You can’t go wrong with regular frosting for cupcakes, especially if you use high-quality butter; glazes and whipped cream work, too. But there’s no reason to stop there. Stretch your cupcake imagination to include ingredients to place on top of the frosting or to match the occasion, or design fun and whimsical ways to finish off your creations.

When you sprinkle toppings on top of frosting, in the same or different colors, the toppings adhere best if you press down slightly on the first few you add. Try these toppings for any flavor cupcake:

  • Whole small candies, candy sprinkles or chopped candy bars
  • Shredded coconut, colored with food coloring, toasted or plain 
  •  Toasted nuts, 

    chopped or sliced

  • Candied orange or grapefruit zest

  • Candied ginger

Tips

Create whimsical flowers and creatures for the top of your cupcakes by rolling and cutting gumdrops, using candy molds or making bugs from small bits of candy.

Match the cupcake toppings to the cupcake in the same way you would match icing to a cake. For example:

  • Use a walnut and coconut praline topping for German chocolate cupcakes.
  • Make a meringue topping for lemon cupcakes.
  • Top carrot cupcakes with a cream cheese icing and decoratively arranged, sugared carrot discs.

Edible flowers or thoroughly washed and dried fruit such as blueberries or raspberries work on any flavored cupcake. Use fresh or dried flowers or make candied flowers by dipping them in a mixture of 1 frothy egg white and 1 cup of superfine sugar. Use one large flower or several small flowers on each cupcake. The list of edible flowers includes:

  • Carnations (Dianthus spp.)
  • English daisies (Bellis perennis)
  • Garden chrysanthemums (Chrysanthemum coroarium)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
  • Orange (Citrus sinensis)
  • Pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis)
  • Roses (Rosa spp.)
  • Scented geraniums (Pelargonium spp.)
  • Violets (Viola odorata)

Traditional holiday decorations take on an added dimension when you make them with edible substances and place them on top of your cupcakes. Try these ideas:

  • For Halloween, make a spiderweb pattern in the frosting by dragging a toothpick through concentric circles of different colors you’ve piped onto the cupcake. Add an edible spider made with a chocolate candy disc and licorice legs.
  • For Christmas, frost your cupcakes with white icing, add a reindeer face made from gumdrops and licorice and give the animal antlers made from pretzels dipped in white chocolate. Or for snowmen, pile two marshmallows on top of each other and add faces with icing from a tube.
  • For Hanukkah, make a cupcake menorah with a candle placed in the middle of each cupcake. Make the candles by dipping thick pretzel sticks in chocolate and using a dab of frosting to attach a yellow jelly bean or peanut candy for the flame at the top.