I believe there are three simple rules to creating the perfect cupcake: 1. it should be easy to make, 2. it should look good and 3. it should be delicious.
I've been caught up in the cupcake craze traveling to various bakeries to try their "best" cupcake, but I often leave disappointed. Most of these "gourmet" cupcakes are too sweet and for over $3.00 per cupcake I think they are too expensive.
I think one of the requirements of being a parent is the ability to quickly produce large numbers of cupcakes at the last moment for school bake sales and other events. Some parents buy cupcakes for these events and they try to make them look "homemade", but there are better solutions.
Following is a fast way to make cupcakes with items found in the pantry for those last minute cupcake requests. I've learned through the years that cupcakes made from a cake mix can be just as good, if not better, than cupcakes bought at most local bakeries and they are certainly less expensive.
First, buy decorative cupcake liners. The styles are numerous and many can now be found in grocery stores.
Next, find a reliable cake mix and pre-made frosting. Stock up on high quality brands during sales.
Find items to decorate the tops of the cupcakes. For Halloween this could include sour worms, gummy tarantulas, candy corns, or sprinkles. Kids enjoy eating cupcakes and they really love to see extra items on top of the cupcakes. I remember as a child loving the plastic toys found on top of cupcakes. Remember the ballerina?
One of my favorite toppings is shredded coconut. It is beautiful placed on top of colored frosting, or as an alternative, the coconut can be colored by placing it in a plastic bag and adding a little bit of food coloring.
Color the prepared frosting. Spread a generous amount of frosting onto each cooled cupcake. The frosting can be piped through a bag, but when I am short on time I spread the frosting with a butter knife.
Crush chocolate cookies to make chocolate "dirt". This is a perfect base for gummy worms, snakes, tarantulas, bones, etc. To avoid a mess do not try to sprinkle the crumbs on top of the cupcake. Turn the frosted cupcake upside-down and dip it into the crumb mixture.
I'm still searching for the perfect "gourmet" cupcake recipe, but until then, these cupcakes are perfect for our Halloween party.
Let the kids decorate the cupcakes and enjoy!