If you're lazy but still want to impress your friends with your baking skills, these are the cupcakes for you. Using boxed cake mix AND boxed pudding mix featuring some extra spices, these cupcakes are topped off with homemade vanilla frosting and a small piece of 'brûlée,' which is actually just sugar and water. If you get the frosting right, no one will be able to tell the difference between boxed and baked.

#SpoonTip: No creme brûlée is complete without some crystallized sugar. However, since I'm 1) too broke for a "kitchen blow torch" and 2) they are apparently not allowed in the dorms, we'll be making "stovetop crystals."

Creme Brûlée Cupcakes

  • Prep Time:40 mins
  • Cook Time:25 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr 5 mins
  • Servings:24
  • Medium


  • 1 box vanilla cake mix
  • 1 box vanilla pudding
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 and 3/4 sticks unsalted butter softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups water
  • 2 and 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 dash salt
cream cheese, butter, cream, cheese, chocolate
Austin Lai
  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 350˚F and get ready to make your cupcakes. Using a whisk, beat your two eggs into a scramble.

    egg, batter, scrambled
    Austin Lai
  • Step 2

    Add 3/4 cup of butter and continue whisking. The recipe on the cake box probably asks for oil instead of butter, but butter will give the cupcakes a richer taste.

    #SpoonTip: To get the perfect texture, microwave the butter until about 1/3 of it is melted.

    tea, broth
    Austin Lai
  • Step 3

    Add 1 and 1/4 cups of water to the mixture. Carefully add in the cake mix and try to whisk without creating a mess.

    #SpoonTip: If you tragically lose some mix in the whisking process, add a bit of flour and powdered sugar to make up for it.

    milk, cream, flour, dairy product, batter, egg
    Austin Lai
  • Step 4

    I know the cake mix probably says 'vanilla,' but that vanilla could definitely use some help. If you want to make these cupcakes extra creme-brûlée-ish, add a capful of vanilla (~1/2 tsp) to the batter. Pour the batter into lined cupcake tins and bake for around 25 minutes.

    milk, cream, chocolate, coffee, dairy product, sweet, batter
    Austin Lai
  • Step 5

    While the cupcakes are baking, we can start the "creme." By creme, I mean "enhanced" store-bought pudding mix. In a new bowl, add 2 cups of milk to the mix and start whisking!

    coffee, milk, wine, cream
    Austin Lai
  • Step 6

    Warning: You're going to be whisking for about 5 minutes. Whisk until the pudding becomes "gloopy" (this is the best word I can think of). Once firm, add another cap full of vanilla (~1/2 tsp) and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Stir, cover, and put in the refrigerator.

    egg, batter, cream, milk, dairy product, dough, flour
    Austin Lai
  • Step 7

    In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water. Stir once and then let boil. Let it bubble for ~4 min before pouring it out on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet, and pop that sheet into the freezer.

    coffee, milk, tea, espresso, cappuccino, cream
    Austin Lai
  • Step 8

    Now it's time to make the frosting. Cream 2 sticks of softened butter with 3-4 cups of powdered sugar. When it becomes too difficult to stir, add some milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add up to 1/4 cup of milk to get a texture you're happy with.

    milk, dairy product, cream, flour, dairy
    Austin Lai
  • Step 9

    Add 1 tablespoon of vanilla and a dash of cinnamon. As you can see, I was very liberal with the cinnamon. Set aside.

    Austin Lai
  • Step 10

    Get your pudding out of the fridge and get ready to fill the cupcakes. Using a small knife, cut out a small hole in each cupcake.

    lemon, butter, cake
    Austin Lai
  • Step 11

    Using your fingers, pop out this little bit of cake. Eat them now, or save them to combine with some leftover frosting to make cake balls.

    butter, sweet
    Austin Lai
  • Step 12

    Spoon a little bit (~ 1 tsp) of pudding into each hole.

    #SpoonTip: If you're piping on your frosting with a bag, don't worry if some pudding is sticking out. If you're spreading your frosting with a knife, however, try to scrape the excess pudding back into the bowl.

    cake, lemon, butter
    Austin Lai
  • Step 13

    Take the (hopefully frozen) brûlée out of the fridge and "crack" it using a hard object. Frost the cupcakes however you want, and stick 1 shard in each cupcake.

    cream cheese, cheese, cream, banana
    Austin Lai