Copycat Hostess Cupcakes

I was never actually into the Hostess cupcakes that much as a kid. I was definitely more of a Nutty Buddy type. Wafers plus peanut butter plus fake chocolate tasted fabulous!

Now I prefer to bake stuff from scratch when I can, mainly because I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and it’s weird that something can last for years on a shelf. Time for a copycat version that’s homemade!

This week’s Reddit bake challenge was childhood favorites. Hostess Cupcakes have been around quite a while and look really monochromatic and cool. My husband fondly remembers eating the rubbery chocolate layer off them first as a kid, so I’m going to assume these count as a childhood favorite 🙂

The Basics

Your cupcake base is a FABULOUS chocolate cake recipe simply in cupcake form. I actually use this particular recipe for all my chocolate cakes because it’s so good. Don’t be afraid of the instant espresso; you won’t taste it and it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.

Each little cake is filled with a simple 7-minute frosting, cooked over the stove and whipped. The recipe for that is here. Save your leftovers after filling them, cuz you’ll need it to pipe the little swirly on the top to decorate. They aren’t the real deal without the swirl 😉

They are all topped off with a 2-ingredient ganache. I used bittersweet chocolate chips, but I bet you’ll get an even more “authentic” flavor if you use semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips instead. Let them sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up the ganache, and pipe your curly-cues on top for the finishing touch with the leftover frosting.

(Weird measurements in the recipe are from scaling it for exactly 12 cupcakes; we definitely didn’t need 24 of these sitting around 🙂

The finished product really does taste amazing, and we had exactly none leftover from the dozen we made. There’s something SO satisfying about whipping up something that’s typically made in a factory 🙂




Print Recipe
Copycat Hostess Cupcakes
A homemade twist on the classic childhood favorite!
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Course Desserts
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
Course Desserts
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and 1 egg.
  4. Using a mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
  5. Bring the 1/2 cup water to boil and add the espresso to it. Immediately add this to the batter and mix until combined. It will be thin and watery.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter.
  7. Bake about 18 minutes, until toothpick stuck in the center is mostly clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
  8. When your cupcakes are cooled, get started on the 7-minute frosting. Recipe I used is up above in instructions, but any basic 7-minute frosting would be fine.
  9. If your cupcakes have a dome, use a serrated knife to shave a bit of the top off and level them. Now core out each cupcake for the filling. I just use a small metal veggie peeler and carve out of a little rough circle shape from the center of the cupcake. Fill with frosting.
Ganache Topping
  1. Place your chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring your heavy cream just barely to a simmer and take off the heat.
  3. Pour heavy cream over chocolate and cover the small bowl with a lid. Set aside for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  4. Using a whisk, gently mix the cream and chocolate together in one direction, not vigorously. It will eventually come together in a smooth, glossy, beautiful ganache.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes until firmed up just a bit for spreading over cupcakes. I used an offset spatula to spread it just to the edges; dunking the whole cupcake upside down in the ganache resulted in a mess, so I would avoid that way with this recipe 🙂
  6. Put the ganache-covered cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the ganache. Make the swirl on top using the leftover white frosting.
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Braided Lemon Bread

I’m on a lemon kick lately: Lemon macarons, lemon sugar cookies, and in the near future, a lemon cheesecake. I even bought 5 pounds of fresh lemons last time I went to Costco. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? Maybe it’s the weather. Spring is ACTUALLY here and now I want bright, sunny citrus in my desserts. This braided lemon bread fits the bill!

The filling of this gorgeous bake is a light layer of cream cheese and homemade lemon curd. Feel free to just make the curd and eat it by itself, but it’s particularly yummy inside a loaf of bread 😉

Continue reading “Braided Lemon Bread”

Book Review – Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Is there a better smell than fresh baked bread? I think not! Well, probably, but for the purposes of this post, bread is the winner 😉

I’ve never been much of a bread maker. The pre-planning involved seemed too tedious, i.e. you must decide HOURS beforehand to bake some bread, let it rise sometimes twice, then bake, etc. There isn’t always time for that. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day is the answer!

Continue reading “Book Review – Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”

Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream

Need a dairy-free dark chocolate pastry cream to fill eclairs, cream puffs, or even a croquembouche? LOOK NO FURTHER!

