We've tracked down 10 of the tastiest hand-held treats out there, from the wonderfully plain Jane to the just plain wondrous maple-bacon cupcake.
By Lynn Andriani
The Vanilla Cupcake, with a Twist (Actually, a Swirl)
Instead of jazzing up a basic vanilla cupcake with frosting or filling, this outrageous recipe has you swirling caramel sauce into the cake itself (it's your choice whether to add frosting on top of that). It's a brilliant technique: You scoop the batter into tins until each is just over 3/4 full, and then spoon about a teaspoon of caramel sauce on top of each cupcake, whirling it into the batter with a toothpick. We love using Happy Goat's buttery vanilla-bean caramel sauce, but any kind will give you delicious results.
Cherries jubilee may be one of the most celebratory-sounding desserts ever, and these cupcakes from Robicelli's: A Love Story, with Cupcakes take the concept—cherries plus liqueur flambéed—to a new level. They're vanilla cakes with a French buttercream frosting that has cherries-jubilee syrup stirred in. And, three cherries on top; because, hey, it's a jubilee.
We have a sneaking suspicion that the real reason many people love red velvet isn't the cool color or even the rich taste of the cake itself—it's the decadent cream cheese frosting (and we can't blame them). These treats from the masterminds behind Baked, the Brooklyn bakery and line of baking mixes, use that topping to brilliant effect by stirring in cinnamon; it adds a sweet and hot edge to the cool and fluffy cheese.
This heavenly cupcake (or magdalena, in Spanish) from Robicelli's is a combination of two favorite Latin American sweets: tres leches cake and dulce de leche (you mix the latter with buttercream to make a frosting). Top this light and moist dessert with caramel shards—they're easy to make with just water and sugar—for a little bit of crunch.
Although these adorable treats appear to be mini pies, they're really just a very creative use of candy and frosting. The blueberry-and-cherry pie filling is actually blue or red M&M's, and the frosting is tinted and piped to look like a lattice crust.
The Cupcake That Celebrates the Other Amazing Chocolate Combination
Chocolate-peanut butter gets a lot of love, but Nutella (the chocolate-hazelnut spread) and bananas deserve some, too. Witness this outrageous cupcake from Robicelli's: It's a banana cake covered in Nutella buttercream, with bits of hazelnut praline sprinkled on top (crushed banana chips, roasted hazelnuts or a mixture of the two would work equally well).
The Cupcake for When You Really Want an Ice Cream Sundae
Silvana Nardone, who writes the blog Silvana's Kitchen, makes edible bowls out of finely ground sugar cones, butter and chocolate. She fills them with coffee ice cream and chopped, chocolate-covered espresso beans and finishes off each one with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Bonus: They're gluten-free.
Cookbook author and baking guru Dorie Greenspan makes a French yogurt cake that's wonderfully moist and lemony. To take it one step further, Joel Brown, a reader and member of the online cooking club built around one of Greenspan's books, cupcake-ified it, first by turning the loaf cake into individual cakes, and then topping them with a lemon glaze and a dollop of canned blueberry pie filling.
The Seasonal Cupcake You Can Turn to Any Time of Year
Dessert stylist Amy Atlas makes these apple-like cakes for back-to-school events and bake sales, but you can vary the color of the sanding sugar on top to make them look like any fruit: strawberries in spring, peaches in summer or oranges and lemons in winter.
When Gayle King judged the Vendy Awards (a cook-off among New York's street food vendors), she was surprised to discover that the Cupcake Crew's maple-and-bacon cupcake was the best thing she ate: "I knew I liked maple and that I also liked bacon, but who knew how much I'd like them together?"