Wedding Cupcakes 101

An aerial view of wedding cupcakes decorated with pastel frosting flowers.

When investigating wedding desserts, you may find yourself wondering about all the downsides of a typical wedding cake. The cost, the flavor limitations, and the complexity of manuevering such a large food item can all cause you to wonder if it’s really worth it. If you’re looking for a wedding cake alternative, cupcakes really do solve a lot of problems. They have all the great taste and beauty of a typical wedding cake, but without all the hassle. Here’s everything you need to know when choosing cupcakes for your wedding over a standard cake.

Talk with Your Baker About Out-of-the-Box Flavors

A baker decorating wedding cupcakes with frosting.

Bakers need to focus on structure and form with an elaborate architectural cake, but with cupcakes they can focus more on a variety of flavors. This is especially helpful if you know that your guests will want options: maybe you have multiple dairy-free or gluten-free guests, or people who adore chocolate and others who simply don’t! Often with a cupcake order you can pick three or four different flavors—and you get the fun of taste testing and choosing the flavors yourself ahead of time!

This is often easiest if you work with a baker that has a storefront, since they may already have some of their most popular options available in the bakery display case, making it easy to test them out! Not every bakery will offer free tastings, but wedding planning is a process that might make it worthwhile to buy half a dozen “samples” to taste test at home.

Order More Cupcakes Than You Think You Need

While bakeries often suggest one cupcake per guest knowing that not every person may be in a dessert mood at your wedding, you may want to up that number to something like 1.2 or 1.5 per guest. The reason is that there might be people who take two, rationalizing that the small dessert merits a second helping—and there’s really very little downside to having a few too many cupcakes. Give the leftovers to your bridal party or take them on your honeymoon as midnight snacks!

Get Creative with Decorations

A close-up image of wedding cupcakes decorate with berries and colored frosting.

Nobody ever said that switching from a large wedding cake to small wedding cupcakes was a reason to sacrifice on glamour. If anything, a small cupcake only has to support its own decorations, not tiers of other weighty frostings, so it can often be incredibly delicate and beautiful. Talk through what frostings will look and taste best (buttercream is a good standby), and consider whether you’d like metallic or pearl accents (they are edible!), colored sugar dusting, or a little candy or decorative toothpick. The sky’s the limit!

Plan to Cut a Cupcake or Tiny Cake to Cue For Dessert

When choosing cupcakes, many brides and grooms opt to have a small “regular” cake to cut as well. This is certainly a fine option, but no one will mind if you cut a cupcake and feed it to each other, either! A cupcake “cutting” signals that the dessert is available (not just for show anymore!), and it can be a fun way to reveal to your guests if you’ve opted for “center-filled” cupcakes, which contain a core of jam or chocolate or another sweet treat. No one is messier than the groom with a center-filled cupcake smeared across his lips!

Create a Gorgeous Cupcake Display

A tower of cupcakes at a wedding reception.

You, your baker, or your wedding planner may all have ideas for how to display your cupcakes. Start with your baker: ask how they typically showcase their handiwork, and whether they’d be able to bring cupcake stands or dishes. If that isn’t part of their style, talk to your friends: you can most likely find a few beautiful cupcake stands (even if they have other purposes as serving dishes or centerpieces). Lastly, ask your wedding planner or a trusted friend with an eye for beauty to be in charge of assembly. Many bakeries will deliver the cupcakes in big white cardboard boxes with liners that keep the cupcakes from moving around, but let a friend get inventive with the display and it will essentially become part of your reception decor!

Cupcakes may seem a little less formal than a large cake, but they don’t have to be. Choosing traditional cake flavors, using white frosting with pearlescent edible beads or rosettes, and displaying them in stately “layers” of a tiered cupcake stand mimics the fanciness of a traditional wedding cake very well. Most people will be grateful not to have to wait in a long line as the cake is cut, and the sweet treat will be just as delicious, big or small.

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