge hit and so much better than the original. I found myself wishing for a Barbie metal lunchbox and a carton of milk with a straw.