Cupcake Candyland
January 4, 2010 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm throwing a Cupcake Candyland party that promises to be a sugar&booze fueled shindig of over-the-top girliness. I have questions about cupcakes that aren't really cupcakes, gluten-free cupcake recipes, frosting & decorating, and pink cocktails that utilize homemade grenadine.

CUPCAKES THAT AREN'T REALLY CUPCAKES: I figure having nothing but a spread of different flavored cupcakes could get pretty monotonous and most people wouldn't even try them all, so I'm trying to think of anything that can be made in cupcake form. I'd like recommendations for savory "cupcakes" as well as other desserts that can be turned into cupcakes.

GLUTEN-FREE CUPCAKES: I'm definitely going to be making G-Free mini brownies from the excellent (and affordable) mix sold at Trader Joe's, but if anyone has any suggestions for recipes that don't require me to buy 9 different types of hard-to-find flours, I'd appreciate it.

FROSTING & DECORATING: I am a cook, not a pastry chef. I'm more comfortably sweating balls over a chipotle oxtail braise than doing royal icing floodwork, and as a human with tastebuds I am morally opposed to fondant. I'd like suggestions for candies or other decor, as well as recipes for fool-proof frostings that don't taste like pure sugar paste. What are the tips and tricks to making cupcakes look adorable with a minimum of effort and/or talent?

COCKTAILS: (previously) I like cocktails that require a lot of cooking, but not a lot of liquors. For example, my signature drink of 2010, the glorious Gin-Gin Mule, requires you to make your own ginger beer and chiffonade mint, but you only have to have gin on hand. I really want to make homemade grenadine and and use it to make some cocktails that pair well with desserts and are pink (the grenadine is red so the other ingredients just need to be clear). It's difficult, though, since I'm kind of a girl-drink snob and every terrible drink on earth has Rose's in it.
posted by Juliet Banana to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Meat loaf with mashed potato frosting, baked in cupcake tins.

Maybe quiche?(uh, I can't think of a way to faux frost an egg dish)

Corn bread in muffin tins.

I use the basic muffin recipe from the cook's illustrated book The Best Recipe, you can add all kinds of things to that recipe.

You could probably use mini cup cake pans for some kind of salmon thing with sour cream something or other on top.

Damn. Now I'm hungry again.

Oh! You could serve veggies in cupcake tins, just pretend they're serving trays. Have a few dips in some of the cups. (this one is probably cheating, but I'm ok with that, since I love having raw veggies available at parties, and gluten free guests might also.)

posted by bilabial at 7:50 PM on January 4, 2010

On not preview, I swear I know how to code for italics. I'm gonna go have some ice cream - which you could serve in those creepy silicon cupcake things. With whipped cream and sprinkles on top.
posted by bilabial at 7:52 PM on January 4, 2010

I sometimes pan fry falafel, but a lot of times I just bake it in the oven. You could easily bake some falafal mix in a cupcake pan and then top it with a hummus and an olive half for the "icing."
posted by MaryDellamorte at 7:55 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Actually, now that I'm settling in with my snack, I think martha or real simple suggested ore-scooping ice cream into paper cupcake wrappers as a party time saver. So, scoop, and put the blobs back in the freezer, don't bother buying the silicon cups. Unless they don't creep you out and your party won't be complete without them.

So. I'm gonna eat my ice cream before it melts. Don't everybody talk all at once while my mouth is full.
posted by bilabial at 7:59 PM on January 4, 2010

Mini cupcake shaped meatloafs (meatloaves?) frosted with mashed potatoes, and sprinkled with diced carrot sprinkles.

Six words in to the question, and I knew you were the asker. Sounds like it'll be a great time!

Piping frosting on with a star tip can look pretty awesome.

Decorate cupcakes with sugared flowers, or dried pineapple flowers.

Black bottom cupcakes are awesome, and don't require (and honestly, shouldn't have) frosting.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:01 PM on January 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Egg muffins cooked in a cupcake tin.

