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Thanksgiving and Autumn Cupcakes

Updated on November 26, 2011

Fancy Autumn Cupcakes for Thanksgiving

Cupcakes are an easy and fast to make treat, but sometimes they look boring- making you wonder "is it ok to have cupcakes as a dessert at a formal dinner?". Thanksgiving is a day to feast, enjoy our favorite foods and to show off our cooking skills so if they are one of your favorites then of course it's ok!

It is actually not hard to dress up a boring cupcake at all! It can also be easily done quickly AND if you can't make pretty frosting roses! Most of these cupcake decorations can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge until the big day which means all you have to do is stick them on- leaving you free to rush around with all of the other things you are preparing for Thanksgiving dinner!

On this page I will show you a few ideas for decorating your Autumn cupcakes to help you get your creative juices flowing on ways to decorate your sweet treats- if you can imagine it, you can do it!

Happy Turkey Day!

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Cupcake Choices

Ask yourself what do you want to make your Autumn cupcakes look like? Do you want them so be fancy or elegant? Do you want your cupcakes to be fun and festive- maybe even a little bit cute? Do you want your guests for Thanksgiving dinner to be impressed by elaborate cupcake art type decorations with great attention to detail?

Once you know what type of cupcake you are looking for it is pretty easy to achieve the look you want! I have found that because I often have something in my home, I am usually able to make fancy cupcakes and still not spend too much money- in fact, I made a batch for this article and my total cost was very cheap- only $5 -I only needed fresh eggs and sprinkles- huge tub of sprinkles! Please note that not all of my cupcakes survived - many were "lost" prior to the photos, they were delicious.

To have edible decorations you can use dragees, frosting, chocolate, sugar, sprinkles, hard candies, brown sugar, nuts, fondant and more! You can do SO much with sugar and chocolate! If you happen to grow your own herbs then you have a great source of free cupcake decorations! You can either top a cupcake with mint leaves or press herb leaves into melted chocolate to make the chocolate look like a leaf (edible leaves only- that is why I recommend herbs).

You will be needing Cupcakes - Decide on a flavor first

What flavor do you like? My personal favorite is butter pecan, but my husband says that they are gross, so I usually stick to chocolate, yellow or white.

For the purposes of this article, it really does not matter which flavor you choose although you will find a free printable recipe for basic for yellow cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes below and links to many other recipe choices- but realistically, you could just use packaged cake mix and still achieve the same look quickly!

I am a frosting fiend- I admittedly used way more than you should for elegant cupcakes- please remember though I was also eating them! For super elegant cupcakes a gentle dab of frosting centered atop the cupcake is sufficient, attractive and less likely to leave your guests sticky.

Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 40 min
Yields: 24


  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cup un-sweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 5 Tablespoons of softened butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • pinch of salt (big pinch)
  • 24 paper baking cups (less if Jumbo cups)
  • 4 to 6 oz melted chocolate- bittersweet


  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350*F and line muffin pans with baking cups (unless using the jumbo, rigid foil cups- follow directions on package for those)
  2. 2. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and combine the cocoa, baking powder and baking soda.
  3. 3. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, vanilla, salt and butter until it is creamy and light- it will look a bit like a grainy frosting.
  4. 4. Slowly beat in the milk and the flour mixture- beating on low with an electric mixer and alternating between egg and flour. When it is combined, mix the batter on medium speed for about 2 minutes, slowly adding melted chocolateuntil smooth.
  5. 5. Using a ladle or ice cream scoop, carefully fill each baking cup about 2/3 full.
  6. 6. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until done.
  7. **Allow to cool completely before frosting!
Cast your vote for Free Printable Cupcake Recipe

Free Printable Cupcake Recipe - Basic Yellow Cake

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (I sometimes use a tablespoon)
  • 24 Baking Cups


  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 350*F and line muffin pans with baking cups (unless using the jumbo, rigid foil cups- follow directions on package for those)
  2. 2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
  3. 3. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar, vanilla and butter until it is light and fluffy.
  4. 4. Slowly beat in the milk and the flour mixture- beating on low with an electric mixer and alternating between egg and flour. When it is combined, mix the batter on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
  5. 5. Using a ladle or ice cream scoop, carefully fill each baking cup about 2/3 full.
  6. 6. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until done.
  7. **Allow to cool completely before frosting!

