Holiday Cupcakes: Bring On the Flavor, Bring On the Fun

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There is perhaps no one on the face of the planet where sugary sweets exist who has not at least seen let alone tried a cupcake at some point in their lives. These delicious mini-cakes are delectable, but there is also something charming about their shape and the myriad amounts of designs and decorations that come with them. Holiday cupcakes, in particular, are one of the cornerstones of any holiday celebration. 

Holiday cupcakes can be designed with all the applicable colors and designs that are indicative of each season. Christmas cupcakes are the most prolific in terms of the number of overall designs. 

So in this fun guide, we are going to explore a large number of holiday cupcakes which will include some unique descriptions and recipes that you can try. Read on to find out more. 

Cupcake History

The earliest extant description of what is now often called a cupcake was in 1796 when a recipe for “a light cake to bake in small cups” was written in American Cookery by Amelia Simmons. The earliest extant documentation of the term cupcake itself was in “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook.

In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the term cupcake. In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. 

This is the use of the name that has remained, and the name “cupcake” is now given to any small, round cake that is about the size of a teacup. While English fairy cakes vary in size more than American cupcakes, they are traditionally smaller and are rarely topped with elaborate frosting.

The other kind of “cup cake” referred to a cake whose ingredients were measured by volume, using a standard-sized cup, instead of being weighed. 

Recipes whose ingredients were measured using a standard-sized cup could also be baked in cups; however, they were more commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves. In later years, when the use of volume measurements was firmly established in home kitchens, these recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes, so called because they are made up of four ingredients: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs. 

They are plain yellow cakes, somewhat less rich and less expensive than pound cake, due to using about half as much butter and eggs compared to pound cake.

The names of these two major classes of cakes were intended to signal the method to the baker; “cup cake” uses a volume measurement, and “pound cake” uses a weight measurement. 

Holiday Cupcakes

Spring Cupcake Flavors

For the spring season, cupcakes can be fashioned to take advantage of light, floral colors, and various nature themes that define the season. 

Rose and pistachio cupcakes

If you’re bored of the same old cupcakes, it’s time to try something new. An elegant rose and pistachio cupcake can be ready in 35 mins and eaten in seconds. All that is needed is icing for the color of roses you desire, as well as green food coloring to mimic the flavor of pistachios. Pistachio shavings can be decorated on top of the icing. 

Summer Cupcake Flavors

Summer is a bit more rustic than spring, and therefore, you will want to make a themed cupcake that takes advantage of what we love during hot weather. How about some watermelon cupcakes?

Watermelon cupcake ingredients

  • unsalted butter: makes the cake tender and helps with leavening 
  • granulated sugar: adds sweetness and flavor
  • egg whites: binds the cake together by providing structure 
  • sour cream: adds moisture and creaminess
  • milk: adds moisture 
  • vanilla extract: adds flavor
  • all-purpose flour: flour is necessary to build a structure
  • baking powder: helps to leaven and lift the batter, reacts with the sour cream
  • salt: just a pinch to balance the sweetness and enhances the other flavors of the cake
  • leaf green gel food coloring: important for getting that vibrant green color

How to make watermelon cupcakes

  • In a mixing bowl combine the butter and sugar, and beat using an electric mixer, for 1-2 minutes until fluffy. 
  • Add in the egg whites, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract. Beat lightly with the electric mixer. 
  • In a separate mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients a few spoonfuls at a time. Mix until just incorporated. 
  • Add in a small amount of Wilton’s “leaf green” gel food coloring until you get your desired green color. 
  • Fill the muffin liners 1/2-3/4 full. Bake for 17-19 minutes at 350º F or until a few moist crumbs remain on a toothpick when inserted into the center. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before adding the frosting.

How to make watermelon frosting

The watermelon kool aid actually doesn’t add much color to the buttercream (adds a lot of flavors though!) so you’ll need some red food coloring to help create a watermelon pink color.

I used the no-taste red gel food coloring from Albertson’s here in Albuquerque, adding a little at a time, but it actually takes a lot to even just get the buttercream this color. I have not tried using pink food coloring so I don’t know if it would create the same color.

Don’t forget to add the mini chocolate chips! They complete the look of these Watermelon Cupcakes!

Fall Cupcake Flavors

I must confess, autumn (fall) is my absolute favorite season. Here in Albuquerque, the weather begins to take a slight chill in late September, and this lets you know it is time for all things pumpkin spice. How about making some traditional fall cupcakes this year?

