Greek Yogurt Blueberry Cupcakes with Hibiscus Ricotta Buttercream
July 21, 2022
It’s time that we stop letting muffins hold a monopoly over blueberries, when their fancier cousins do an excellent job featuring this juicy, colorful fruit as well. These blueberry cupcakes are made with Greek yogurt for a super moist texture, and topped with a sweet and tangy hibiscus ricotta buttercream frosting.
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I think that every single time I bake with blueberries, I discover a new gorgeous color. In this recipe, the blueberry juice that’s added to the batter is the most stunning shade of purple. Then after the cupcakes bake, the insides are a lovely greenish blue. The pink frosting felt like such a natural complement.
And that color also helps to reinforce the hibiscus flavor. These pretty flowers come is a range of hues like yellow, purple and red, but I always think of them as a bright, bubblegum pink. They add a bright tartness to the frosting, which highlights the blueberries in the cupcakes, for an exotic-sounding and extra delicious combo.
What You Need to Get Started
You can easily find all of the ingredients for these hibiscus and blueberry cupcakes at your grocery store:
- Produce: Blueberries
- Pantry: Sugar, Vanilla bean paste, Flour, Cornstarch, Baking powder, Salt, Vegetable oil, Powdered sugar, Hibiscus tea, Gel food coloring (optional)
- Fridge: Milk, Eggs, Greek yogurt, Butter, Ricotta
- Equipment: Saucepan, Mixing bowls, Whisk, Cupcake pan, Flexible spatula, Cooling rack, Stand mixer or hand mixer, Piping bag, Large star tip
Let’s Make Blueberry Cupcakes
If these sound too exotic to you, trust me, they are simply delicious. When I served them to a group of less-than-adventurous eaters, there were no complaints, just silence as everyone enjoyed this take on a classic.
Whether you are serving these to a crowd, selling them at a bake sale, or making yourself a batch to freeze for emergencies, you’ll find that the number of words in the name of the recipe does not correlate to it being difficult. These have an excellent work-to-reward ratio.
Since the batter comes together pretty quickly, it’s a good idea to preheat your oven before getting started. Check that there is a rack in the center, and line a standard cupcake pan with paper liners as well.
The first step is the only one that’s a little different from your standard cupcakes, and that’s to make a blueberry sauce that gets mixed into the batter. This will help create the pretty interior color of the cupcakes and add some wonderful berry flavor.
Begin by combining blueberries in a small saucepan with sugar and water. I prefer using fresh berries when they are in season, but this will work well with frozen blueberries as well.
Stir everything together while cooking over medium heat until the sugar begins to dissolve in the water. Then, allow the mixture to come up to a simmer, and cover with a well-fitting lid. Letting it bubble for a couple minutes will allow the berries to soften and begin to pop open.
After that, continue cooking the blueberries uncovered for another couple minutes. Keep this moving, and use your spoon or spatula to smoosh the berries against the sides and bottom of the pan. Once it’s jammy, turn off the heat and set the pot aside to cool for at least five minutes.
Meanwhile, you can start working on the cupcake batter itself. These cupcakes follow the pretty basic formula of mixing dry and wet ingredients separately before combining them together. Since this recipe uses oil instead of butter, there’s not even a need for creaming butter or using your mixer at this point.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. All-purpose flour and cornstarch make for a fluffy base. And using those in combination with only white sugar will create a light-colored cake, so the blue stands out nicely. Salt for making flavors pop and baking powder for leavening round it out.
In a second smaller mixing bowl or a large measuring cup (I like to use these because of the built-in pouring spout) you’ll be mixing up the wet ingredients. The combination of vegetable oil and Greek yogurt lead to cupcakes with a tight but super moist crumb. Eggs act as binders here, but also help with leavening.
Be sure to whisk these until the eggs are completely broken up and everything is smoothly combined. It will be a light yellow when it’s mixed well, so if it’s looking a little too bright, keep whisking.
Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the flour. Then grab your flexible spatula and begin mixing it all together. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as you mix, to incorporate all the flour in with the liquids.
When making cupcakes, it’s important not to overmix, as that can make your treats tough instead of fluffy. Only stir until you no longer see visible pockets or streaks of flour.
Now, remember that blueberry jam we set aside earlier? It’s time to bring that back. Add some milk and vanilla bean paste into the pot, and mix this all together into the most beautiful creamy purple that’s ever existed. If you don’t have vanilla bean paste, vanilla extract is a great substitute.
