We like to have a variety of cupcakes on hand when we're entertaining, but we don't want to spend too much time making separate recipes. No one has the time or the money for that—especially when you're hosting and you've got a bevy of other dishes to prepare.
The cheap and easy solution that saves our dessert table every time is to use a versatile batter and buttercream base—then mix it up with different flavors to create a wide selection for our guests.
As for what flavors to use, the sky's the limit—but we're particular to fruits that are in-season! Chocolate and caramel for some, but fruits really take the cake (ha!) for our taste buds.
For our base recipes, we used Food Network's vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream frosting. Both the batter and the buttercream recipes yield basic, adaptable results perfect for the variations we'll make below.
(Here's a pro-tip: if you smash the strawberries a bit with the back of your spoon, the flavor will become more pronounced. Mmmm... strawberries.)
To make the strawberry buttercream, add an additional half-tablespoon of diced strawberries per cupcake to the frosting. You can also dye the frosting red and add sliced strawberries to the top to make your cupcake stand out, like we do below.
To make the orange buttercream, add a teaspoon of fresh orange juice per cupcake to the batter. You can also dye the frosting orange, add fresh orange zest to the top, and add a tiny triangle of fresh orange for an additional splash of flavor and color.
To make the lemon cupcake base, add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice per cupcake and mix into the batter. As orange zest does with the orange buttercream, fresh lemon zest will make your lemon batter even brighter.
To make the lemon buttercream, add a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice per cupcake to the batter. You can also dye the frosting yellow, add fresh lemon zest to the top, and add a miniature slice of lemon for an additional splash of flavor and color.
The moral of the story: all it takes is a little ingenuity in the kitchen to create something amazing with little effort. And that, my cupcake-loving friends, is a hack definition that we can stand behind. Seriously—the results speak for themselves.
Have any favorite cupcake tips, tricks, or ideas you can't live without? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below!