Spruce up your cupcakes!

Wilton 2109-861 101-Piece Cake-Decorating Tool Set with Storage Caddy
Wilton 2109-861 101-Piece Cake-Decorating Tool Set with Storage Caddy

This is a great cake decorating set! It is a 101-piece tool caddy set to organize, carry, and store the essentials. This is a great set for any one who enjoys cake decorating.

The caddy holds 48 tips and 12 paste food colors. Storage space for books and utensils.


Use sugar to decorate a cupcake

If all you have on hand is some granulated sugar, you can melt it and make decorations to top your cupcakes! These are an easy way to decorate your cupcakes and it is cheaper than going out and buying all of the fancy decorating stuff!

Please do NOT use these decorations for small children or people with difficulty swallowing as they do pose a choking hazard- they are also pretty hard (like a hard candy) so be careful with teeth!

Sugar Cornucopia Cupcake Decoration

Here I am removing a "cornupopia" from a paper cone I had made! Please be careful with this one though- I gave myself the worst burn I have ever had from cooking when I spilled some boiling sugar on my finger making this.(boiling sugar solidifies on you then turns into "hard candy" when cooled)


  • Sugar 1/2 cup makes about 6 decorations
  • Flavoring (any you like)
  • almond
  • vanilla
  • lemon etc
  • Card stock
  • Tape
  • Wax Paper
  • Cups
  • 6 Straws
  • Small colorful candies or chocolate ball


  1. Affix the straws inside the cup so that they are sticking straight up- you will stick your cones on here to drip and dry! 2 straws per cup- opposite of each other. Set the cups on a piece of wax paper to protect your work surface.
  2. Roll the poster board (card stock) into a cone shape and secure with tape. Wrap tightly with wax paper and stuff some of the wax paper inside the cone to secure. Balance the cone on a straw.
  3. Slowly bring the sugar to a boil and add a few drops of any flavor you wish to add to the mixture. Stir continuously to prevent burning.
  4. Remove from heat and use a ladle or spoon to drizzle the molten sugar on a cone- DO NOT TOUCH THE SUGAR.
  5. As the "cornucopia" is cooling, you can also sprinkle some granulated sugar all over it for a cool effect!
  6. Put the cups (and wax paper) in the fridge to cool overnight. Carefully pull the card cone from the wax paper when cool and very carefully peel the waxed paper out from inside the candy!
  7. When you place the cornucopia on the cake, place the small candies or chocolate just inside, gently spilling out to loud like a harvest filled cornucopia!
  8. *** When the sugar solidifies on the spoon and in the pan it is easy to get it off- simply let it soak in really hot (preferably boiling) water- then wash as usual!

Sugar Leaves Cupcake Decorations - Same idea as the cornucopia- easier to make

Using the a spoon, gently plop some melted sugar onto a piece of waxed paper- slowly drawing the spoon forward. You should have a teardrop shape.

Allow the shape to cool for 2-4 minutes, then gently flatten it a bit with the back of a spoon and use a knife to press in leaf veins. When it is no longer hot, but still sticky, sprinkle a little granulated sugar on top to give a little "sparkle".

When it was cool enough to touch, I picked up the sheet of paper and created a gentle wave. Finish cooling and store in the fridge. When you are placing them on top of the cupcakes you will notice that they are very sticky- see how a chocolate sprinkle stuck to my leaf? I decided to leave it there as I did not want to risk messing up the frosting trying to pluck it off.

You can pretty much make any shapes you want with a drizzle technique- it just takes a bit of practice as sometimes when you first start the shapes may look more like blobs. I do lots of fine zig zags and straight lines as well and they usually come out far more elegant than the shapes like leaves.

More great ideas for decorating your cupcakes - 1,000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies and Cakes

These are great decorating ideas to bring out your inner food artist and this book would make a great gift for the baker in your family!