Suggestions for savory cupcakes.
posted by MsMolly at 8:03 PM on January 4, 2010

for the gluten free cupcakes, seriously, buy mixes. At most, add gluten free flavourings (booze is good). They really are the best solution. I say this as someone who successfully bakes a range of gluten free and other special diet concoctions as part of daily life. I use Kinnikinnik and Celimix Brands, but these are my locally available ones and you likely can get ones which are just as good.
posted by kch at 8:10 PM on January 4, 2010

As is noted in the meatcake link, the pastry bag makes ALL the difference. They're so easy and fun to use.

The classic Pink Lady would be a great drink (and you like gin!) - the frothy stuff on top makes it look like a cupcake! Surely you can tweak it to your tastes and to suit your grenadine!

And the frothy egg makes me think that mini meringue or cloud pies (found a Pink Lady pie!) would be fantastic in cupcake form - and instead of the traditional lemon, you might be able to use your grenadine to flavour up some filling?

Pink jello/grenadine "shooters" molded in mini-cupcake tins with whipped cream "frosting"?
posted by peagood at 8:11 PM on January 4, 2010

Olive and Artichoke Quiche Muffins are to die.

I'd also recommend for easy frosting:

Cream cheese with sugar to taste, creamed with a hand mixer, then smeared on with a small spatula; this is thick enough that you can dip into a small bowl of cinnamon candies (red hots) and they'll stick on their own. This is excellent for Red Velvet Cake or Cherry/Strawberry varieties.

For cake-consistency breads (like tea breads or scones): 1.5 cups of powdered sugar, the juice and grated rind of one lemon beat until it makes a lemon drizzle that will dry after pouring on; crushed Lemonheads sprinkled on to garnish.

You can also melt semi-sweet chocolate chips in a metal bowl over a pot of hot water on the stove, mix in some dried cherries, pour into paper-lined muffin tins and put in the fridge overnight for homemade candies. Or use nuts or whatever, based on your guests' food allergies, but cherries seem to fit your theme.

Other savory ideas:

The classic Bisquick-based sausage balls, skewered with tiny swords and a black olive on top to make more festive?

Get a very thin white bread (wish they still made those crust-free loaves, but sadly, nope) like a party loaf they have in the regular grocery store. spread thinly with herbed cream cheese, then a thin slice of cucumber, then another slice of bread, another thin layer of herbed cram cheese, a cucumber, and top with half a cherry tomato. Serve in a foil muffin cup as a mini sandwich shooter. (if you can't get the party loaf size, use THIN white bread and cut round-sized with a drinking glass approx. same size as the muffin tin cups)

The foil cups are also the exact right size to hold one scoop of chicken or tuna salad; maybe serve with those "taste" sized disposable spoon/shovel things they have at ice cream stores, and most certainly will have in some shape or form at something like Party City?

Finally, 30 savory muffin recipes from AllRecipe.

For a fun cocktail, I'd suggest super-cheap champagne with a splash of pomegranate liqueur rather than Chambord; it's fruitier and lighter.

Non-alcoholic version: Wild Zinger chilled tea mixed with Ginger Ale.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:12 PM on January 4, 2010

Gluten-free: Flourless chocolate cupcakes. I'm eating one right now!
posted by hydrophonic at 8:19 PM on January 4, 2010

OOH! And I just thought of this: Those Tostitos Scoops? They look like cupcake wrappers, kind of? Instead of putting them out in a a bowl for scooping dips in the traditional manner (of my mother) you could assemble some kind of wee small individual taco salads, maybe with piped sour cream "frosting" and green onion sprinkles!
posted by peagood at 8:26 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can also set up a 'decorate your own' station. Set out naked cupcakes and all the fun childhood memory cupcake treats (those silver dragees, spinkles, colored frosting/icing in tubes for drawing, etc)

Drinks - Shirley Temple Black is a grown up Shirley Temple. Add alcohol of your choice, nobody agrees what's in it, and most bartenders have never heard of it. (Black was her married name.)

