A recipe for Unicorn Cupcakes inspired by our visit to Universal Studios Hollywood! These Funfetti-style cupcakes are topped with a colorful buttercream frosting and unicorn-shaped white chocolates.
Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Universal Studios Hollywood
During our last year in Los Angeles, we had annual passes to Universal Studios Hollywood. It was such a memorable way to end our time in California.
Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City, California just north of the Hollywood Bowl at 100 Universal City Plaza. It is open daily, but the hours and ticket prices may vary based on season.
The park is separated into the Upper Lot and Lower Lot by a series of escalators. There is also an elevator or even stairs if you are feeling particularly adventurous. The trip between the two lots takes around 10 minutes (so plan your schedule accordingly) with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains, studios, and scenery along the way.
The park entrance is on the Upper Lot. As you pass through the gate, the street is lined with rows of gift shops, character meet and greets, and food stops.
If you walk towards the left, you will come across The Secret Life of Pets and Super Silly Fun Land.
The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash opened in April 2021. Our kids are not the biggest fan of thrill rides and coasters (many of the other rides in the park), so this one was a huge hit with the immersive line and more laid back adventure.
Super Silly Fun Land
Super Silly Fun Land was another favorite section for the kids. It has carnival games, a gift shop, and the Silly Swirly Fun Ride. There is also a water park area and playground for younger children.
The Minion Cafe in Super Silly Fun Land is one of the newer food options and opened in March 2021. It ended up being our usual go-to during visits for lunch.
Favorites included the Classic Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup, Nutella Banana Pudding (with such a cute Minion decoration on top!), Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac n Cheese, and Felonious Float (raspberry icee, banana frozen yogurt, banana candy, whipped cream).
The Unicorn Cupcake was Claire’s favorite and inspiration for today’s recipe!
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
On the other side of the upper lot is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It opened in April 2016 and is home to themed shops, food, and entertainment.
There are two rides in this area: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Flight of the Hippogriff.
Flight of the Hippogriff is a fun and short coaster perfect for kids (at least 39 inches/99 centimeters tall) who are getting started on more thrilling rides.
I tried Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey when we visited Orlando and it was not a great choice for my motion sickness. I attempted it once here just to see if it still affects me- and yep, still does.
Three Broomsticks is a beautifully themed restaurant in this section of the park with indoor and outdoor seating. It definitely gets busy during peak times.
On select days, it is also open for breakfast until 11 am. During one of our visits, we got the Traditional English Breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, baked beans, tomato, mushrooms and potatoes), plus pancakes for the kids.
For lunch/dinner, we usually ordered the Bangers & Mash (English sausage, mashed potatoes, tomatoes, sautéed onions and cabbage, minted peas and gravy) and Fish & Chips (ale battered deep fried cod with chips and tartar sauce). The Butterbeer Potted Cream was also delicious.
The back patio seating area has a nice view of Hogwarts Castle.
Hog’s Head is a pub inside the Three Broomsticks in the back on the right side. They have Butterbeer, Pumpkin Juice, beer, and specialty drinks.
Frozen Butterbeer from the cart outside the Three Broomsticks is perfect on particularly hot summer days. We ended up ordering it on most of our visits.
Lard Lad Donuts
Evan’s favorite food stop in Universal Studios was Lard Lad Donuts in Springfield U.S.A. He picked the giant Oreo donut. It was big enough to share between the four of us.
I have also occasionally seen the big pink donuts boxed near the registers in the larger gift shops just inside the entrance of the park.
The Lower Lot is home to Jurassic World, Revenge of the Mummy, Transformers: The Ride, and the upcoming Super Nintendo World. As this area is the smaller of the two lots, it does get quite crowded.
We would often come to this area first at park opening for the shortest wait time on rides and do everything we need to so we aren’t going back and forth on the escalators.
Jurassic Cafe is located near Jurassic World- The Ride. The menu is inspired by Costa Rican cuisine and seasonal favorites.
A few highlights include Slow Roasted Mojo Pork, Isla Burger, and Citrus Glazed Chicken. The kids enjoyed the Isla Sliders.
Isla Nu-bar is just outside the entrance of the cafe with tiki cocktails and other drinks in souvenir cups.
If you love Jurassic Park/Jurassic World, you can also see a couple of the vehicles on the Studio Tour in the Upper Lot.
The Studio Tour is a 60 minute guide through 13 city blocks and over 400 acres of the studio lot with special effects, behind-the-scenes looks, set design, 3-D experiences, and more.
Keep in mind the last tour takes place an hour or earlier before park closing so check times before planning your schedule.
We would often use the Studio Tour or one of the shows to take a break from walking mid-day.
Mummy Eats is a food stand just outside the entrance to Revenge of the Mummy.
They serve Classic Corn Dogs, Korean Corn Dogs, Vegetarian Corn Dogs, Spicy Corn Dogs, and Churros.
Super Nintendo World
Super Nintendo World was still under construction while we were in Los Angeles. At the time of this post, it is set to open in February 2023.
We did enjoy watching the progress of the construction as we took the (many) escalators down to the lower lot.
Over our year of visits, we also got to meet some fun characters throughout the park.
Favorites included Hello Kitty, the Raptor Encounter (Blue the Velociraptor in Jurassic World), Bumblebee, Minions, Trolls, and even Beetlejuice during the Halloween season.
Universal CityWalk is the path from the park entrance to the garages lined with shops and restaurants.
Mini Monster Cafe
I usually stopped by Mini Monster on the way back to the car to pick up something for the drive home. I especially loved their Signature Thai Tea.
Their menu is packed with a variety of tea and boba. The drinks are made in small batches on site using a multi-step process.
Looking for more Los Angeles Travel?