Pour this mixture into the cupcake batter along with some more fresh blueberries. Again, frozen berries can work here, but I suggest letting them thaw to room temperature and drying them off first.
Fold these both into the batter using your flexible spatula until they are evenly distributed. Be sure to use that folding motion to prevent over-mixing.
When the batter is ready, it will be thinner than a cookie dough, but thicker than pancake batter. It shouldn’t flatten out on its own, but if you give the bowl a little shake, it will even out into a nice layer. Of course, there will be a few lumpy blueberries.
Now, grab your cupcake pan that you lined earlier and begin filling up those little paper cups, three-quarters of the way full with your now-bluish-gray batter. For more dome-topped cupcakes, fill each a little bit more. To ensure flat tops, you can go a bit under that three-quarters mark.
Bake the cupcakes for right around twenty minutes. I found that twenty-two was the magic number in my oven. Finished cupcakes will be lightly browned on top, and the cake will be springy. You can also test by inserting a toothpick into the center of each cupcake. If it comes out clean, you’re good to go.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a couple minutes, until you are more easily able to handle them. Then, carefully transfer them to a wire rack to fully cool to room temperature. It’s important not to frost warm cupcakes.
If you’re planning ahead, unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for a day, in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen tightly wrapped in foil for a few months. Be sure to thaw frozen cupcakes in the fridge overnight before frosting and enjoying them.
How to Make Hibiscus Ricotta Buttercream
While the cupcakes are cooling, it’s the perfect time to get started on the frosting! This is usually my favorite part because I let my mixer do all the hard work for me, and then I get to play with colors.
Begin by adding room temperature butter to the bowl of your stand mixer, and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment. If you only have access to a hand mixer, that will also work. You’ll want to use the beater attachments in that case.
Either way, it’s imperative to use slightly soft butter here for the perfect buttercream texture. You can learn more about it in my Baking Basics series post on American Buttercream. Use a low speed to whip up the butter on its own until it appears fluffed up and lightened in color.
Now you’ll be adding the sugar and ricotta in batches. Be sure you are using powdered sugar in your frosting, as granulated will make it have a grainy and not pleasurable texture. The ricotta here both adds a slight tang and also replaces the need for any additional liquid, like milk or cream.
Add the first cup of the sugar and a quarter of the ricotta into the bowl with the butter. Continue mixing these together on low until the sugar is fully incorporated. Then, repeat this three more times until you have added four cups of sugar and all of the ricotta.
Now, you’ll add in the fifth cup of sugar, and along with it, pour in the contents of the hibiscus tea bags. Again, mix it all up until everything is smoothly combined.
The strongest hibiscus flavor will come from natural herbal hibiscus tea that contains only hibiscus flowers as the ingredient, but many brands make hibiscus-based blends that will still be absolutely delicious here. If you can’t find pure hibiscus, try a blend that combines it with rose hips, orange peel, and/or sweet berries. I used Wegmans brand.
If the frosting is still too soft, which may depend on the texture of your ricotta, add in the remaining sugar as needed. The completed buttercream should hold its shape well, but not be too stiff to easily pipe onto your cupcakes.
If you are dyeing your frosting with gel food coloring, now is the time to add that in, and use the mixer to combine it all together.
You can make your buttercream any color you’d like. However, to get this bubblegum pink, I used three drops of red dye first and then mixed in a toothpick that I had dipped into the blue. A tiny bit of blue goes a long way, so add it slowly. You can always add a little more if needed.
Transfer your colorful and speckled frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. If you are not ready to frost your cupcakes right away, this buttercream can be stored in the fridge for a few weeks either in a sealed container or inside the piping bag inside another sealed bag. Allow the frosting to warm up to room temperature before decorating.
For the most basic decorating, simply use your piping bag to make a large spiral on top of each cupcake, ending with a peak in the center. Or feel free to experiment with some fun designs!
If you don’t eat them all right away, frosted cupcakes can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a few months. Double wrap cupcakes in foil for long-term freezer storage, and be sure to let them thaw in the fridge before eating them.
Lovely colors and fun, unique flavors combine in these blueberry cupcakes! They are super moist and smothered in a hibiscus ricotta buttercream frosting. Yum!
