In Dallas, we've seen restaurateurs sprinkle Flamin' Hot Cheetos dust on tacos or add Flamin' Hot Cheetos crust to mac and cheese. It was only a matter of time before cupcakes were baptized by fire.
From March 18 through March 24, Sprinkles is selling a vanilla cupcake spiced up with crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos, an ingredient that's become "a cultural phenomenon," says Charles Craig, vice president of culinary for the boutique cupcake shop.
But ... should spicy Cheetos go in a cupcake?
"We're pretty fearless when it comes to trying new things, new textures, new styles," Craig says.
Cheetos maker Frito-Lay is headquartered in Plano, and Sprinkles is based in Austin. So, Sprinkles' limited-time-only Flamin' Hot Cheetos cupcake was born in Texas.
What follows is a conversation about a single, strange cupcake.
Whose idea was this?
"It was kind of a group decision," Craig says. "Flamin' Hot Cheetos are near and dear to many of our hearts, as one of those guilty pleasures."
"I look at it this way: Every once in awhile, we like to put forward a product that makes you question, Should it even be a cupcake? This fit the bill. It's a combination of savory and sweet. It allows us to exercise some fun, creative license in a manner that's not traditionally accepted, mentally. People don't think of it on the sweet side."
OK, I'm in. Gimme the details.
This cupcake is made with Sprinkles' vanilla cupcake, filled with crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos. The cupcake is topped with white-cheddar frosting, then dusted with Flamin' Hot Cheetos crumbles.
It's available at Sprinkles at the Plaza at Preston Center in Dallas and Legacy West in Plano — as well as at other Sprinkles shops outside of North Texas.
Hang on, how do you jam a cupcake full of Cheetos?
"I tried probably three batters," Craig says. One of those trials was "baking the Cheetos into the cake, thinking it would be neat if you had whole Cheetos you'd bite into."
"Unfortunately, Cheetos don't handle being baked into a wet batter very well."
Craig also tested three versions of the frosting, deciding to go with a white-cheddar frosting to honor Cheetos' cheesy base. Needing more crunch in the cake, Craig cored out the cupcake and filled it with crushed Flamin' Hot Cheetos.
Was it love at first bite?
"It was a hard division," Craig says of the tasting sessions at Sprinkles HQ. "We had people saying, 'This is great!' versus people saying, 'Why are we doing this?' ... We had people excited to try something so weird and people who were like, 'No way, get it away from me.'"
A third of the tasting team at the Austin headquarters "just didn't dig it," Craig says. Everybody else liked it, he says, and by the end of one week, the recipe was complete.
Why is it a limited-time-only cupcake?
Sprinkles sold the Flamin' Hot Cheetos cupcake for the first time in July 2018, for four days. They're going for a week this round — and that might even be too long, Craig says.
It's a "quick burst," Craig says, "just to draw some interest."
Get it while you can.