Updated: Nov 1, 2022
The holiday season was upon us and I began my search to find the perfect dessert recipe. I knew I wanted to do a cannoli-based dessert (it's my sister's favorite and I was going to see her as part of the Christmas festivities), but I also wanted something that was festive for winter, not just for Christmas. I also wanted to test my decorating skills...it's been a while since I made something eye-catching and wanted to make sure I still had it in me!
I first found these amazing Pinecone Cupcakes from the Sheri Wilson Instagram account. These babies are wintery, remind me of nature, and they're essentially exactly what I wanted to create this holiday season - something wintery and festive, but not decorated specifically for Christmas. Once I found these, I just had to figure out what kind of cupcake flavor and frosting I wanted to bake.
I searched cannoli cupcakes and discovered a wonderful recipe from a website called a Spoonful of Flavor. They seemed simple enough, and I was excited to try the mascarpone frosting since I'm not a huge fan of American Buttercream (it's typically way too sweet).
I gathered all of the ingredients I needed for both the cupcakes and the decorations. I actually baked the cupcakes on one day, then saved the next day for decorating them so I didn't have to do it all in one day. The pinecone decorating took quite a bit of time to get started, but once I got into a rhythm, they weren't too bad. And honestly, they were so worth it!
The cupcake recipe itself was so moist and light, with a nice springy bounce to the cake. It has just a touch of cinnamon that adds a nice balance of flavors. The mascarpone frosting was super creamy and not too sweet. It's a lovely combination and a really nice bite that's truly reminiscent of an actual cannoli.
Some things to note: These cupcakes definitely taste best the day of or the next day (although they keep for 2-3 days after). Store them in the refrigerator, but make sure you bring them back to room temperature before eating so you can get that softness back. The recipe makes about 14-15 cupcakes.
Here's What You Need:
For the cupcakes:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
6 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large egg whites, at room temperature, divided
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
For the cannoli frosting:
2 cups mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting cupcakes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the decorations:
Chocolate frosting of your choice
8-9 Pirouline Wafer Cookies, cut in half
Chocolate Chex Mix Cereal
Glitter Sugar Sprinkles OR snowflake sprinkles
Here's What to Do:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a standard cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter sugar and light brown sugar until light in color and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sour cream and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
Add 1 of the egg whites and mix until well combined. Add the remaining 2 egg whites and mix until well combined, being careful not to over mix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all the ingredients are well incorporated.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredient batter and mix until well combined. Then mix in the milk and water. Add the remaining half of the flour mixture and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
Fill the cupcake liners about halfway with batter. Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a few crumbs.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool for 2 to 3 minutes in the pan, then transfer them to a cooking rack to finish cooling.
To make the frosting:
Beat the mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract together on medium-low speed until smooth. Do not over mix on high, or the frosting can get thin and watery (Mascarpone separates when overmixed.) Mix until just combined.
Pipe a mound of the mascarpone frosting onto a cupcake using a wilton 1A tip or by cutting the tip of a freezer bag.
Roll the frosted cupcake into glittery sanding sugar or add snowflake sprinkles.
Insert a pirouline wafer into the cupcake.
Pipe chocolate frosting around the wafer stick to form a “cone shape." This part may be tricky, and you may need to move the cupcake around in a circular motion while piping.
Starting at the base of the piped chocolate frosting cone, insert chocolate Chex cereal pieces in rows. Continue adding cereal pieces until the entire cone is covered.
Dust with powdered sugar to give your pinecone a snowy look.