A friend makes a drink she calls 'surprise' - sprite, grenadine, vodka. It's so sweet, we joke that the drink is "as in 'surprise! You're drunk!'"

Check out the blog Embury Cocktails. He might even enjoy suggesting a few cocktails for your bash.

Mini cupcake sized cheese balls might be too much, but if you rolled a ball in nuts and plopped them into mini cupcake papers? I'd eat a few. Might want to pass them with crackers though.

Obviously, I'm going to dream about cupcake-able foods tonight.
posted by bilabial at 8:30 PM on January 4, 2010

Betty Crocker just came out with gluten-free cake, brownie, and chocolate chip cookie mixes. I have tried the brownies and the cookies and I cannot recommend them enough! They actually taste like 'real' food. All you have to add is vanilla, butter, and eggs. (Personally I add almond extract instead of vanilla, but that's my favorite.) The brownies are a little on the rich side, but they are still really good. So far they are the best mix I've found, and believe me I've tried every one I can get my hands on. (There is no Trader Joe's near me, so I have no experience with that brand.) Based on my experience with the other Betty Crocker mixes I think you should try that mix for your gf cupcakes.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:37 PM on January 4, 2010

I can stop whenever I want, really.

But first I want to tell you one more. Following up on the frito scoop suggestion, and your previous meatless taco post - fry small tortillas, drape them over the cupcake tin bottoms to form a bowl. Fill with taco salad. Top with sour cream. Or shredded white cheese (I know, most Mexican tacos aren't so heavy on those...)

One more! You can use stencils to put shapes or initials on the tops of your cupcakes - cocoa powder is common, but you can find lots of stuff to sprinkle. Also - candies Ginger may have a place at the bar and on desserts.

For party favors - etsy probably has mini cupcake soaps. I know you didn't say favors, but it came to me.

I would love to eat my way through this party, but I could see some of my friends saying none of these foods go together. (but that's the voice in my head that always keeps me from having people over, much less throwing am awesome theme party.)

Please tell us the menu when you settle on it, so I can shamelessly steal it!
posted by bilabial at 8:47 PM on January 4, 2010

What a fun idea...

How about corn bread "cupcakes" made with some cheese and taco seasoning (or maybe meat?) and topped with refried beans or sour cream. Scallion, onion, and tomato sprinkles!

Do you have a cupcake stand or two?

Oh and I'm with you on the topic of fondant, except the type you can make yourself. It's super easy and it really does taste good (if you like the taste of marshmallows). The chocolate version farther down the page is especially good.

(I swear I do not work for Wilton!)

OOH I really like the jello shooter with whipped cream frosting suggestion! Nice!
posted by eldiem at 8:58 PM on January 4, 2010

I used to make cheese muffins - take a basic muffin recipe, omit the sugar, and add grated cheddar and parmesan cheese. to decorate them, you could sprinkle them with grated cheddar and parmesan just after they come out of the oven so the cheese melts a bit onto them, or pipe a cheddar/cream cheese mix on top.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 9:10 PM on January 4, 2010

Frosting bags. You can get cheap disposable ones at any craft store and most grocery stores, and you can use scissors to cut your own tips if you don't have some or don't want to buy them (they're useful for non-desserts though, so I'd recommend picking up a few. )

If you've never used them before, there's a couple of tips.

1) Don't overfill the bag. Overfilling is easier than it sounds. You'll ideally want maybe 3-4 soup spoons of frosting at a time to start with and as you get more comfortable and confidant with the bag, you can increase up to your comfort level. Too much and you get frosting all over your hands.

2) Be gentle with it but not too gentle. Too firm a grip and frosting goes everywhere, too gentle and nothing comes out.

