Cupcakes are a perfect dessert or anytime sweet treat. And they're great food for parties and celebrations because these days, you can make a cupcake taste (and look) like just about anything. Need something festive for Cinco de Mayo? Whip up some lime and tequila flavored cupcakes. Want something special for Christmas? How about eggnog cupcakes? And pumpkin would be perfect for Halloween, right? Today's confectioners -- professionals and home bakers alike -- truly know how to make their baked goods irresistibly delicious, and can cater to almost any flavor craving.
But let's face it -- not all cupcakes are created equal. Some flavor combos are just better than others are. In this article, we'll look at 10 great cupcake and frosting flavor combinations that are sure to make you wish it was your birthday (or anybody's birthday, for that matter). First up, something tantalizingly tart.
Lemon Cupcake with Raspberry Buttercream
There's no denying that lemon and raspberry make a fantastic pair. Bakers love to put these two fruits together in pastries and cheesecakes, and chances are you've seen raspberry lemonade featured on a menu or two. The tartness of lemon, combined with the fruity sweetness of raspberry, make this a mouthwatering combination.
For an extra treat, sprinkle this tangy delight with white chocolate shavings or graham cracker crumbs, or place a fresh raspberry or two on top. And if you're feeling a little rebellious, turn this combo on its head by making it a raspberry cupcake with lemon frosting. Now you're living dangerously!
Apple Cupcake with Caramel Cream Frosting
Even though caramel apples usually only make their appearance in the fall, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy this time-honored flavor combo year-round. An apple cupcake (or apple cinnamon if you're feeling spicy) topped with a smooth layer of caramel cream frosting might just make you want to put on a sweater and find a pile of leaves to jump into. To apple it up even more, try it with real apple chunks baked right into the cupcake. You can even put a Popsicle stick in the top and sprinkle it with nuts if you want a creative twist on the traditional caramel apple.
Chocolate Chipotle Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache
Are you in the mood for something spicy, but don't want to skip dessert? This surprisingly delicious flavor combination combines the kick of chili peppers (specifically chipotle chili powder) with the sweetness of chocolate and the spice of cinnamon. Topped with chocolate ganache (a chocolate cream glaze that's not as fluffy as traditional frosting), this cupcake satisfies cravings for both the spicy and the sweet. It definitely gives new meaning to the phrase "hot chocolate."
Chili peppers and chocolate actually go together pretty well -- you'll find this unique combination in other popular foods like mole (a chili chocolate sauce) and sometimes, cocoa powder is added to a spicy dish to give it a little something extra.
Mocha Cupcake with Espresso Buttercream
Sometimes what you need is a late-afternoon pick-me-up in the shape of a small baked good. A mocha cupcake (a combination of chocolate and coffee flavors) topped with buttercream icing infused with the flavor of espresso (really strong coffee) might just perk up your tired brain. And just like the fancy coffees you'll find at your nearest coffee shop, you can add whatever you want to this cupcake -- drizzle it with caramel, sprinkle it with cinnamon, whatever floats your boat. As a true coffee lover would ask, "Why just have coffee with your dessert when it can be in your dessert, too?"
Banana Cupcake with Chocolate Frosting
This delicious cupcake and frosting combination is reminiscent of a chocolate-dipped frozen banana, or a fireside banana boat. And few things go better with bananas than chocolate. What's more, you can get creative with this recipe by adding chocolate chips to the cupcake itself, or sprinkling crushed walnuts on top to give that nutty banana bread flavor.
Not a fan of chocolate? Change it up in a way that Elvis Presley would approve of by topping it with peanut butter, instead. (Elvis was known to enjoy peanut butter and banana sandwiches.) Other great toppings for a banana cupcake include butterscotch, caramel and vanilla.
Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Mint Frosting
Great for satisfying Thin Mint cravings during the Girl Scouts' cookie-selling off-season, this great cupcake duo proves that mint and chocolate should always be served together. A moist, dark chocolate cupcake topped with a creamy mint frosting makes after-dinner mints look like child's play. To make this cupcake just a little more decadent, try filling it with a creamy chocolate ganache and sprinkling the frosting with chocolate shavings.
