By Scaron
Created March 6, 2017

There is something about a swirl of creamy, beautiful, pastel-tinted frosting that makes me all giddy. Cupcakes are fun. They're happy little bites of cake, perfectly portioned and ready to be gobbled up. And when it comes to birthdays, they are a great way to celebrate -- especially since it eliminates the need to cut cakes (which is something I hate to do).

Do you love them too?

Whether you like your cupcakes homemade or made with boxed mix, you can create a fun, special dessert with just a little effort. Ready to get started?

If you want to use boxed mix, here are two ways to make it extra special:

Rich Chocolate Cupcakes: Prepare a box of chocolate cake mix according to package directions. Before dividing among cupcake tins/liners, add one package of instant coffee mix (a single-serve package, that is) to the batter and mix well. Fill the liners and cook as directed.

Rainbow Cupcakes: Start with a box of white cake mix (yes, it needs to be white, not yellow). Prepare the mix according to package directions. Divide the batter into different bowls (one for each color you want to use), and tint with food coloring. You want the shade of the batter to reflect the shade of cake you want. Then add the colors to the cupcake liners one at a time. It's important that you DO NOT mix the batter once you add the dollops to the liners - just plop in a spoonful at a time until all of the batter is evenly divided among your liners. Bake as directed.

Also, try these Surprise Cupcake Cones -- so fun!

Want to make yours from scratch? Try these recipes:

What about the frosting?

Did you see Katie's amazing photos last week of her Creamy Vanilla Almond Frosting. I was totally drooling. My personal favorite is my Vanilla Bean Buttercream, which is a rich, creamy frosting that is speckled with fresh vanilla beans ... delish.

Making frosting is so easy, so even if you use boxed cake mix for your cupcakes, I suggest trying to make your own frosting. When it comes to frosting, you can use the ol' slap it on with a knife method ... or you can pipe it on. Don't worry, you don't need a special pastry bag to do it, either. While that certainly makes it easier, you can get great results with a resealable plastic bag. Just add the frosting to it, snip the corner and pipe away.

Here are some great frosting recipes to try:

Sarah W. Caron (aka scaron) is a food writer, editor and blogger who writes about family-friendly foods and raising a healthy family at Sarah's Cucina Bella.