Creating Quick and Clever Cupcakes

Maria Nitti of Isabella’s Creations dishes on how to create unique bites

Beach blanket cupcakes by Isabella's Creations.

So you’re a fan of cupcakes? Join the party. While the trend just keeps going and going, new flavors, new sizes, and even more themed cupcakes are popping up everywhere. If you’re curious to make your out-of-the-box cupcakes look like the real deal, take a cue from Maria Nitti of Isabella’s Creations, she’s a pro on the sweet stuff and is doling out her tips of the trade.

Here are Nitti’s tips on creating cupcakes with pizazz:

Having been raised in a Puerto Rican family from Brooklyn, I learned to cook at a very early age. Baking came naturally and quickly became my passion; by the age of 15 I was making cakes and cupcakes for my family and friends on a regular basis. While cupcakes are certainly an easy cake product to make, decorating them and dressing them up to be something clever, personal, or themed is not easy for everyone.

The space you are working with is small, the ingredients soft, and the amount you need prepared often intimidating. If you are making four dozen for your son or daughter’s classroom, you want to be able to make them quickly, but also make them stand out. Here are six simple cupcake themes you can make at home and that have them asking ‘Where did you buy those cupcakes?”

Beach Blanket Bingo

Doll these up with miniature beach balls, surf boards, or even sandals, which you can buy at most party supply stores. The surf is a simple, blue frosting and add decorations.

1. Frost your cupcake with a white frosting and then gently spray using Wilton's color mist spray in light blue or, when your frosting is ready, add just enough blue food coloring to desired color to make the shade of blue you love.

2. Create waves by using a simple kitchen knife and fork, frost as normal then gently push and pull back the frosting to create the desired peaks (this step may come first if you use a blue spray)

3. Place a miniature surfboard and/or beach ball, angle to your liking, and surfs up!

Simple Monogram

On Thursday evenings we love to serve cupcakes with cocktails and these simple monogrammed cupcakes are easy and fun to make. I like to use a butter cream frosting, and roll the monogram out in a fondant. You can buy fondant in your local party supply store, in a small 1LB. package, and they come in several different colors or just use a piped frosting

1. Frost your cupcake with your choice of color and type

2. Use a contrasting color for your monogram to make it stand out. There are several options with the monogram: Roll fondant and use a simple cookie cutter, or even cut out by hand to make it artistic; simply write a letter with frosting on your frosted cupcake; place a small cookie on top and write the monogram in frosting on here; or place a toothpick with a paper monogram attached.

Old Hollywood

Having Clarke Gable, Greta Garbo and Groucho Marx on your cupcake adds a style and elegance to any gathering. 

1. Find 1 inch photos of your old Hollywood favorites online and print out image on simple black and white paper.

2. Cut around image in a circle (use a shot glass to frame the photo, trace with pencil and you have a perfect circle).

3. Glue gold edging to the circle/image, such as gold dragees (these are edged in glue and dipped in gold sugar).

4. Glue toothpick to back of image and place in cupcake. Line these up so that your guests see the old Hollywood icons.

Fresh Flowers

The simplicity of a fresh flower on a cupcake makes a statement. When you only have a New York minute, this cupcake takes the cake!

1. Frost your cupcake as desired. I like to use white frosting as this allows the color of the flower to pop.

2. Cut fresh flowers from your garden or purchase a few pots of perennials, we like lilacs and hydrangea. Rinse in cool water, place on paper towel to air dry ( you do not want to squash the flower, be gentle so that they keep their form).

3. Place the flowers as desired on top of cupcake and lay the extra around the table and on the side to create a beautiful presentation.


Who doesn’t like a sugary round gumball? This quickie cupcake that takes little effort and kids love them because they can alternate chewing on gumballs and cupcake at the same time.

1. Frost your cupcakes as desired. We use several different frosting shades to make the gumball colors pop on top.

2. Place multi-colored gumballs on top of cupcakes. Arrange colors as desired.

—Maria Nitti, with Paula Conway, Conway Confidential