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Burnt Almond Cupcakes have a soft vanilla cupcake filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, then they are topped with swiss meringue buttercream and crunchy sugared almonds! Just like a Burnt Almond Cake but in handheld form!

I’m kind of obsessed with nutty desserts, whether they use almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or peanuts. Some of our other favorites are Pecan Pie Cheesecake Bars, Toasted Almond Ice Cream, and Pistachio Macarons!

Cupcakes covered in frosting and almonds.

Cupcakes with a Crunch

A while ago my husband was craving my Burnt Almond Cake, except he specifically requested that I make it in cupcake form. He grew up in San Jose, California, less than a mile from Dick’s Bakery where they were famous for their burnt almond cake.

I’ve had their version enough times to know that while my burnt almond cake (and now cupcakes) don’t taste quite exactly the same, it’s pretty close. In fact, we like this version even better.

A burnt almond cupcake sliced in half on a plate.

I’m not really sure where or why it got the name “burnt almond cake” when the almonds most definitely aren’t burnt. They are toasted with a sugar coating that makes them straight-up irresistible.

The vanilla pastry cream and vanilla cupcakes are staple recipes that I have made over and over, dozens of times each. Filled cupcakes feel extra special and fancy, and I love the sweet, creamy center in these burnt almond cupcakes.

Then there is the wonderfully light and creamy swiss meringue buttercream frosting. It’s heavenly stuff and lighter and less sweet than American buttercream, which makes it perfect for these cupcakes with their sugared almonds that cover the top.

The nice thing is that you don’t have to worry about having any fancy decorating skills because after frosting the cupcakes, you just roll the tops of them in the toasted almonds until they are completely covered and boom, you’re done!

There are a few elements to this recipe: cupcake base, pastry cream filling, swiss meringue buttercream frosting, and toasted sugared almonds. But you can make a lot of the elements ahead and then assemble the cupcakes the day you want to serve them!

How to Make Burnt Almond Cupcakes

Make the pastry cream first so it can chill

  1. Heat liquids: Combine the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid comes to a simmer. This only takes about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Prep egg yolks: As the liquid heats, whisk together the remaining sugar, salt, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium bowl until light and creamy.
  3. Temper eggs: Once the milk mixture is hot, slowly whisk about 1 cup of the liquid into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. This prevents them from scrambling if added to the hot liquid all at once. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk mixture and reduce the heat to medium, continuing to cook while whisking constantly, until thickened and a few bubbled burst on the surface, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in butter and flavoring: Remove the pastry cream from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla, and almond extract, then transfer to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream so a skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 3-4 hours, or overnight. You can make this part in advance, up to about 5 days.
vanilla pastry cream in a glass bowl

Make the vanilla cupcakes

  1. Prep the oven and pan: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until creamy: Beat the butter on high speed in a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer for 1 minute until creamy and light. Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Continue adding wet ingredients: Add eggs and vanilla, beating on medium-high speed until combined. Beat in sour cream.
  4. Add the dry ingredients: Mix on low speed just until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  5. Add milk: With the mixer running on low speed, add the milk, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix.
  6. Fill and bake: Use a cookie scoop to evenly fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with batter. You should get about 14 cupcakes. Bake for 19-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.
Vanilla cupcakes in a cupcake pan.

Make the Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

  1. Heat egg whites and sugar: Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot (between 140-160 degrees F is enough to kill any bacteria in the egg whites and dissolve the sugar). 
  2. Beat until thick, glossy, and cooled: Transfer the bowl on the stand mixer and whip the sugar and egg whites on high using the whisk attachment until thick and glossy, forming stiff peak and the bowl feels room temperature to the touch, which can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. The stiff peaks will form fairly quickly, but just let the mixer keep working to help bring the temperature of the meringue down. This can be done with a hand mixer, but it’s much easier with a stand version.
  3. Beat in butter: Once the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, decrease the speed to medium-low and add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Once all of the butter has been beaten in to the meringue, mix in the vanilla and almond extracts and salt. 
  4. Troubleshooting: If the frosting looks curdled or clumpy, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until smooth. Or if the frosting is too runny and thin, stick it in the fridge for 10 minutes to help it set up a bit, then whip it again. This is a problem I’ve encountered because I didn’t let my meringue cool down enough before adding the butter, but the fridge fix worked great.
Swiss meringue buttercream in a bowl.

Make the Sugared Almonds, then Assemble

  1. Toast slivered almonds: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the nuts onto the baking sheet in an even layer and toast them in the oven while you prepare the caramel. Be careful to watch them so they don’t actually burn. They should just start to turn a light, toasty brown and smell nutty.
  2. Make caramel for nuts: Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer (affiliate link) and let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches 310 degrees F, then remove from the heat and stir in the butter and toasted almonds immediately.
  3. Cool and break apart: Pour the caramelized nuts back onto the foil-lined baking sheet and use a spatula to spread them into as thin a layer as possible, trying not to have too many overlapping nuts. Cool completely, then break apart, chopping large chunks if necessary.

