It’s cold and grey and dreary in Chicago, and I’m getting a little impatient for summer to arrive. I miss the sunshine, and I feel teased by Mother Nature that I already bought my community pool pass and we had one day of 70 degree weather, and now we’re back to the 40s and coats. I’m ready, not just for spring, but for summer! Kool-Aid to me has always screamed summer, so when I was debating what to make for Mister Man’s half birthday cupcakes, of course Kool-Aid Cupcakes came to mind.
Of course, these weren’t just any old Kool-Aid cupcakes. My Kool-Aid cupcakes were rainbow swirled and included swirled frosting to go with the whole theme. They were super easy to make and tasted amazing. And yes, I did my Kool-Aid cupcakes as rainbow cupcakes using the new Kool-Aid Easy Mix flavors, but you could also choose to make a single flavor and have that one really pop.
I fell in love with the fun of rainbow cupcakes after I hosted a spa party for Little Miss and her friends earlier this year. I was such a rock star cool mom that day, and apparently it had a lot to do with those cupcakes. When Mister Man’s half birthday started approaching (because yes, we celebrate half birthdays here, why not?), I was trying to finagle a way to let him in on the fun rainbow action.
I get my inspiration so often from shopping. I’ll wander aisles until I see something that looks interesting and then incorporate it into a recipe. That’s exactly how I came up with these Kool-Aid rainbow cupcakes. I was at Walmart attempting to get in my 10,000 steps by going up and down each and every aisle when I saw the new Easy Mix.
It’s a concentrate of premixed Kool-Aid that comes in three flavors – cherry, tropical punch, and grape. Concentrated means the flavors are already strong to add to a recipe, and mix means that I don’t have to be concerned about the powder not dissolving fully or getting pockets of powder in my cupcakes. Done, and done!
Lucky for me, there was a demo taking place in my Walmart when I stopped in, so I got to taste the cherry Kool-Aid Easy Mix myself before buying it. Given that the other samples were completely gone, according to the guy working the demo booth, I was pretty sure that they were just as tasty, and that made me even more confident that they would be perfect for my Kool-Aid cupcakes idea.
I love that the Kool-Aid Easy Mix is shelf stable, so I don’t have to take up more room in my overcrowded fridge, yet it’s super convenient to mix up a glass or two whenever someone wants one by just adding water to the concentrate. When we have bigger gatherings, it’s just as simple to mix up a pitcher. Each Easy Mix bottle makes six quarts (or 24 eight ounce glasses), and with 50% less sugar than leading regular sodas, this is the kind of treat I can keep in my house.
To make this recipe, I used my favorite cupcake recipe and adapted it. Because Kool-Aid Easy Mix is sweetened, I reduce the amount of sugar I used in my recipe to account for that. I also reduced the amount of milk I usually use, since the Kool-Aid is in liquid form, and wow did these Kool-Aid cupcakes turn out beautifully.
I chose to not add more rainbow colors to my cupcakes aside from the red, purple, pink, and easily tinted orange that I made. That said, you could absolutely divvy up your batter into more bowls and make blue, green, and more by adding coloring to overpower the tint given by the Kool-Aid Easy Mix. Even with “just” four colors, this turned out so fun, and Mister Man was thrilled with my idea.
For the frosting, I used my usual frosting recipe and made sure to whip it up well. I also thinned it just a tiny bit by adding a little extra milk, but feel free to make your frosting the way you prefer or even to use a can of frosting if you run out of powdered sugar.
To make the swirls in the frosting – that turned out so cool, I think! – you need to use a piping bag and gel food coloring. I added my biggest star tip to my piping bag and placed it into a tall glass to hold it in place while I got it ready to pipe.
I started by folding back as much of the piping bag as I could to expose the inside and smoothing it out so I had no wrinkles or air pockets. I then used a toothpick to run lines of color from as close to the tip as I could reach (or I’d “waste” frosting) all the way out and just past the fold of open bag. I chose to use red, blue, and purple to complement the colors in the Kool-Aid cupcake. The purple didn’t show as well as I had hoped, but drawing the six lines of color gave me a great variety in my swirl.
Once you have your food coloring lines drawn, add your frosting to your piping bag and work it in as far as possible. From there, you simply pipe as normal, twisting the top of your piping bag to ensure nothing escapes and squeezing it out onto your beautiful Kool-Aid cupcakes.
