Free-From Movie Night Popcorn Cupcakes

Movie nights at home are one of my family’s most enjoyable ways to unwind after a long week. From gathering everyone together to indulging in some of our favorite snacks – what’s not to love?

So as part of my Kitchen Craft series for Allergic Living, let’s make “Popcorn” Cupcakes! They will delight the film buffs in your home.

To create these delightful scene-stealers, we’ll use marshmallows to create the “popcorn” and add a decorative cupcake wrapper to make this a project simple enough for bakers of all levels.

While I include my easy Top 9-free chocolate cupcake recipe, you can also substitute your favorite allergy-friendly cake mix to make them. For the marshmallows, look for brands that fit your allergen and gluten-free needs. (Two potential options are Dandies and Campfire marshmallows.)

If you’re feeling creative and have a little time, go for the full-on “wow” of my bigger project – the Showstopping Top 9-Free Film Reel Cake, with step-by-step instructions here. As shown in the photo with my sons, the Film Reel Cake incorporates those Popcorn Cupcakes on top.

If going for the whole grander project, do make the cake before the cupcakes, and keep some extra marshmallow ‘popcorn’ available for decorating.

While those who love baking and decorating will enjoy the more advanced project, do not feel obliged to take it on. The popcorn cupcakes are sensational in their own right, and bound to amaze your movie night crew.

Stay tuned for more of my Kitchen Craft series, designed to help inspire followers with allergy-friendly baking. We may have to manage food allergies, but with a pinch of patience, a cup of creativity and a liter of love, we’ll create beautifully crafted desserts that everyone can enjoy.

Popcorn-Themed Cupcakes

Makes: 8 cupcakes
Free of: Top 9 allergens and gluten-free



  • ¾ cup all-purpose gluten-free flour or all-purpose wheat flour, sifted
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ½ cup water


  • ½ cup dairy-free, soy-free margarine (e.g. Earth Balance), softened
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tsp dairy-free milk beverage


  • 1 bag allergy-friendly, gluten-free marshmallows
  • Yellow gel food coloring (optional)
  • White gel food coloring (optional)


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Cereal spoon
  • Cupcake pan
  • Paper/foil liners
  • Popcorn-themed cupcake wrappers (I used these)
  • Medium ice cream scoop (2.6 tablespoon size)
  • Kitchen shears
  • Cake decorating brush
  • Decorating bag/plastic Ziploc bag
  • Decorating tip
  • Vinyl gloves



For Cupcakes

Use your preferred cake mix or follow my Top-9 allergy free chocolate cupcake recipe here. (When making cupcakes from a mix, the baking time can be shorter than for a cake, about 15-20 minutes.)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pan with paper or foil liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Create three wells in your dry ingredients using the back of a cereal spoon. Measure and pour one wet ingredient into each well: vanilla extract, vinegar, and oil.
  4. Pour water over dry and wet ingredients. Whisk until ingredients are fully combined.
  5. Use a medium ice cream scoop to evenly pour the batter into cupcake liners.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely.


  1. Use an electric hand mixer to beat softened margarine and vanilla extract for a minute or two on low speed.
  2. Slowly mix in confectioners’ sugar, about a cup at a time, until frosting is well-combined.
  3. Chill frosting in the refrigerator.

Creating the “Popcorn”

  1. Cut a regular-sized marshmallow with kitchen shears, vertically and horizontally into four pieces. Cut those pieces in half (you can also leave a piece larger or cut some smaller pieces). You’ll need 2-4 regular-sized marshmallows to create one cupcake topping. (If using miniature marshmallows, use allow for 20-35 mini marshmallows per cupcake.) Set all pieces on parchment paper.
  2. Take your first marshmallow piece and gently roll it between your fingers or palms. With shears, make a cross-cut by cutting a line to the midway point of the marshmallow and then one in the opposite direction. Squish the marshmallow in between your fingers and make a small cut on the opposite side. Twist and cut until the marshmallow begins to take popcorn shape. Set aside on parchment paper.
  3. Repeat with the rest of the marshmallow pieces. Since no popcorn looks the same, experiment with where you make cuts and try twisting parts of marshmallow.
  4. Optional: Wearing vinyl gloves, mix 1 drop of yellow food coloring and 8-10 drops of white food coloring with a decorating brush. Dab the brush on a napkin, then sparsely apply the lightly yellow food coloring to a piece of marshmallow popcorn. Repeat, using more coloring on some areas and little to none on others. This gives the popcorn the appearance of being topped with butter.
  5. Bring frosting out of refrigerator. Assemble popcorn cupcake wrappers and place a cooled cupcake into each wrapper.
  6. Scoop the frosting into a decorating bag with your preferred decorating tip. (A Ziploc bag with the corner cut off will work, too.) Place the decorating tip (or cut corner of Ziploc) at the outer edge of a cupcake. Gently squeeze the frosting bag as your hands move in a clockwise motion. Create three frosting circles, each smaller than the one before, to finish in the cupcake’s center. Repeat with other cupcakes.
  7. Stick the “popcorn” into the frosting until the top of each cupcake is fully covered. (Cut marshmallows are quick to dry out and should be consumed within a day.) Happy viewing and snacking!

Feeling creative? See full Film Reel Cake project here.

Photos: Ashley Smith  

Related Reading

Kitchen Craft: Allergy-Friendly Football Brownies with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Kitchen Craft: Baking Magic: Sensational Snow Globe Cake
Kitchen Craft: Allergy-Friendly Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Cookies
Kitchen Craft: Watermelon Cake: Refreshing, Stunning and Top 9-Free




is the support group leader of NNMG Food Allergic Families of Los Angeles ( and a member of FAACT's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Board.