Summer Party Perfection: Cupcake Buffet

By Rebecca Isenhart

Banner by Rebecca Isenhart

Family reunions, graduation parties, birthdays, barbecues, and just-because socializing: summer is a time for gathering with the people you love. But if you’re in charge of planning said social events, getting ready for guests can really interfere with summer’s other great pleasures, like sleeping late, taking afternoon naps, and laying around pretending to be asleep by the pool so no one splashes you. (I’m lazy, ok?)
Lucky for you, I’ve got the solution: a dessert spread your guests will gobble up with glee, with time left over to play beached whale. Make a cupcake buffet! Below are tried-and-true recipes, suggestions gathered from trial and error, and a few links from around the internet that all result in unforgettable desserts. Make them all or mix-and-match just a few!
Photo by Rebecca Isenhart
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
From Paula Deen and the Food Network
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 tsp. white distilled vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Line 2 muffin pans (12 cups each) with cupcake papers.
  3. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder
  4. In a separate bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla using an electric mixer
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake 20-22 minutes, turning the pans once, halfway through
  7. Test with a toothpick to make sure cupcakes are done
  8. Remove from oven, cool completely before frosting
Cream Cheese Frosting
From “Creating a Stir: In the Bluegrass and Beyond”
  • 16 oz. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Beat all the ingredients in an electric mixer until creamy.
Tip: For both the cupcakes and the frosting, let the ingredients come to room temperature before you start baking by letting them sit out for half an hour or so.
Ok, so that recipe is a lot of work. But never fear, because the fact is that all you need for a really good cupcake is really good frosting. Save time and money, too: grab some boxed cake mixes at the store (my favorite is Duncan Hines, but anything works) and use those to make the cake part. You can even do this a couple of days in advance and freeze the cakes to keep them fresh. Then spend your TLC on the frosting. The cupcakes will look and taste homemade all the way through, and you’ll have time for a nap.

The following frosting recipe is my childhood in a nutshell. It’s been the icing (literally) on Christmases, birthdays, and everything in between for as long as I can remember. I hope it puts a smile on your face and all your friends’, too!

Ultimate Wonderful Butterflies and Unicorns Frosting
(a.k.a. Buttercream Icing, adapted from Wilton 1996 yearbook)
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  1. Cream butter and shortening using and electric mixer
  2. Add sugar slowly, one cup at a time. Stop frequently to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  3. Add milk and beat at medium speed until fluffy
  • Keep icing in the refrigerator when you’re not using it. You can store it up to two weeks, but it won’t last that long – trust me.
  • If you want to re-use it, add 1-2 tablespoons of cold milk and re-whip the frosting in the blender. It’ll be like new!
  • Put the leftovers on graham crackers and eat. Yum.
Variation #1: Chocolate
Add 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa to the mix. You’ll need to add extra milk to gain the right consistency – add it one or two tablespoons at a time and keep scraping the sides of the bowl to get everything mixed through. Put this on yellow cake. People will cry with happiness.
Variation #2: Lemon
Replace the 1 tbsp. vanilla extract with 2 tbsp. lemon extract. You can add a couple of drops of yellow food coloring, if you like, so people know it’s lemon. Or, leave it white and garnish with a gummy lemon slice. Naturally, put this on lemon cupcakes!
Variation #3: Oreo
Put the buttercream frosting on chocolate cupcakes. Garnish with crushed Oreos. Omnomnomnom.
From Around the Interwebz:
Photo by Rebecca Isenhart
And finally, here are a few links to cupcake recipes I’ve tried and loved.
Wild Strawberry Cuppies, from Cheeky Kitchen
(The frosting can be kind of drippy from the juicy berries, so make sure you frost these right before you serve or the cupcakes can get soggy)
Toy Story Green Alien Cupcakes, from
The candy on top of these aren’t really my speed, but my little brother loved them and they were wicked cute.
Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting and Jelly, from Martha Stewart
What’s your favorite cupcake recipe? Leave your recipes and ideas in the comments! 🙂

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