Adding the swirl to the frosting took only a few minutes, but the results were fantastic. This is definitely something that I will continue to do, even on the occasions when I’m not making rainbow Kool-Aid cupcakes! Wouldn’t these be perfect for the Fourth of July, too?
Kool-Aid Cupcakes Recipe
Prepare a cupcake pan to hold 12 cupcakes by adding liners or greasing the tin. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
To make these amazing Kool-Aid cupcakes, you will start out making your traditional cupcake batter. Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions to incorporate air. Add the vanilla, and mix again.
In another bowl, prepare your flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix them together well so they are well incorporated.
Add a third of the flour mixture to your batter and gently mix to combine. Add half the milk and all your vanilla and again mix gently until just incorporated. Repeat with the flour, milk, and flour again until they are all incorporated. Note that your batter will be thicker than normal because you haven’t added the Kool-Aid Easy Mix yet to loosen it a bit.
Divide your batter evenly into as many bowls as colors you will be using. If you are using all one flavor for your Kool-Aid cupcakes, you can leave it in your original bowl. I used four colors so divided my batter into quarters, each in its own bowl.
You want to add 16 tablespoons of Kool-Aid Easy Mix in total to your batter (one cup, but it’s easier to think in tablespoons when you’re divvying it up amongst your bowls). Using four bowls, I added 4 tablespoons to each bowl and stirred gently with a spoon to combine.
To give them more vibrant colors, we added food coloring to the batter in each bowl so they would stand out more. To our cherry, we added 9 drops of red to give it a big pop. To our tropical punch, we added 5 drops to have it a lighter pink. To our second cherry bowl, we added three drops of yellow to create an orange. To the grape, we added three drops of blue and two drops of red to create a deeper purple. Feel free to adjust your colors and intensities to suit your mood.
Into each liner, add a small scoop of batter to ensure there is enough to go into each liner. For four colors, I used my smallest cookie scoop and filled it almost but not entirely full, and that was a perfect distribution. Don’t touch or stir them once you’ve added them to your cupcake tin.
To ensure the batter gets into your cupcake liners and not stuck on your scooper, check out my quick baking hack.
Once your cupcakes are filled, bake for 20-25 minutes until your cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.
Once they’re all set, place them in front of your now 11 1/2 year old son and watch his eyes light up as he gets to blow out the candles on his half birthday!
And, of course, ensure you serve more of the Kool-Aid Easy Mix to complement your cupcakes. With three flavors, everyone gets their favorite! Just make sure when you’re drooling over the Kool-Aid cupcakes, you don’t get any into your Kool-Aid. Or on the cupcakes. Do they look fascinated, or what?
- 1/2 c butter
- 3/4 c sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 c flour
- 1 t baking powder
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/3 c milk
- 2 t vanilla
- 1 c Kool-Aid Easy Mix
- Prepare a cupcake pan to hold 12 cupcakes by adding liners or greasing the tin. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time, beating between additions to incorporate air. Add the vanilla, and mix again.
- In another bowl, prepare flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix them together well so they are well incorporated.
- Add a third of the flour mixture to the batter and gently mix to combine. Add half the milk and vanilla and again mix gently until just incorporated. Repeat with the flour, milk, and flour again until they are all incorporated. Note that the batter will be thicker than normal.
- Divide your batter evenly into as many bowls as colors you will be using. If you are using all one flavor for your Kool-Aid cupcakes, you can leave it in your original bowl.
- Add Kool-Aid Easy Mix to each bowl, distributing equally (four bowls equals 1/4 cup in each while 6 bowls uses 2 tablespoons and 1 1/2 teaspoons per bowl). Gently with a spoon to combine.
- To give the cupcakes more vibrant colors, add food coloring to the batter in each bowl. To cherry, add 9 drops of red. To tropical punch, add 5 drops to have it a lighter pink. To a second cherry bowl, add three drops of yellow to create orange. To grape, add three drops of blue and two drops of red to create a deeper purple. Feel free to adjust your colors and intensities to suit your mood.
- Into each liner, add a small scoop of batter to ensure there is enough to go into each liner. Use your smallest cookie scoop and filled it almost but not entirely full or use a heaping tablespoon, and that should be a perfect distribution.
- Once your cupcakes are filled, bake for 20-25 minutes until your cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.