18 Best Cupcakes

Satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade cupcakes in every flavor

If you haven't noticed, cupcakes have grown far beyond the chocolate, vanilla, and sometimes funfetti (if you were really fancy) options you knew as a kid. These days, you can find cupcakes everywhere from weddings to gourmet restaurants and twee bakeries that decorate them as beautifully as full-size cakes. Their built-in portion control, portability, and of course, adorable looks, make cupcakes perfect for just about any occasion that calls for dessert.

But why buy cupcakes from an expensive bakery when you can make these single-serving treats right at home with little work and a whole lot less money? Try these cupcake recipes for bakery-level sweets right at home, including options for vegan and gluten-free tiny cakes.

  • 01 of 18

    Vanilla Cupcake

    Vanilla cupcakes

    Meike Bergmann / Getty Images

    Plain vanilla tastes anything but if you use the right recipe. These vanilla cupcakes have a wonderfully light and tender crumb that makes the perfect base for just about any frosting or mix-in. Try these for the simplest starter.

  • 02 of 18

    Chocolate Cupcakes

    Chocolate malted cupcakes

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    One of the things that makes these chocolate cupcakes really special is the combination of regular granulated sugar and brown sugar, which adds just a hint of background richness. Malted milk powder in the frosting gives it an extra soda-shop twist, but you can frost these tender and delicious cakes however you like.

  • 03 of 18

    Lemon Cupcakes

    Lemon Cupcakes

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Both lemon zest and extract give these lemon cupcakes a light, citrusy flavor that perfectly complements buttercream or cream cheese frosting, but we've included a recipe for a lemony frosting too. Try these light and fresh cupcakes for spring celebrations like Easter, Mother's Day or graduation parties.

  • 04 of 18

    Red Velvet Cupcakes

    Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

     Kristina Vanni

    True Southerners know red velvet cake goes perfectly with a crisp white boiled frosting. But the rest of us have come around to cream cheese frosting with these vivid, cheerful cupcakes. The original red velvet cake recipe used beet juice for that signature color, but most bakers prefer red food coloring these days.

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  • 05 of 18

    Gluten-Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes

    Carrot Cupcakes With Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
    Carrot Cupcakes With Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting. Diana Rattray

    Use the smallest holes on your box grater to shred carrots for these decadent carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. These sweet, moist mini carrot cakes also have no gluten, so they're perfect for those with dietary restrictions who still want a luscious dessert. You can omit the chopped nuts if you don't care for them, too.

  • 06 of 18

    Football Cupcakes

    Football Cupcakes

     The Spruce Eats / Leah Maroney

    These football cupcakes are a lot of fun. Underneath the frosting, you'll find a delicious chocolate cupcake that's no different than any other. The football shape relies entirely on your piping skills, but it's easy. Simply make chocolate and white frostings, put each into a piping bag, then add zigzags and laces, and you have a fun little treat for sports fans.

  • 07 of 18

    Champagne Cupcakes

    Champagne Cupcakes

    The Spruce Eats / Kristina Vanni

    For special occasions, Champagne cupcakes are the showstopping dessert you need. This fun recipe includes sparkling wine in both the batter and the frosting, creating a light, brilliantly flavored treat. Add elegance and glamour by practicing your piping skills and topping them with shiny edible decorations.

  • 08 of 18

    Christmas Tree Cupcakes

    Christmas Tree Cupcakes

    The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

    Fun, festive, and delicious, Christmas tree cupcakes are perfect for the holidays. Underneath the bright green frosting and colorful sprinkles lies luscious chocolate and coffee-flavored cake made with sour cream and buttermilk. Don't reserve them for winter, though! These tasty treats can be dressed up for any occasion.

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  • 09 of 18

    Black Bottom Cupcakes

    Chocolate cupcakes recipe

    The Spruce / Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

    Black bottom cupcakes may not look like your traditional cupcake, but these bite-sized cheesecakes will still be a hit. They have a chocolate cakey base and a chocolate-chip studded cheesecake topping that serves as a self-made frosting. Use high-quality cocoa for an even better flavor.

  • 10 of 18

    Strawberry Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberries

    Strawberry cupcakes recipe

    ​The Spruce 

    Fresh strawberries flavor both the cupcakes and the frosting of this incredible fresh strawberry cupcake recipe. They taste best when strawberries are in season, so try these for an early summer or late spring party when the little gems are sweet and bright red.

  • 11 of 18

    Dairy-Free Vegan Lemon Cupcakes

    Dairy-Free Vegan Lemon Cupcakes

    The Spruce

     

    Try these vegan, dairy-free cupcakes when you want a fresh-tasting dessert that can serve those with dietary restrictions. They taste similar to Italian olive oil cake, because the recipe uses that oil to keep it moist, with a hint of sour citrus from freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Frost them with a simple white boiled frosting for a simple, delicious sweet.

  • 12 of 18

    Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes

    Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcakes
    Photo: Diana Rattray

    The addition of sour cream gives these rich chocolate cupcakes an extra moist texture and an ever-so-slight tang. They work wonderfully with a caramel or white frosting, a basic chocolate frosting, or even your favorite ganache. Chocoholics: add this one to your favorites list, stat.

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  • 13 of 18

    Apple Butter Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

    apple butter cupcakes
    Diana Rattray

    Fans of apple cake will love these apple butter cupcakes, which have a lovely fall-forward flavor. Ground cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg give the batter warming spiced notes, too. Either store-bought or homemade apple butter tastes great in this recipe, which also includes a lovely cream cheese frosting.

  • 14 of 18

    Pancake Batter Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

    pancake cupcakes with maple frosting
    Diana Rattray

    These pancake batter cupcakes aren't nearly as sweet as most, but the maple frosting more than makes up for that. Enjoy breakfast for dessert with this recipe, no matter what time of day you dig in. Sprinkle some maple flakes or crumbled maple candy over the frosted cupcakes for a pretty presentation.

  • 15 of 18

    Lavender and Vanilla Cupcake

    Lavender Cupcakes

     Elaine Lemm

    Basic vanilla makes a lovely base for these pretty, floral-scented cupcakes. The addition of edible lavender gives them a beautiful aroma, but don't add too much or it can quickly become overpowering. A little purple food coloring in the icing will tip off your guests to the taste treat inside.

  • 16 of 18

    Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting

    Guinness and Chocolate Cupcakes

     Elaine Lemm

    Adding Guinness to a rich chocolate cupcake just deepens the flavor, while Bailey's Irish cream in the frosting gives it a vanilla-scented note that tastes all grown up. Because these cupcakes do contain alcohol, serve them for an adults-only gathering.

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  • 17 of 18

    Flourless Orange Chocolate Cupcakes

    Flourless Chocolate and Orange Cupcakes

    Elaine Lemm

    For those who avoid gluten, these decadent orange chocolate cupcakes are just what the doctor ordered. They come out so indulgently fudgey, you will never miss the flour. We've included a basic frosting recipe, but these would taste great with any chocolate, vanilla, or even ganache topper.

  • 18 of 18

    Vegan Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cupcakes

    hot cocoa cupcakes
    Photo Credit: Allyson Kramer

    These vegan chocolate cupcakes taste just like a mug of peppermint hot cocoa, perfect for a cozy afternoon. They use chickpea flour that also acts as a leavener, so you don't need any eggs. Buckwheat flour gives it a rich note that they wouldn't have otherwise, so don't raise an eyebrow at its inclusion.