Cupcakes in disguise

Cupcakes in disguise

For the offbeat wedding menu, few things can cause as much of a stir as a dessert table in masquerade. If you’re looking to delight (and yes, probably confuse) your wedding reception guests, roll out a spread of cupcakes that look like mini–hamburgers, spaghetti and meatballs, or even corn on the cob. Infinitely versatile, cupcakes invite playful icing styles that will speak to your wedding theme until the moment guests bite down and find a sweet cake, instead.

Hamburger Sliders

When you present a table laden with mini-burgers, your guests will be wondering if they missed the memo that dinner would have another course, after all. There’s only sweet stuff in these, though, so even vegetarians can chow down with gusto. 

For the “burger patty,” use regular brownie batter. You can roll them between your palms and mold them into patty shapes just as you would if you were preparing burgers for a grill. Bake these in an oven like regular brownies, checking periodically to see if you can insert a toothpick that comes out clean. When that happens, your brownie patties are cooked and ready!

The “bun” is just regular yellow cake; you can use a mix right out of the box if you like. Bake it in cupcake tins so the top puffs up like a muffin. When sliced in half horizontally, each cupcake divides into a top and bottom “bun.” If your buns are too thick, slice some cake out of the middle. Place the brownie patty into the middle of the buns–voila! 

You can dress your “burgers” any way you like, just like real hamburgers. Using colored icing in red, yellow, and green, you can create the look of ketchup, mustard, and lettuce. If you want to get fancy, you can slice yellow squares of fondant icing to create a stiff “American cheese” lookalike. For the ultimate realistic touch, sprinkle sesame seeds onto the top buns and garnish each with a frilly toothpick.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Your guests will never believe their eyes, but they will believe their taste buds when they bite into these picture-perfect delicacies. You can prepare each cupcake individually, or place them all on a tray and ice the whole thing in one continuous “spaghetti” spread like a dish of pasta. That way, guests can lift their chosen cupcake out from the whole with a unique dollop of frosting.

To create custom-sized “meatballs,” you can create balls of brownie mix and bake them just like the “patties” above. If you want a quicker method, you can just use chocolate donut holes or chocolate malt balls instead. Place these on top of the baked plain cupcakes just as they come out of the oven, pressing them lightly to make them stick.

The cupcake base can be any color or flavor you like; the artistry here is all in the icing. Squeeze a white or light yellow frosting tube continuously over the cupcake top so the frosting comes out in a long string. As you squeeze, move the tube around in a squiggly pattern so it layers upon itself and settles upon the “meatballs” like spaghetti. You may want to make a few practice cupcakes until you perfect your technique–you’ll probably want a few to eat immediately, anyway.

Now it’s time for the “tomato sauce.” You can use strawberry, cherry, or any other red, thick syrup–just make sure there aren’t visible fruit chunks to spoil the illusion. For an easy, thick sauce, you can use seedless strawberry or raspberry jam. Don’t cover up all your spaghetti, though. A dollop of sauce on the top will cover just enough. For the perfect finishing touch, grate a block of white chocolate for “Parmesan cheese.” 

Corn on the Cob

Creating an almost-perfect illusion, cupcakes placed three to a row become the basis for a delectable corn cob. The “kernels” on these are actually very easy to create. Just cover any flavor of cupcake (white and yellow look best) with white or light yellow icing. Then, arrange white and yellow jelly beans in rows across the top of each cupcake, pressing them lightly into the icing. Be sure to alternate white, yellow, and speckled-yellow jelly beans for a realistic look (Jelly Belly beans come in a good range of colors and are the perfect kernel size.) 

You may want to extend the icing on the edges slightly to create “corners” on the cupcake top–this will help your cupcakes create an even more convincing “cob” illusion when placed side-by-side. Another perfect finishing touch is embedding two corn-shaped “corn holders” into the sides of the two cupcakes on the ends. 

If you’d like to create a “butter pat” for the center cupcake, you can cut a square from yellow fondant icing or from any stiff candy (like banana Laffy Taffy). Lemon Starburst candies already come in square shapes, although pressing them slightly with your fingers will help them achieve a more “melted” look. Top your creations with a light shake of clear and black sugar sprinkles for a “salt and pepper” effect.

Go Professional

Do you love the idea of presenting cupcakes in disguise, but you don’t feel confident enough about your own baking abilities? No problem. Bakeries all over the country specialize in these eye-deceiving treats. As you choose the bakery that will deliver your wedding dessert, ask to see a photo portfolio of custom cupcake designs, and feel free to bring along sketches of your own. Have fun with the imaginative process. After all, creating edible works of art is almost as fun as watching your guests have at them.