How to Serve Blueberry Cupcakes with Hibiscus Frosting
Cupcakes are the quintessential dessert for a large group of people. They don’t require any slicing, each one comes nestled in its own wrapper, and you can make them beautiful. I first served these cupcakes at a summer party, and they were a hit! If you’re hosting your own, work these into the fun summery theme.
But even when it’s not summer, these cupcakes will make for a gorgeous dessert display. I imagine them stacked on multiple tiers, surrounded by other colorful and elegant treats like buttercream and plum jam macarons or lemon curd sandwich cookies.
Or serve them as a sweet dessert for a smaller crowd. Since these store well, you don’t need to eat them all at once. Just a handful will be a lovely accompaniment to some chai white hot chocolate or a batch of raspberry margaritas on a girls’ night.
Use Up Leftover Ingredients
- Extra blueberries can find a new home in the equally colorful blueberry cheesecake cookies, or on the breakfast table in a blueberry french toast casserole.
- Greek yogurt adds some extra tang into rhubarb scone strawberry shortcakes.
- Try baking leftover ricotta into the fun fall-flavored butternut squash cornbread.
- Highlight any remaining hibiscus tea by making a big pitcher of rhubarb hibiscus lemonade. You’ll love the shocking pink color!
More Cupcakes to Try
Greek Yogurt Blueberry Cupcakes with Hibiscus Ricotta Buttercream
Cupcakes: Blueberry Sauce
- ½ Cup Blueberries see note
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- 1 Tbsp Water
- ¼ Cup Milk
- ¾ tsp Vanilla Bean Paste or vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ Cups All-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ Cups Sugar
- ¼ Cup Cornstarch
- 3 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- ½ Cup Vegetable Oil
- 2 Eggs
- ½ Cup Plain Greek Yogurt
- 1 Cup Blueberries
Hibiscus Ricotta Buttercream
- 1 Cup Butter
- ¼ Cup Ricotta
- 5-6 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 3 Hibiscus Tea Bags see note
- Gel Food Coloring optional, see note
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center. Line a standard cupcake pan with paper liners, and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, stir together the blueberries, sugar, and water for the blueberry sauce over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 2 minutes until the berries soften.
- Continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 2-3 minutes, squishing the blueberries against the sides and bottom of the pan. Set aside to cool at least 5 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt for the cupcake batter until thoroughly combined.
- In a smaller mixing bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil, eggs, and yogurt until smooth. Add the liquids into the bowl with the flour and mix until just combined, and there are no large dry pockets or streaks.
- To the saucepan with the blueberries, add the milk and vanilla bean paste, and stir to combine. Add this into the cupcake batter along with the blueberries, and fold with a flexible spatula until distributed.
- Spoon the cupcake batter into the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top bounces back when gently pressed.
- Let the cupcakes cool for 2 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Do not frost until the cupcakes are room temperature.
Hibiscus Buttercream Frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on low speed until fluffed up and lightened in color, about 3 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of the sugar and 1 Tbsp of the ricotta, and continue mixing on low until fully incorporated. Repeat this until you have added 4 cups of sugar and all of the ricotta.
- Add the 5th cup of sugar along with the contents of the hibiscus tea bags, and mix until full incorporated. Add the remaining sugar as needed to achieve the desired texture. Then add dye and mix in.
- Transfer the frosting to a piping bag with a large star tip, and top the fully cooled cupcakes.
- Make ahead tips:
- Store unfrosted cupcakes in a sealed container at room temperature for 1 day, in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen in foil for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen cupcakes in the fridge overnight before frosting and enjoying.
- The frosting can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 weeks directly in a sealed container or inside a piping bag in a sealed bag. Allow the frosting to warm up to room temperature before decorating.
- Frosted cupcakes can be stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Double wrap cupcakes in foil for long-term freezer storage, and thaw in the fridge before enjoying.
- You can use fresh or frozen blueberries to make the blueberry sauce. If using frozen blueberries to mix into the cupcake batter, let them thaw and dry thoroughly first.
- The strongest hibiscus flavor will come from natural herbal hibiscus tea that contains only hibiscus flowers as the ingredient, but many brands make hibiscus-based blends that will still be absolutely delicious here. If you can't find pure hibiscus, try a blend that combines it with rose hips, orange peel, and/or sweet berries. I used Wegmans brand.
- If you are dying your frosting with gel food coloring, I used 3 drops of red and then mixed in a toothpick dipped into blue. A tiny bit of blue goes a long way, so add it slowly.