These Eyeball Cupcakes for Halloween have a delicious and moist chocolate base, cream cheese frosting and eyeballs that consist of canned lychees, blueberries and strawberry jam “blood.” Can be made gluten-free.
I always struggle to come up with Halloween desserts that aren’t processed or that use food coloring. So I took the bloody eyeballs idea from my Bloody Eyeball Brownies.
I plan to continue using that idea because it’s so perfect! Easy to make, creepy and unique.
I also featured these eyeballs in my Halloween Monster Mouths, which are really fun for kids to make! And they just consist of fruit, nuts / seeds and jam, so they’re a truly healthy Halloween treat.
I’m sure a lot of you must be thinking…
What are lychees?!
These cupcakes use canned lychees with a blueberry in the middle to create the eyeball.
Lychees are a fruit native to China, but in the US, they’re also grown in Florida and Hawaii. They’re quite sweet and fragrant with floral notes.
While you can use fresh lychees, they’re quite challenging to find. However, you can find canned lychees at any Asian food store. At least you can at every one I’ve ever looked at!
I’ve read that you can also often find them at Whole Foods. Sometimes in the Asian food section and sometimes in the canned fruit section. But perhaps it’s safer to call first before making a special trip.
Inside of the lychee eyeball is a blueberry. If you don’t want to use those, chocolate chips are a possibility.
But they’re more cumbersome than blueberries. The chocolate chips I used were a little too small for the lychee holes. So I had to stuff the lychee with some little bits of banana and then stick in the chocolate chip.
Blueberries are easier! Make sure they’re not super tiny, like wild frozen berries. The regular-sized berries work just fine.
Small to medium grapes would also work! That could be fun to have different colored eyes.
I have a Halloween punch recipe coming soon with these lychee eyeballs, so you might want to get 2 cans of lychees if you like the idea. 🙂
What kind of cupcakes do I use?
For the chocolate cupcake base, you’ve got a lot of options.
- A classic non-healthy version or a healthier version
- You can use regular flour, whole wheat or gluten-free flour
- You can make them with eggs or make them egg-free
- You can use regular sugar, coconut sugar or honey
- You can use whatever type of oil you’d like, including olive oil
It’s a half recipe of my Healthy Chocolate Cake, which reviewers are loving! And which I’ve loved for about 12 years. I’ve never found a better chocolate cake recipe.
The cupcakes are perfect on their own. But as we all know, cream cheese frosting always makes things better and the eyes need a base to sit on.
For the frosting, I used my favorite healthier cream cheese frosting. It uses less powdered sugar than regular cream frosting. Like WAY less sugar.
But you won’t miss it! The frosting tastes kind of like cream cheese tart filling.
If you’re doubtful of this whole less sugar thing, just add more sugar until you’re happy with the taste!
By the way, if you live outside of North America, you don’t have the same kind of cream cheese that’s found in the US (and maybe Canada?). As far as I know, it doesn’t exist anywhere else.
See the notes section of the recipe for tips on how to deal with this! There’s a super simple hack.
Where do I get canned lychees?
You can get them super cheap at an Asian food store.
You can also find them at Whole Foods. Sometimes in the Asian food section and sometimes in the canned fruit section. But I recommend calling before making a special trip.
Can I use something else instead of lychees?
I’ve never come across anything similar.
What can I use instead of the blueberries?
Inside of the eyeball is a blueberry. If you don’t want to use those, I recommend grapes.
What’s the best oil to use?
You can use canola oil, vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, etc. Anything neutral tasting. There might be some slight coconut taste in your cupcakes if you use unrefined. If you use refined, you won’t taste any coconut. You can also use olive oil (see the next question).
Can you taste the olive oil?
I used extra-virgin olive oil, which you can taste in the batter and while the baked cupcakes are still hot. Once it cools, you can’t taste it. If you’re worried about it, use light olive oil (the light refers to the taste and not calories).
Can I use butter?
I bet you could use butter in these cupcakes but the cupcakes wouldn’t be as moist (butter is 80-82% fat and oil is 100% fat).
