Winter Fun Guide

Winter Cupcakes Recipe

Wow your friends with flavorful cupcakes decked out with fancy fondant


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Photograph by CIA

Get creative this holiday season by decking the halls with fondant ornaments and cupcake toppers. Chef Kate Cavotti, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, suggests making carrot cake cupcakes with fondant or cream cheese icing as a base for the decorations. Purchase ready-made fondant from your local craft store, and use a cookie cutter to cut out fondant shapes. Remember, the fondant will need a few hours to dry and harden. Dip the cupcake in a bowl of powdered sugar or shredded coconut to make it look like glistening snow before placing the fondant decoration on top. Chef Cavotti suggests sticking a toothpick in back of each decoration to ensure that it stands up straight.

For the carrot cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp iodized salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2½ cups canola oil
  • 3½ cups sugar
  • 8 large eggs
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 6 cups grated)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pans with cupcake liners. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together and reserve.
  2. Mix the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together with a handheld beater or paddle attachment on medium speed until all ingredients are thoroughly combined, about one minute. Add the sifted ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the carrots by hand.
  3. Divide batter evenly. Bake the cupcakes until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
  4. Let the cupcakes cool in the liners for a few minutes before turning out onto wire racks to finish cooling. The cupcakes are ready to fill and frost now, or they can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for two days or frozen for up to three weeks.

For buttercream icing

Makes about 4 cups

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus extra as needed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup heavy cream or whole milk, plus extra as needed
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until it is very light in texture, about two minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on a low speed until the sugar and butter are blended, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. Increase the speed to medium and, with the mixer running, add the cream in a thin stream. Increase the speed to high and whip the buttercream until very smooth, light and with a good spreading consistency.
  4. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding a bit more confectioners’ sugar or cream.

Note: Once blended, buttercreams can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. To use after refrigeration, let the buttercream soften at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until it has a smooth, light spreading consistency, three to four minutes.

For cream cheese icing

Makes about 4 cups

  • 2 eight-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract
  1. Mix cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until very smooth.
  2. Add butter in stages and continue to mix until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed to blend evenly.
  3. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add vanilla and mix until completely blended.

Note: To make lemon cream cheese icing, add the grated zest of one lemon to the icing with the vanilla.

Recipes courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America. For more decorating tips, check out the CIA’s Cake Art cookbook (2008, Lebhar-Friedman).

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