Way back in October (which seems like a billion years ago and yesterday all at the same time) I had the privilege of helping a friend by showing up at her party with the cupcakes for the shindig. I love to bake, and I love to decorate things…so I was so excited that she asked. I spent weeks (well, weeks of two minutes here, one minute there) planning what I was going to make. Then I made three different types of cupcakes and decorated each differently – bats on big, yellow full moons, eyeballs, and something else I can’t remember right now (remember what I said about it being a billion years ago?). Everyone said they looked so great, and the kids gobbled them up!
But I forgot to take a single picture of them.
I was thrilled when the same friend called recently and invited us to their Christmas party, and this time I asked if I could help by bringing the cupcakes. This time I didn’t have nearly as much time to plan, but it all came together nicely (if I do say so myself)…and this time I remembered my camera, so I’m going to share my cupcakes with you! The best party (and the reason that I am sharing them) is that they were super, duper easy! Nothing I did was really time-consuming or took a lot of artistic talent. I’m pretty sure that with some instruction and a guiding hand my kids could have made these. So grab a box of cake mix (or three), and have fun!
double dark chocolate cupcakes with peppermint icing
These were the first ones that I knew I wanted to make for sure – dark chocolate cake with mini chocolate chips mixed in – topped with peppermint cream cheese icing. For the icing I simply crushed up some soft peppermint candies (I was going to use candy canes, but I found this stuff at Hobby Lobby that is soft like butter mints and oh, so yummy! I put it in a zipper baggie, stuck that inside a section of the newspaper – just to hold in the bits that inevitably come flying out of the holes that get made in the bag – and took all my holiday stress out on the baggie with my husband’s hammer.), stirred them into the icing with a tiny bit of peppermint extract and added a few extra peppermint candy crumbles to the top. The pink color came naturally from the peppermint candy though I was fully prepared to add a drop of red food dye if needed. These were my favorite in the taste category, yet there were more of these left at the party than the others.
Yellow cake with chocolate ganache and holly leaves
These were fun to do! I was going to use white icing, and I think they would be really pretty that way. In the end I decided that my selection needed more variety, so I used a chocolate ganache. It sounds hard, but chocolate ganache is super easy to make; it’s simply a mixture of cream (or half and half, since that’s what I had in my fridge at the last minute when I decided to make ganache instead of white icing), chocolate, and sometimes a bit of butter or flavoring. You can find lots of recipes online. Once I made my ganache, I allowed it to cool, then dipped each cupcake in it instead of spreading it. Some of the ganache dripped down the sides, but no one seemed to mind. I put these in the fridge to set for a bit, since I was in a bit of a hurry and using half and half instead of cream resulted in a softer textured ganache. Then I stuck the holly leaves and berries on top.
For the holly leaves I used spearmint leaf candy, the stuff that is like gum drops but in the shape of leaves. I was just going to use them as they were, but I decided that I wanted a more authentic holly leaf shape…so I tossed some granulated sugar on the counter and rolled them out flat. Then, if I could have found my cookie cutter, I would have been able to cut them out in no time flat…but since my little holly leaf cookie cutter is hiding, I had to cut them by hand. It wasn’t bad, though I did have to rinse my knife off several times. Once the leaf shapes were cut, I dipped the edges in the extra sugar, and they were done. I used red hots for the berries.
funfetti cupcakes with vanilla frosting and fondant snowflakes
These were simple and fun to make. A kids’ favorite cake mix, my favorite vanilla frosting mix (thanks, Wilton!), and some fondant snowflakes with edible glitter. I had the edible glitter left over from a recent birthday cake, so I was glad to find a purpose for it. I was originally going to use icing and pipe (draw) the snowflakes on, but my sister talked me into trying to use fondant. It was SO much fun! I used a coupon and got a box of it ready-made at the craft store. I rolled it out on a powdered sugar-covered counter top, then cut the snowflakes out using a cookie cutter. To help the glitter stick, I used a pastry brush (could have used my finger or a small, clean paintbrush) to dab on a tiny bit of water then sprinkled with glitter. I set them on waxed paper to dry overnight. The next day one did break when I pulled it up, but out of forty or so that’s not too bad! I loved that I was able to make the snowflakes the day ahead, so the assembly of these cupcakes went really fast the day of the party!
As a matter of fact, I did almost everything the day ahead. The only thing I did on the day of the party was make the cupcakes and that last-minute fondant and assemble.