This recipe was the result of not having enough cow’s milk to make a pastry cream. I had almond milk and as a substitute the results worked quite well! It is likely not quite as “rich” tasting, as almond milk is thinner, but still very yummy. I also like this recipe because it uses cocoa powder instead of melting chocolate, which I don’t always have on hand.

This, BTW, is thicker than a traditional chocolate pudding, on purpose. The sturdiness lends itself well to filling the inside of things. With enough cooling time to firm up, this would totally work in a dairy-free cream pie.




Print Recipe
Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream
A nice firm pastry cream, perfect for the inside of cream puffs, eclairs, or even filling a pie!
Course Desserts
Course Desserts
  1. Place a fine mesh strainer inside of a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together your dry ingredients: sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine almond milk with egg yolks and vanilla extract.
  4. While whisking, drizzle your milk mixture into the saucepan. Try to get the lumps out the best you can.
  5. Place saucepan on medium high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until boiling. It will start to thicken up considerably. Cook 30 seconds longer while whisking. Remove from heat.
  6. Immediately strain the hot mixture into a bowl. This will remove all the bits of egg, cornstarch clumps, etc. ALTERNATIVE - if you want a cream pie, strain mixture directly into a ready-to-eat pie crust.
  7. Wait 5 minutes and cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap directly on it. This will prevent a "skin" from forming.
  8. Cool 2 hours and use to fill cream puffs, eclairs, or a cream pie.
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Croquembouche a.k.a. Cream Puff Tower

Week 13 bake challenge was Pate a Choux, also known as Cream Puff Pastry. A croquembouche (French for “crunch in the mouth”) is a tower of filled cream puffs, glued in a shape with hot caramel and decorated with thin strands of caramel. Can you believe this is considered a wedding cake in some places?? I had a blast making this and enjoyed the impressiveness of the finished product 🙂

I really needed this baking “win” this week, BTW. The past few days I attempted an orange pie (just meh), as well as lemon sweet rolls (also meh), and then the first batch of chocolate pastry cream was a dud, with zero flavor. So back to the drawing board, and I actually created a dairy-free dark chocolate pastry cream in its place, which is delicious!

For the cream puff pastry, I would recommend this one from King Arthur Flour (can’t seem to go wrong with many of their recipes!). Fill these with a vanilla pastry cream or another flavor; an excellent dark chocolate, dairy-free pastry cream recipe is here 😉

For the caramel glue, I used 2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of water boiled on the stove (without stirring, or you’ll crystallize it) until it’s a copper color. Plunge the bottom of the pan into a bowl of cold water to stop the caramel from cooking. Now get to work! Use tongs to dip your puffs and place them in a tower shape, i.e. more on the bottom and progressively fewer as you go up. Use some nonpareils for a different look, or fling strands of hot caramel around. I twirled a few bits of caramel around a cylinder to make some spirals.

A croquembouche is seriously a SHOWSTOPPER (any Great British Baking Show fans out there??) and so fun to just break off a hunk and eat. Enjoy!

Mint Chocolate Cream Pie

Fun fact about myself – I’m too cheap to buy cookbooks and only get them from the library. After dog-earring everything that looks fabulous, I’ll make copies to be placed in my TO-BAKE file.

This mint chocolate cream pie came into the world the same way! Being a big fan of Sally’s Baking Addiction blog, I was stoked to check out her book, Sally’s Candy Addiction. Candy recipes galore and even non-candy things like this pie. Right up my alley, as I *ahem* apparently have both a candy and a baking addiction.

This pie has a silky smooth chocolate filling with a crunchy, buttery crust. It also came together quickly and easily; just make sure you leave time for firming up in the fridge. The only bake time is the for Oreo crust, and I even bought mint Oreos to boost the mint flavor. However, this pie had a perfect amount of mint in it. Not at all overwhelming, but you definitely knew it was there.

A few things I did differently: The recipe calls for chopped semi-sweet chocolate added to the custard; I used chocolate chips and they worked just fine. I also prefer to strain my pudding, even though this recipe didn’t call for it. I’m glad I did it anyway because I prevented a whole bunch of little clumpy bits from messing up my smooth pudding.

In the future I’m going to attempt this minus the mint. I think it would make an awesome basic chocolate cream pie.

