Cupcakes, cupcakes, who has the cupcakes? YOU DO! And you don’t have to pay a ton of money for gourmet cupcakes from a bakery for your next party. Here we look at ways to UP your cUPcakes. (Yeah, that was bad. I admit it. But these cupcakes are all good, promise.)
Sourcing Your Cupcakes
The two cheapest ways to get your cupcakes is to either a) buy them from the grocery store pre-made or b) bake them yourself. They both have advantages and disadvantages. So, which is better for you?
If you have a grocery store nearby and little time, store bought cupcakes are the way to go. They tend to be cheaper than stand-alone bakeries and have larger quantities on hand at any given time. The disadvantages are that they have less variety in flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and maybe a seasonal flavor) and the available volume can go up and down. You also will have to pass on having fillings or more creative frosting designs, but that’s a small trade-off for the low cost and likely availability.
Got a stove and a muffin pan? You got this! Homemade cupcakes are the cheapest cupcakes and the huge variety of boxed cake and pre-made frosting flavors make customization a breeze. While this option is cheaper if you already have the oven and the muffin pan, it will take more time. Easy? Yes. But also time-consuming. However, this is our favorite option, and we promise you that all of the cupcakes here were made from boxed mixes and pre-made frosting, i.e. nothing from scratch.
Easy: Decorating Your Cupcakes
Now that you have your cupcakes, we’ll take it easy and start with some simple custom touches that you can do with little time and money. If you’re feeling brave and have more time on your hands, skip ahead to the advanced section for tips on how to get started early on your fanciness. Just don’t forget to circle back to this section for the final touches!
We know you can get cute cupcake liners, but most of the time you don’t even see the design or color because the buttery goodness of the cake darkens the liner. (Mmm, butter.) Instead of worrying about your liner, consider cupcake wrappers. You can get them cheaply online and at some craft stores, and all you do is place your cupcake inside the wrapper. Some even come with cupcake toppers, which are inserted into the top like these cute unicorn cupcakes.
If your cupcake has a foodie or creative theme, consider serving them in something other than just liners. Below we placed lemon cupcakes with lemon frosting in short plastic cups. After adding some trimmed-down straws and lemon candies, we served our “lemonade” cupcakes with a spoon for easier scooping.
The one true fail-safe with cupcakes is decorating the top, especially when it involves sprinkles. Tired of those rainbow candies? Then think of the top of your cupcake as a canvas ready for a new candy creation. Here we used miniature strawberry marshmallows to make tiny strawberry “teddy bears”, but you can really go crazy with imitating animals, toys, other foods, etc. Just search the internet for cupcake decorating ideas with candy.
TIP: For those of you wanting to share a message, you can always use very small candies like M&M minis or rope candies like Twizzlers to make a letter on top of each cupcake to spell out a phrase!
Maybe your cupcakes are sweet enough that you don’t need more candy decorations. You can have some fun and add TOYS to the top! This works best with smaller toys that are food-safe, like our miniature, plastic ninjas battling it out on top of chocolate cupcakes. The bonus here is that the cupcake recipient walks away with a happy tummy AND a toy.
Advanced: Fillings and Other Ideas
Ah, you are ready to move to the next level and really up your cupcake game. We have some fun times ahead for you! Regardless of what you do, remember that it doesn’t have to be pretty, just tasty. In other words, most mistakes can be covered by frosting and nobody but you will be the wiser
Who says you can only bake cupcakes in muffin pans with paper liners? How about baking them in ice cream cones? HECK, YEAH! This latest trend is easy to find online by searching “ice cream cone cupcakes”. Here are a few tips that we learned from reading multiple sites (and testing ourselves, too):
- Stand the cones in paper cupcake liners in muffin pans for baking, and this will stop the bottom of your cones from burning.
- Fill the cones only halfway with batter, which is a little over 1 tablespoon for the kind you see below. If you follow some of the sites that say to fill two-thirds, your cone may crack and the rounded top is difficult to frost.
- Poke a few small holes in the bottom of the cones after they’re baked so they don’t get soggy.
- Bake them as close to the time you’re serving them as you can. If it’s a day before or more, store them in airtight containers. These cones can get stale fast.
- We found yellow cake batter worked better than white cake batter, but it could have been oven error, too. The white cake ones weren’t evenly cooked and we had to throw them out. 😦
LOVE filled cupcakes. It’s like the difference between a plain donut and a jelly-filled donut. Whenever these get served, people act like they’re special and deluxe. You would think they’d be difficult to make, but not at all! Follow these tips to make it all painless:
- If you’re fancy and already have some icing skills, you can use a Bismarck piping tip to fill the middle of your cupcakes. Don’t stress if you don’t. You can use a cupcake corer (usually a buck or two at the store), a melon baller, or just take a knife or spoon and gently scoop out the middle of the cupcake from the top. (Don’t throw away what you scoop! You’ll put it back later in step 3.) Be careful that you don’t go so far down that you hit the bottom of your cupcake; aim for no more than halfway down.
- Using a spoon, drop into the cupcake the filling of your choice. This can be more frosting, whipped cream, pie filling (buy the canned stuff at the grocery store), pudding, or jelly / preserves. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s either creamy or jelly. If it’s too runny, it will make your cupcakes soggy, and if it’s too hard, people get upset about biting into hard stuff in the middle of their food. Makes’em grumpy.
- Add the cake you scooped from before back onto the top to plug your filling hole. Once you frost the cupcake, you won’t see this anyway.
NOTE: Filled cupcakes seem to fall apart more quickly than regular cupcakes, maybe because you’ve threatened their structural integrity. To help with this, serve them in their liners and don’t let them sit around for days. More reason to eat cupcakes, YAS.
Mix it up.
Who says cupcakes have to keep their traditional shape? You can cut them in half and put fun stuff in the middle, like brownies as seen below to make these “cupcake hamburger sliders”. There are also creative ways to sculpt new designs by cutting your cupcakes up, such as making little animals and cupcake caterpillars. There are TONS of these ideas available online, so get thee to a search engine.
Now that you have rocked the cupcake part of your party, go forth and enjoy the
fruit cake of your labors!