16 Creative Cupcake Decorating Ideas for Every Occasion

Pumpkin cupcakes on cake stand
Photo: Bryan Gardner

From cute to beautiful, these cupcake decorating ideas transform a simple treat into something extraordinary. Some use basic frosting, turning a cupcake into an apple or mint-chocolate football field. Others require some piping skills to create a sunflower or a rose. But many of our cleverest cupcake decorating ideas don't rely on frosting for their good looks—instead they use candy to create snowmen, Thanksgiving turkeys, and more.

Among our favorite seasonal ideas for fall is a pumpkin cupcake topped with miniature marzipan pumpkins. For Valentine's day, we've got heartfelt and heart-shaped cupcake decorating ideas that are as delicious to eat as they are gorgeous to look at. Easter brings chicks in coconut nests atop vanilla cupcakes.

There's no end to how creative you can be with your cupcake decorating. We hope our ideas will inspire you all year round.

01 of 16

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

turkey cupcakes
Gentl & Hyers

With their toasted coconut feathers and gummy candy features, these are the cutest turkeys that ever graced a Thanksgiving table.

02 of 16

Apple Cupcakes


Turn vanilla cupcakes into everyone's favorite autumn fruit using red, yellow, or green frosting to form the rounded shape. Each "apple" gets a pretzel stem and a leaf cut from sour tape.

03 of 16

Spiced Cupcakes with Citrus Glaze


Decorating a stunning cupcake is as easy dipping the tops in this spiced cupcake recipe. Mix a striking color palette of red, orange, and pink citrus glazes, then dip each cupcake in a different color and let it set.

04 of 16

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Pumpkin cupcakes on cake stand
Bryan Gardner

While you can use this fun fall cupcake decorating idea on any cupcake, we think the cream cheese frosting and easy-to-make marzipan pumpkins are especially good atop these moist pumpkin cupcakes that are spiced with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

05 of 16

Snowmen Cupcakes

snowman cupcakes with marshmallows
Bryan Gardner

Kids will have fun stacking the marshmallows to make these snowmen that top vanilla cupcakes. They can also add candy to create eyes, noses, and hats. For the ultimate cold weather snack, pair these frosty cupcakes with hot chocolate.

06 of 16

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes

Each of these delightful strawberry shortcake cupcake comes with a sweet surprise inside: a homemade strawberry filling. Remove the centers of the cupcakes with a melon baller or teaspoon and spoon the filling in. Top with whipped cream and a strawberry slice for a sweet finish.

07 of 16

Owl Cupcakes

Mike Krautter

These adorable owl cupcakes are a great decorating activity to do with kids. Have them twist open Oreos and top the insides with two M&Ms to create giant owl eyes. Then use thinly sliced almonds to create a tuff of feathers—giving each owl its own character.

08 of 16

Chocolate Heart Cupcakes

chocolate cupcakes with milk-chocolate frosting
Kate Mathis

Create two versions of these precious Valentine's Day cupcakes with one decorating technique. Use a heart-shaped cutter to stamp out chocolate hearts from half the cupcakes and fill the space with frosting for white hearts. You can frost the other half of the cupcakes and top with the stamped-out chocolate cake hearts.

09 of 16

Piped Rose Cupcakes


Break out your pastry bag to dress up ordinary vanilla cupcakes with a buttercream rose. Use a leaf pastry tip to spiral roses on top for a fun and easy floral-inspired design.

10 of 16

Pull-Apart Vanilla-Wafer Cupcake Cake with Berries

wafter berries cupcake cake

As easy as frosting a sheet cake, but way more impressive! Everyone will love the novelty of these pull-apart cupcakes. Rather than frosting each cupcake individually, arrange them in a three cupcakes-wide by four cupcakes-long rectangle and smooth buttercream over the top of all of them at once.

11 of 16

Martha's Sunflower Cupcakes

sunflower ladybug cupcakes martha bakes
Mike Krautter

Use a piping bag and small leaf pastry tip to pipe buttercream into a sunny circle of petals for these sunflower cupcakes. Fill in the centers with candy-coated sunflower seeds. For another sunflower presentation using a different technique, take a look at this large sunflower made of mini cupcakes.

12 of 16

Blueberry Cupcakes

blueberry cupcakes
Jonathan Lovekin

Fill a piping bag with cream cheese frosting and blueberry jam, then let the bag do the work of swirling the two colors together to create this pretty marbled effect.

13 of 16

German Chocolate Cupcakes


Sometimes two layers of frosting is better than one! Transform cupcakes into mini layer cakes by cutting them crosswise into two pieces. Reassemble the sliced cupcake spreading the sticky coconut-pecan frosting in between the layers and on top.

14 of 16

Coconut Nest Cupcakes


Perfect for Easter and other spring celebrations, pile toasted coconut atop buttercream frosting to create a nest, then fill the nests with pastel chocolate eggs.

15 of 16

Football Cupcakes


For a tasty kick off to football season or perhaps a sports-themed birthday, decorate a batch of these chocolate-mint cupcakes. Sprinkle the tops of frosted cupcakes with green sanding sugar to create an astro turf field. Trim Andes mints into a "football" shape and then use white sprinkles for the thread.

16 of 16

Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Multicolored Frosting


A stunning presentation doesn't always require fancy tools. Just dye traditional buttercream in an array of ombré-hued colors, frost the cupcakes with a spatula or knife, and arrange them into a pretty pattern. The result is eye-catching, but the process couldn't be simpler.

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