Check out my visits to:
- Prosciutto Toast and California Science Center
- Rocky Road Cookies and La Brea Tar Pits
- Homemade Udon Noodles and South Coast Botanic Garden
To pair with this post, Claire requested a recreation of the Unicorn Cupcakes after having one at Minion Cafe!
For our version at home, we made light and fluffy vanilla cupcakes packed with plenty of sprinkles and covered them with swirls of pastel pink, green, blue, and yellow vanilla buttercream frosting.
To add more to the unicorn theme, we topped the cupcakes with an assortment of white chocolate unicorns, unicorn horns and ears, and unicorn-shaped sprinkles.
A Few Unicorn Cupcake Tips
Make sure the butter for both the cake and the frosting is softened completely to room temperature.
Gently fold the 1/2 cup (75 grams) rainbow jimmies into the batter immediately before transferring to the muffin tins. If you do use nonpareils, take care when folding. The color more easily bleeds and blends into the batter.
Natural sprinkles (which is what I used inside the photographed batch of cupcakes) are likely to have a less pronounced color.
Fill each prepared muffin tin about 2/3rds full (do not overfill). I like to use a standard ice cream scoop for a consistent size in each cupcake.
Bake the cupcakes just until cooked through. If needed, use a toothpick and stick through the center. If the toothpick comes out dry or with a couple of crumbs, the Unicorn Cupcakes are done. They will continue to set a little further as they cool.
Have a mini muffin tin? You can use this recipe to make about 36 miniature cupcakes. Keep an eye on the cooking time, but it should be decreased to around 10-12 minutes.
Allow the cupcakes to cool completely to room temperature before piping the buttercream frosting. Otherwise, it will melt and soak into the cake.
Add just enough heavy cream as needed to the buttercream to create a light and fluffy texture. If it is too wet, add a little more powdered sugar. If too thick, add a splash more heavy cream at a time.
To get the light pastel colors in the frosting, I divided the mixture equally into four bowls, then added one drop each of pink, blue, green, and yellow into each bowl. The exact amount needed may differ based on brand and desired shade.
I used an extra-large star tip (855 Deep Closed Star Pastry Tip) for the frosting to really show off all the colors.
Once topped with the frosting, the cupcakes are best served within a couple of hours or refrigerated in an airtight container. The unfrosted cupcakes can be made a day or two in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
Unicorn White Chocolate
For the unicorn/ears/horn topping, I melted white chocolate until smooth and piped it into this Unicorn Mold. To add a bit more sparkle, my daughter first brushed the molds with food-safe glitter.
If you want to skip this step, simply top the cupcakes with an additional pinch of sprinkles (we had some fun Unicorn sprinkles to add to the theme). Make sure to add it immediately after piping on the frosting. It won’t stick as well once the frosting has set.
I melted the white chocolate chips in the microwave in 15 second increments until smooth and creamy. Be very careful not to overheat the white chocolate. You can also use a double boiler.
Make sure the molds are completely dry and take care to not let water drip into the chocolate. Any condensation may cause the chocolate to seize and lose its smooth, shiny texture.
After adding the white chocolate to the molds, tap gently to cover evenly and remove any air bubbles.
Take care when removing the chocolate from the mold to keep any small edges from breaking.
Unicorn Cupcakes Recipe
Adapted from Broma Bakery
Unicorn White Chocolate Toppings:
- Food-safe glitter pink, silver, and/or gold
- 8 ounces (227 grams) white chocolate chips or chopped
- Unicorn or rainbow sprinkles
- 1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup (177 milliliters) buttermilk
- 1/2 cup (75 grams) rainbow sprinkles
- 1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter softened at room temperature
- 4 cups (500 grams) powdered sugar sifted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- 2-4 tablespoons (30-60 milliliters) heavy cream
- Pink, blue, green, and yellow liquid food coloring
To make the Unicorn White Chocolate Topping:
- If making the Unicorn White Chocolate Toppers for the cupcakes, brush the desired mold with the edible glitter to decorate the horns and ears. We brushed the ears with silver or pink and brushed the horns with silver or gold.
- In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate in 15 second increments until smooth.
- Transfer to a piping bag with a small tip or a ziplock bag with a small corner snipped off and pipe the white chocolate into the prepared molds.
- Gently tap the molds on the work surface to settle the chocolate and remove any air bubbles.
- Refrigerate the chocolate until set, about 2-4 hours.
- If not using white chocolate, simply top the cupcakes with sprinkles.
To make the Funfetti Cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line 12 muffin tins with liners or grease.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Mix 1/3rd of the flour mixture into the butter until just incorporated, followed by half of the buttermilk, 1/3rd of the flour, the remaining buttermilk, and the remaining flour.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared muffin tins, filling them 2/3 full (I used an ice cream scoop).
- Bake in preheated oven just until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-22 minutes. Allow to cool on wire racks.
To make the Pastel Frosting:
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined.
- Slowly beat in the heavy cream as needed until the buttercream is smooth and has reached the desired consistency for piping.
- Divide the frosting among four bowls.
- Mix one drop of pink coloring into one bowl of frosting, one drop of blue coloring in the second, one drop of green in the third, and one drop of yellow in the fourth.
- Adjust the colors as needed.
- Place one large (about 16 inch/41 centimeter) piece of plastic wrap flat on the work surface.
- Transfer the pink frosting to the plastic wrap in a line long side to long side in the middle of the plastic wrap.
- Carefully place the green frosting in a line next to the pink frosting, taking care not to mix.
- Repeat with the blue and yellow frostings.
- Gently roll up the plastic wrap to bring together the colors and press together just enough to remove any air and tighten.
- Place the wrapped frosting in a piping bag with desired tip.
- Pipe onto the cooled, room temperature cupcakes.
- Top the cupcakes with unicorn white chocolate pieces or desired sprinkles.