Can I use a different gluten-free flour mix?
I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. If you have another brand that works as a sub for all-purpose flour, then you could probably use it here. I can’t say the texture would be as perfect as with the flour mix I used, though.
If I make the gluten-free version, do they taste gluten-free?
No, they really taste like they were made with all-purpose flour. At least with the gluten-free flour mix I used and after they’ve cooled a bit.
Can I use almond / coconut / other flours for a different gluten-free version?
Nope. There’s no direct sub for gluten-free flour mixes.
Can I reduce the sugar?
Reducing sugar also reduces moist-ness so unless you want a dry cake, don’t go overboard and reduce it to 1/4 cup or some small amount. I think using 3/4 cup of sugar would be safe. The honey version is already a reduced amount (1/2 cup of honey instead of 1 cup of sugar) and I don’t recommend reducing it even more!
Can I use something other than the listed sweeteners?
I’ve made these chocolate cupcakes with the listed sweeteners and nothing else. So those are the only ones that I know 100% work.
But I do think any liquid sweetener that you’d usually use in place of honey would probably work here. Any granulated sweetener that you’d usually use in place of granulated sugar would probably also work.
Can I freeze the cupcakes?
Yes, they freeze well – unfrosted. Add the frosting after they’ve completely defrosted. Then add the eyeballs right before serving.
It can be done a few hours ahead of time if going to a party.
Can I use a different egg replacer?
I haven’t tried, but I imagine other egg replacers (that you’ve used in other cakes with good results) would work.
Eyeball Cupcakes (gluten-free option)
For the cupcakes:
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar or coconut sugar or 1/2 cup (160 grams) honey
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (105 grams) all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour or for gluten-free, 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (120 grams) Bob's Red Mill Gluten-free 1:1 Baking Flour
- 6 tablespoons (42 grams) cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large (50 grams, out of shell) egg or 1 chia egg for egg-free
- 1/2 cup (120ml) milk*
- 1/4 cup (60ml) oil**
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (120ml) boiling water***
For the frosting:
- 6 ounces (170 grams) cream cheese, room temperature****
- 1.5 tablespoons (21 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (60 grams) powdered sugar (you can add more, if desired)
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the eyeballs:
- 24 canned lychees (it's better to have a few extra in case some are broken)
- 24 blueberries (or more in case some are too small for the lychee holes)
- 1/3-1/2 cup strawberry jam (don't use the kind with chunks of strawberries in it)
To make the cupcakes:
- Preheat your oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Line a muffin pans with 12 liners.
- In a large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla and mix until combined.
- Then stir in the boiling water. The batter will be almost as thin as water.
- Fill each liner just a little more than halfway full.
- Bake for 14 – 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with some moist crumbs, but no liquid.
- Let cool for 5 minutes in the pans, and then turn out onto a rack to cool. Let cool completely before frosting. They can be frozen unfrosted for about a month or refrigerateded for 4 days.
To make the frosting:
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric hand mixer at medium speed until well combined. It's okay if it looks a little crumbly.
- Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally combined and then beat in the salt and vanilla. If it's firm enough for your needs, frost your cupcakes.
- Frost each totally cooled cupcake with 4 teaspoons frosting per cupcake. Keep refrigerated until ready to decorate.
- If you need the frosting firmer, refrigerate for about an hour, stirring the frosting after about 30 minutes. Don't let it chill too long before frosting, though, because it gets quite firm, like a cream cheese tart filling. If that happens, just bring it to room temperature and then frost.
- Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days and refrigerate anything you frost with this frosting. The frosting firms up once refrigerated so if you want the softer frosting texture (rather than a cream cheese tart filling kind of texture), let the cupcakes come to room temperature before serving.
To make the eyeballs:
- I recommend decorating the cupcakes no more than half a day before serving. Rinse the lychees and pat them dry with paper towels.
- Place a blueberry in the center of the lychee and place on a paper towel lined plate until all the eyeballs are ready.
- Place the eyeballs on the frosted cupcakes. Spread about 1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons of jam over the eye. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.