Other frostings that go great with a dark chocolate cupcake include cream cheese, peanut butter, German chocolate, white chocolate, orange and caramel. But let's face it, what doesn't go great with chocolate?
Carrot Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Not surprisingly, the carrot cupcake is one of the most popular cupcake flavors out there. Why? Carrot cake is sweet and spongy, with shredded carrot, cinnamon and a few chopped walnuts or pecans. This cupcake combo is the same as a traditional carrot cake, but in a single-serving form. If you're not a fan of carrots, you can always leave them out and you're still left with a delicious spice cake cupcake. Or, replace the carrot with shredded cucumber for a truly unique flavor.
Arguably, the best part of the carrot cupcake is the frosting, which tastes like cream cheese, but is sweeter and creamier. It's made by whipping together butter, vanilla, cream cheese and sugar, and is a truly tasty topping for any flavor of cupcake.
Pineapple Cupcake with Brown Sugar Buttercream
Ah, the sweet taste of pineapple and brown sugar. If you've ever eaten a pineapple upside-down cake, you know there's just something amazing about pairing sweet, juicy pineapple with cake. And the brown sugar frosting gives it a warm, rich flavor that goes nicely with the syrupy goodness of pineapple.
Fortunately for the accident-prone cook, unlike a traditional pineapple upside-down cake, this cupcake doesn't require the stealthy move of flipping the cake over once it's baked. Stick a maraschino cherry on top, and sprinkle it with coconut if you want, and you have a mini homage to one of the most popular dessert recipes of all time.
Love s'mores but don't have a campfire handy? This clever combination recreates the popular fireside tradition by bringing together chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker all in a neat little dessert. In a traditional s'more, a fire-toasted marshmallow and a piece of chocolate are sandwiched together between two graham crackers. In the cupcake version, a chocolate cupcake is spread with marshmallow frosting and sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs. Want a bigger marshmallow-to-chocolate ratio? Try using marshmallow fluff or extra marshmallow frosting as a filling for the cupcake.
The best part about this cupcake combination, aside from its deliciousness, is that marshmallow-flavored frosting is much easier to get off your fingers than a gooey, fire-melted marshmallow, making this a less-sticky alternative to the classic treat.
The Double Dose
No cupcake list would be complete without mentioning the good old standbys. Are you a diehard chocolate lover? Do you enjoy the simple sweetness of vanilla? Are you a serious strawberry fan? Sometimes nothing satisfies a flavor craving like a double dose of it.
A chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, a strawberry cupcake with strawberry frosting, a lemon cupcake with lemon frosting -- for a true flavor fan, nothing could be better. There's a reason these tried-and-true doubled-up flavor combinations are still featured by bakeries the world over -- sometimes you just want it simple, and these classic favorites fit the bill.
Haven't had your fill just yet? Get more cupcake goodness from the links on the following page.
HowStuffWorks looks at some great British Baking terms — and some American ones as well.
- Anderson, Jean. "The American Century Cook-Book: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century." Clark N. Potter Publishers. 1997.
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- Iron Cupcake: Earth. "How Does Iron Cupcake: Earth Work?" www.ironcupcakeearth.com. July 25, 2008. (May 7, 2010).http://www.ironcupcakeearth.com/2008/07/how-does-iron-cupcakeearth-work.html
- Kickass Cupcakes. "Flavors." 2010. (May 5, 2010).http://www.kickasscupcakes.com/Flavors.php
- Rinsky, Glenn and Laura Halpin Rinsky. "The Pastry Chef's Companion: A Comprehensive Resource Guide for the Baking and Pastry Professional." John Wiley and Sons. 2008.
- Peters, Colette. "Colette's Birthday Cakes." Little, Brown and Company. 2000.
- Sprinkles Cupcakes. "Flavors." 2010. (May 5, 2010).http://www.sprinkles.com/flavors.html
- Trophy Cupcakes. "Flavors." 2010. (May 5, 2010).http://www.trophycupcakes.com/flavors.htm