3) Practice first. On a flat surface like a cutting board or piece of butcher's paper (I like this because it's easier to scrape the frosting off and dump it back into the bowl) practice a few times.


On savories - if you're good with breads, you could use a larger-sized muffin tin to make bread bowls and fill them with chili or soup. Put the 'top' back on and it looks like a muffin!
posted by FritoKAL at 9:29 PM on January 4, 2010

Cheesecake cupcakes! You can top them with cherry pie filling or maraschino cherries for maximum girliness.

As far as decorating goes, these are kind of sickeningly adorable and fit the Candyland theme well if you skip the fondant (blech) "presents."
posted by rebekah at 9:37 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Icing made by creaming one part cream cheese, one part butter and one part caster sugar with a little bit of vanilla is really delicious, reasonably easy to spread at room temperature but hardens up a bit in the fridge, and could be coloured easily with food-colouring.
posted by Emilyisnow at 4:04 AM on January 5, 2010

The first thing that came to mind: If you want something a bit more 'exotic', there's Kueh Pie Tee (Nyonya savory appetizer/snack that looks very much like a cupcake)... it's delicious (tastes like a cross between a salad and a spring roll, sort of), but can be a bit time-consuming to make (although it's well worth the effort imo). If you don't have the molds or don't want to buy the molds for the 'cupcake liner' casing, you can mold spring roll / wonton wrappers to cupcake tins, brush them gently with oil and bake them - that's what I did the last time I made this. Not as authentic or pretty, but it works. They taste really good. I think I'm making myself hungry now.
posted by aielen at 4:19 AM on January 5, 2010

Bob's Red Mill has a gluten-free chocolate cake mix that can be bought (usually) at places like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods that I recommend highly. Gluten-Free Girl has posted a modified Bob's chocolate cupcake with a chocolate ganache frosting recipe (scroll down toward the bottom of the page - she tends to be quite verbose at times) that is amazing; I've made this for my coworkers and people were taking seconds and thirds - you would never know that it was gluten-free. You can also alter the recipe by adding your own flavours. One time I made orange chocolate cupcakes with this recipe, by adding orange zest to my batter and making the ganache with Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate bars
posted by urbanlenny at 6:54 AM on January 5, 2010

Not a recipe at all, but you might want to make something delicious in this giant cupcake pan.
posted by dizziest at 12:12 PM on January 5, 2010

I just wanted to warn you about the drinks and the gluten free thing. You have to steer clear of malted liquors. They are not gluten free, distilled stuff is fine, but beer and lagers are totally out.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:14 PM on January 6, 2010

On April Fool's Day a few years ago, my wife served "cupcakes" made of meatloaf with (colored!) mashed-potato frosting for dinner. And the kids were pissed. She made an awesome dessert, too, but they almost didn't get to eat anybecause they were so stubborn about not eating the plateful of LIES that we laid out. We laughed like hyenas, and I think I ate three.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:16 PM on January 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

this is a great idea for a party - if I lived anywhere near you I'd totally be angling for an invite. Please post pictures!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:55 PM on January 6, 2010

Response by poster: So I finally actually had the party and uploaded a bunch of photos.


Chocolate Icebox Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sour Cream Herb Muffins with Goat Cheese Frosting

Shepherd's Pie (basically this "recipe" with mushrooms rather than meat, and mashed potatoes piped on)

Gluten-Free Brownies with Whipped Cream

Cupcake Cocktails (a meef brought these)

Chocolate Bacon Espresso Cupcakes (obviously, a meef brought these)

Dirty Shirleys, plus whiskey and root beer and basically any alcohol in the house mixed with whatever, it was a party

You can't really see it but I made a giant candyland-esque board and laid the cupcakes out on that.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:46 PM on February 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, and if anyone's curious, the shepherd's pie and the boozy cupcake shots were far and away the most popular item. If you want to make people love you, make shepherd's pie.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:47 PM on February 6, 2010

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