Make cupcake decorations ahead of time! - MMMMMM, Chocolate

Chocolate is an easy way to make stick on cupcake decorations ahead of time- saving you time on Turkey Day! You can keep it simple, or you can make very elaborate decorations- it all up to you!

The type of chocolate you use will really depend upon what you want the decoration to do. If you want them to stick up out of the cupcake, then you should get the type of chocolate that you use to melt and pour into molds as it will be stronger- if you want to make small decorations to lay across the cupcake however, a couple of candy bars at the checkout will work just fine.

I some times melt a bar of Hershey's Cookies n' cream and gently spoon it onto a sheet of wax paper into a shape like a leave, a heart or a zig zag- these decorations are best when laid down on top of the cupcake- they can stand if you make them thick enough, but if the room is warm they will soften and fall. The same is true for the milk and dark chocolate bars.

Both types of candy bar are delicious when drizzled across the top of the cupcakes!

If you use the candy making chocolate then you have a few more options, but it can get a little more expensive. You can use a candy mold to shape the chocolate or drizzle your own shape onto wax paper. These chocolates usually fare pretty well if you stick them out of the top of the cupcake.

Fruits can be used as garnish - even on Cupcakes!

I sometimes like to curl a strip of orange peel and set it across the top of the cupcake. It is simple and effective and requires very little work.

A simple strawberry, raspberry or cherry is nice as well and you can even dress them up a tiny bit more by placing a tiny pice of mint leaf or strawberry leaves under the piece of fruit. These are classic decorations that make a big impact without difficulty or taking a long time!

Mint leaves add a little color quickly

Not sure what to do with your cupcakes? If you happen to grow mint then you are in luck- or you can pick up a few sprigs of mint at the store.

Just a teeny tiny bit of mint on top of the cupcake gives a nice burst of color- but in a natural way and many people enjoy the aroma and taste of fresh mint leaves! These are usually a big hit on top of chocolate cupcakes.

Making Cupcakes and Frosting

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Frosting Fiend or Cake Crazy

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What flavor Cupcake do you like best?

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Cookies and Creme are great Cupcake decorations - Sprinkles and Dragees are too!

Sprinkles and drags can either be sprinkled lightly, coated or delicately placed in a pattern on top of the cupcakes. This is an easy and affordable way to dress them up!

Color combinations can set the tone of the holiday so if you can find chocolate sprinkles, cookie crumbles or cookies n' creme sprinkles or even orange, yellow and brown sprinkles then you are in great shape! Silver Dragees, 4 oz., Silver

- can dress up any kind of cupcakes to look a bit more formal as well.

Sprinkles fan be used in combination with other decorating ideas or alone and can be used to give the cupcakes a cute and fun look with a little bit of crunch.

What kind of Autumn Cupcakes do you like?

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    • Craftymarie profile image

      Marie 6 years ago

      I am a frosting gal too - love the frosting more than the cupcake mmmm and so does my little girl. Great ideas here for giving those cakes a fall look and feel :)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 6 years ago from New Zealand

      I real yummy lens, I just had breakfast, but you have my mouth watering for these cupcakes.

      Thanks for sharing. Blessed.

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 6 years ago from Florida

      Very pretty ideas! I love to let my kids decorate cupcakes to look like something holiday-related. We've made many versions of turkey cupcakes!

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I like all kinds of Autumn Thanksgiving cupcakes. Big cupcakes, little cupcakes, chocolate, vanilla, lemon, with or without sprinkles, my only stipulation is that I have to have lots of icing. I love icing. Yum yum. Congratulations on making the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 6 years ago

      Congratulations on your lens being chosen to be featured on the Fall Harvest Fest monsterboard. Have bookmarked this page into my recipes folder.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Gorgeous presentation, love the turkey cupcakes (esp. the tails). Thanks for all the free recipes! Hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving sidther. Fondly, Rose

    • traveller27 profile image

      traveller27 6 years ago

      Thoroughly enjoyed this lens - very well presented and the cupcakes look amazing. Blessed by a passing Squid Angel.

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 6 years ago

      Wow, you are a decorating genius! These look amazing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I'd happily say all of the above! My mouth is drooling now and I'd better scram! :)