Check out the book here – or your library 😉



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Baking Fail – Chocolate Pecan Torte

This was one of those desserts that look beautiful on the outside, yet manage to be quite disappointing on the inside 🙁

My bake challenge this week was decorating with chocolate. I actually ripped this torte recipe out of a magazine – it looked AWESOME! Covered in shiny dark chocolate and studded with pecans…I couldn’t wait to give this one a whirl.

Result:  If you enjoy a mouthful of crumbly, chocolate-flavored sawdust, this bake is for you! It’s actually not as bad as that, but is pretty dry inside. Flavor was okay and nothing that spectacular, either. Even though I’d never made a torte before and had nothing to compare it to, it was pretty apparent I baked this too long and got a less than ideal result.

I’m going to blame it on the recipe 😉 It stated the center should come out clean with no crumbs; I checked 5 minutes before and had a few crumbs clinging, so left it in for the extra 5. IF ONLY I HAD KNOWN. My gut told me it was done, as did the smell, but I ignored it and went with the written recipe. Oh how many times I’ve done that with bakes and regretted it!

Moral of the story – avoid baking a torte at all costs. Or at least don’t leave it in the oven too long.

Cannoli Tart

There is a mom and pop Italian bakery in the Harrisburg area called Alvaro’s. I kept hearing about it and finally dragged my butt there a few months ago. YUM! Between myself and kiddos, we sampled Italian rainbow cookies, gelato, baklava (significantly better than my homemade attempt), and CANNOLI!

See? There was a point to this post after all.

Seeing as how I haven’t attempted at all mastered cannoli shells AND my Reddit baking challenge was Italy, I chose a Cannoli Tart instead!

I got a very cute little 9-inch tart pan from my mom for Christmas and now seriously seek out recipes just to use this. My previous tart pan was ceramic and food had to be chiseled out of it. Enter new tart pan with removable bottom.

Okay – back to recipe. Base is a simple graham cracker, bit of a sugar, and melted butter crust. That is the only baking here.

The filling is a traditional mascarpone cheese (found in Tiramisu also), heavy cream, cinnamon, vanilla, powdered sugar. I was bit heavy on the cinnamon and it still rocked.

This really does taste like the inside of a cannoli! Be generous with the tiny chocolate chips on top – that combined with a crunchy crust on bottom make for an awesome texture!

Recipe is here.

Looking for a tart pan? This one I own and love (affiliate link – your purchase helps support my site a teeny bit 😉

Book Review – The Sprinkles Baking Book

I’m always on the hunt at my library for new baking books. The Sprinkles Baking Book caught my eye because I’ve TOTALLY HAD A SPRINKLES CUPCAKE!

What is an official sprinkles cupcake, you say? It is an actual confection that either comes out of a Sprinkles store OR comes out of a Sprinkles ATM. You swipe your card, use the touch screen to pick out what you want, and it spits out a little box with a cupcake in it.

To this day, I have never had a finer store-bought cupcake than the ATM cupcake. BTW, sadly no such thing in Pennsylvania 🙁 My most glorious cupcake was enjoyed during a trip with my mom to California a few years back. Seriously – this cupcake has stayed with me all this time. I like to check new bakeries in my area and generally judge one by their cupcake. Usually they are dried out, icing is too greasy, chocolate has no flavor, etc. etc. The sprinkles cupcake was the pinnacle of cupcakes for me!

(Side note: My wonderful mother paid my way for that trip to California and Las Vegas, and my equally awesome aunt and uncle hosted us for that time, showing us around to all the cool places, including a cupcake ATM. How lucky am I??)

Anyhoo, I was excited to read this book! Besides the neat history of the Sprinkles brand, it has beautiful mouth-watering photos throughout (not just cupcakes, BTW) Some recipes I plan on trying:

  1. Strawberry cupcakes
  2. Key lime pie cupcakes
  3. Peanut butter chip cupcakes
  4. Grapefruit curd tart with gingersnap crust

I actually did make her black and white cupcakes tonight (see pic!) and they were DIVINE. A dark chocolate base with a very vanilla frosting. Was it as good as an ATM cupcake? I think so, since it’s fresher. Homemade cupcakes set the bar pretty high compared to store bought. Perhaps the very act of an automated cupcake makes them taste better 🙂

You can buy the book here if you’d like (affiliate link).