Fall cupcake ingredients

How to make fall cupcakes

  1. To prepare cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place all ingredients into a stand or electric mixer and beat on medium for close to 2 minutes, batter will be thick. Scoop or spoon batter into 24 lined muffin tins and bake for 18-21 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean from the center.
  2. To prepare to frost, mix frosting, cream cheese, and cinnamon until well combined. Spread over cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle additional cinnamon lightly over frosted cupcakes.

Use a stand mixer or large mixing bowl to beat the cake mix until well combined. The batter will be thick. Use a medium cookie scoop to scoop batter into cupcake-lined muffin tins. Fill about 3/4 full and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean when tested in the center of the cupcakes. Let cupcakes cool completely and prepare a simple cream cheese frosting. When cupcakes are cooled, frost cupcakes and dust with a bit of cinnamon.

Holiday Cupcakes: Halloween Cupcake Flavors

Halloween cupcakes
Halloween cupcake with pumpkins in hat, Jack O

Halloween is undeniably the spookiest time of the year, but it’s also one of the sweetest. Between trick-or-treating, Halloween cakes, and other Halloween party food ideas, there are more than a few sugar-filled treats to help you ring in October 31 drowning in sugar. But if you’re really looking to go all out with your All Hallows’ Eve party, the best Halloween cupcakes are sure to please every witch and goblin in sight.

As far as Halloween desserts are concerned, cupcakes are by far the easiest to bake — and stand to make the best impression on your Halloween party-goers. From simple candy corn cupcakes to rich chocolate pumpkin cupcakes, there’s a cupcake recipe, decoration, and flavor on this list that will leave everyone feeling spooky and satisfied.

Holiday Cupcakes: Thanksgiving Cupcake Flavors

Thanksgiving cupcakes are an adorable addition to your holiday dessert table. Simply top pumpkin spice cupcakes with chocolate frosting, candy corn, and vanilla wafers to create cute little birds that kids and adults will love.

Making these cupcakes with the kids is a fun Thanksgiving activity. They’re super easy to put together and don’t require a lot of tools or skills. You can find the candy eyes at craft stores or online and everything else is available at your local grocery store.

You can easily make the cupcake base ahead of time and freeze them. Decorate the day before Thanksgiving for an easy dessert that won’t take up oven space on the big day. Simply use a standard fall cupcake recipe (see above) and select some icing, piping designs, and colors to decorate the cakes with turkeys, pumpkins, squash, brown leaves, and all the themes that define the holiday. 

If you just want to keep things standard, here is a traditional fall cupcake recipe that can be fashioned into a turkey when it comes time to decorate. 


For the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 ounces (1/2 cup) salted butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

For the decoration:

  • 1 cup chocolate frosting
  • 12 vanilla wafers
  • 60 pieces of candy corn
  • 24 candy eyes
  • 1 small fruit roll up, cut into small strips
  • 6 pieces of M&M’s candy, optional

Holiday Cupcakes: Christmas Cupcake Flavors

Did you know that December 15th is National Cupcake Day? When a holiday like this falls right before Christmas, there’s only one way to go: Christmas eat cupcakes. You can turn the food holiday into a seasonal holiday party, with a DYO (decorate your own) cupcake party, with holiday flavors and garnishes. Whether you bake them from scratch or buy plain cupcakes to decorate, here are 10 easy approaches for Christmas cupcakes.

Christmas cupcakes
  • Candy cane cupcakes: Crushed red and white peppermints on chocolate or vanilla iced cupcakes. 
  • Coconut “snowball” cupcakes: Shredded coconut on vanilla icing, plain or decorated with a mini candy cane or other Christmas candy. 
  • Cone Christmas tree cupcakes: Cover a small ice cream cone with green frosting and invert it on top of a cupcake. Add sprinkles or dragées for “ornaments.” 
  • Dragée-dotted cupcakes: A sophisticated approach using metallic-colored gold and/or silver balls. 
  • Frosty The Snowman cupcakes: Use black and orange gels or icing to create Frosty’s face atop flat-iced white cupcakes: eyes, nose, and mouth. 
  • Holly cupcakes: Use real or candy mint leaves and mini red candies to create a holly sprig. Red and green icing: Use food color to tint icing, store-bought or homemade. Serve as is or with decorations of choice. Check out the special Christmas wrap Hershey’s Kisses for an added festive touch. 
  • Rudolph cupcakes: To a chocolate-frosted cupcake, add white frosting eyes or candy eyes, a red candy nose, and pretzel antlers. 
  • Sprinkles cupcakes: Garnish iced cupcakes with red and green sprinkles, confetti, stars, or Christmas trees. Star cupcakes: Crown cupcakes with foil-wrapped chocolate stars or red and green gummy stars.