Assemble the cupcakes

  1. Fill the cupcakes: Use a small sharp knife to cut a plug out of each cupcake. Fill with pastry cream, then replace the plug on top. You will have pastry cream leftover which is great for cream puffs, eclairs, small tarts, or just folding into some whipped cream and using as a crepe filling!
  2. Frost: Pipe a thick layer of swiss meringue buttercream on top of each cupcake. It doesn’t have to look pretty, but you want to completely cover the plug to hold it in place. Again, you will have leftover swiss meringue buttercream, but I find it so much easier to make a larger batch of this than to halve the batch. The leftover frosting freezes great though for up to 3 months in an airtight container! Just thaw in the fridge overnight, then beat until light and fluffy to use on other desserts.
  3. Cover in candied almonds: Roll and press the tops of each cupcake in a bowl of the candied almonds to completely cover the frosting, then serve!
Cupcakes being filled with pastry cream.
A white cupcake with swiss meringue buttercream frosting.

Storage and Make-Ahead Instructions

These burnt almond cupcakes really are best eaten the day they are made, but they will still be good for a few days in the fridge. Because these cupcakes are filled with pastry cream, they should be kept in the refrigerator if you need to store them longer than a couple of hours. Just pull them out an hour before serving so the frosting can come to room temperature.

I definitely recommend making the pastry cream a day (or more!) in advance and storing it in the fridge. You can make the vanilla cupcakes a day or two ahead and cover and store them on the counter, or make them even farther ahead and freeze them until you are ready to fill and frost.

A cupcake cut in half on a plate.

More Cupcake Recipes

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Burnt Almond Cupcakes
Yield: 14 cupcakes

Burnt Almond Cupcakes

Burnt Almond Cupcakes have a soft vanilla cupcake filled with vanilla bean pastry cream, then they are topped with swiss meringue buttercream and crunchy sugared almonds! Just like a Burnt Almond Cake but in handheld form!

Prep Time 45 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

Pastry Cream

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Almonds

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

Pastry Cream

  1. Combine the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the liquid comes to a simmer.
  2. As the liquid heats, whisk together the remaining sugar, salt, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium bowl until light and creamy.  
  3. Once the milk mixture is hot, slowly whisk about 1 cup of the liquid into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the hot milk mixture and reduce the heat to medium, continuing to cook while whisking constantly, until thickened and a few bubbled burst on the surface, about 30 seconds.  
  4. Remove the pastry cream from the heat and whisk in the butter, vanilla, and almond extract, then transfer to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly onto the surface of the pastry cream so a skin doesn't form. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, about 3-4 hours, or overnight.

Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners. Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. Beat the butter on high speed in a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer for 1 minute until creamy and light. Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla, beating on medium-high speed until combined. Beat in sour cream.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed just until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  5. With the mixer running on low speed, add the milk, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with batter, then bake for 19-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  1. Combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water.  Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water.  Whisk until sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot (between 140-160 degrees F is enough to kill any bacteria in the egg whites and dissolve the sugar). 
  2. Transfer the bowl on the stand mixer and whip the sugar and egg whites on high using the whisk attachment until thick and glossy, forming stiff peak and the bowl feels room temperature to the touch, which can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes.  The stiff peaks will form fairly quickly, but just let the mixer keep working to help bring the temperature of the meringue down.  This can be done with a hand mixer, but it's much easier with a stand version.
  3. Once the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, decrease the speed to medium-low and add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth after each addition.  Once all of the butter has been beaten in to the meringue, mix in the vanilla and almond extracts and salt. 
  4. If the frosting looks curdled or clumpy, increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until smooth.  Or if the frosting is too runny and thin, stick it in the fridge for 10 minutes to help it set up a bit, then whip it again.  This is a problem I've encountered because I didn't let my meringue cool down enough before adding the butter, but the fridge fix worked great.

Almonds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray.  Pour the nuts onto the baking sheet in an even layer and toast them in the oven while you prepare the caramel.  Be careful to watch them so they don't actually burn.  They should just start to turn a light, toasty brown and smell nutty.
  2. Combine the water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves.  Insert a candy thermometer and let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches 310 degrees F, then remove from the heat and stir in the butter and toasted almonds immediately.  
  3. Pour the caramelized nuts back onto the foil-lined baking sheet and use a spatula to spread them into as thin a layer as possible, trying not to have too many overlapping nuts.  Cool completely, then break apart, chopping large chunks if necessary.

Assembly

  1. Use a small sharp knife to cut a plug out of each cupcake. Fill with pastry cream, then replace the plug on top. You will have pastry cream leftover which is great for cream puffs, eclairs, small tarts, or just folding into some whipped cream and using as a crepe filling!
  2. Pipe a thick layer of swiss meringue buttercream on top of each cupcake. It doesn't have to look pretty, but you want to completely cover the plug to hold it in place. Again, you will have leftover swiss meringue buttercream, but I find it so much easier to make a larger batch of this than to halve the batch. The leftover frosting freezes great though for up to 3 months in an airtight container! Just thaw in the fridge overnight, then beat until light and fluffy to use on other desserts.
  3. Roll and press the tops of each cupcake in a bowl of the candied almonds to completely cover the frosting, then serve!

Notes

  • Vanilla bean paste: I love keeping a jar of vanilla bean paste in the cupboard for baking because the specks of vanilla have such a lovely impact on desserts. But you can replace it with an equal amount of vanilla extract instead.
  • Cake flour substitute: If you don't have cake flour on hand, just use 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch instead. It's a great, easy substitute that works well with this recipe.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

14

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 634Total Fat: 38gSaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 164mgSodium: 515mgCarbohydrates: 68gFiber: 0gSugar: 53gProtein: 6g

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.

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