Butterfly Cupcakes for a Special Birthday Girl

When our sister, Alissa, approached Stacy and I about our niece’s 1st birthday party, we asked, “Are you going to have cupcakes?!” Her answer was, of course, “YES!”

At first I assumed that we would just do box mixes, store bought frosting, and then make them look pretty, but I was wrong. Alissa wanted to tackle something bigger for this party…homemade American buttercream frosting! She likes the sweeter, thicker frostings, and wanted to try and achieve that for this event. I was nervous. The only time I’ve ever made a homemade frosting that worked was when I added another flavor, like citrus or mint. American buttercream is such a tricky thing to create. So, I left it up to Alissa to find the recipe. I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining the cupcakes at my nieces 1st birthday!

We decided that we should have the cupcakes done the day before the party. After a lot of research on the theme, butterflies, we had everything we needed to pull it off. Alissa had sent out a beautiful invitations (designed by Stacy), we had party decorations, snack bags shaped like butterflies, butterfly sugar cookies, and the final item that would make the cupcakes come together…butterfly gummy candies which would make the perfect cupcake topper.


(The butterfly gummies, which we purchased online, arrived individually wrapped. So part of our process included removing them from the wrappers.)

As soon as my baby girl, Leah, went down for a nap, I got started on the funfetti cupcakes. The goal was to finish baking 48 cupcakes during her morning nap, let them cool, then frost them in the afternoon when the kids went down for their afternoon nap and when Stacy and Alissa would be there to help. While I was working on the second batch, the chocolate cupcakes, Alissa arrived with her girls and asked, “Are we sure this is going to be enough?” At the last minute we decided to throw in another batch of yellow cupcakes, just to be safe. Luckily I had a spare box mix in the pantry! And enough storage containers to house all of the cupcakes!


(I’m a lucky girl to have so many cupcake/cake containers!)

Just as planned, we were ready to start making the frosting when the girls went down for their afternoon nap. I pulled up the vanilla buttercream recipe Alissa found on my laptop and we got to work. We made some tweaks along the way, adding more vanilla extract, more whipping cream, and more confectioners sugar. I still didn’t think it came out as good as what you find in bakeries, but Alissa was happy with it, and that’s all that mattered! We made two batches and divided the frosting into separate containers so that we could use food dye and create four different colors. The colors came out so vibrant, a perfect match for the toppers!


(The purple buttercream with cupcakes ready to be frosted!)

With so many colors, and only my single bagless piper, we opted to use Ziploc bags to pipe the frosting. Starting out was a struggle for all of us. I eventually got the hang of it, but then started failing again at the end. Alissa was really eager to try some out as well. What she lacked in ability, she made up for in enthusiasm! We blamed everything for our (borderline disaster) piping skills, from the bags having too much air in them, to the holes being cut too big. I don’t know if it was the sugar rush from all the taste testing, or comfort in knowing that we were covering these up with butterfly candies, but we all managed to laugh at our attempt and stay in good spirits. Cupcakes are supposed to be fun, after all! And, what’s more fun then making them with your sisters?


(Some of the more successful results!)


(We choose to wait until the morning of the party to add the gummy candies, just so that any moisture from the cake and frosting didn’t make them get funky overnight.)


(The different color butterflies and bright frosting created a beautiful display. Perfect for a birthday party!)


(Lily’s special #1 cupcake.)

We all felt like the end results were great! The kids loved the cupcakes and, most importantly, the birthday girl loved them too!


(The Crusaders’ beautiful niece, Lily! Photo by Kenneth Adam.)

I’m still really curious how bakeries make their buttercream. There has to be more to it than butter, confectioners sugar, vanilla extract, and whipping cream. I think it’s a big secret amongst them, and they aren’t sharing! Figuring that out might be my next mission…Let us know if you have any suggestions!

- Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

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