I don’t want you to think I’m getting lazy, but I’ve been a busy bee these days. So, when I realized I needed to make interesting and yummy cupcakes that my husband would love with only what I had on hand, I dug into my candy box.

To the rescue, Trader Joe’s English Toffee and Werther’s Original Chewy Caramels.

I made regular vanilla cupcakes, dropping a caramel in each cup of batter.

Caramels dropped in cupcake batter
These plain-jane vanilla cupcakes had a caramel surprise in the center.

Once I frosted, I added chunks—and I do mean chunks—of the toffee.

Toffee cupcakes (champagne candle)
Yes, that’s an adorable mini champagne candle.

Voilà, we had tasty cupcakes fit for a celebration!

cake balls

Have leftover cake, icing or melted chocolate? Make cake balls!

For all of these, I used my small ice cream scoop, the one I usually use to scoop batter for mini cupcakes.

Carrot Cake Balls

The secret to cake balls is that they are really just crumbled cake mixed with frosting in most cases. I had leftover carrot cake and vanilla buttercream, these were the result.

carrot cake balls

Most cake balls have some sort of chocolate or candy coating, but mine went bare. If I’d planned ahead, I would have gotten some white chocolate to melt and dipped these. That may have made them over-the-top rich, but that just seems to be the deal with cake balls or pops.

Chocolate Balls

My first type of chocolate balls were really candy rather than cake. They were made from a mix of milk and dark chocolate melted with a little cream, scooped into balls when cooling and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The second chocolate-based batch was basically chocolate icing and peanut butter, chilled and scooped, then dipped in chopped hazelnuts. I kept them in the freezer until I took them to the event (with ice packs), where they eventually reverted to mush. They made tasty mush, but I wouldn’t try this method again unless I were serving immediately.

Cake and Candy Balls
Carrot Cake, Chocolate with Powdered Sugar, and Peanut Butter Chocolate with Hazelnuts

These treats made good use of my leftovers!

sea turtle cupcake

My friend Katie loves sea turtles*, so that’s the theme I ran with for her birthday cupcakes. I’d seen cupcakes with gumdrops made to look like turtles on top, but the first thing I thought of was turtle candy, the chocolate caramel and pecan treats that look like turtles.

Of course, the candy would need a cupcake base. I decided on chocolate cupcakes with a caramel center. I made the lighter chocolate cupcakes I like, leaving room for the caramel to shine.

caramel centers

I confess, I “cheated” and didn’t make homemade caramels. It’s just way too easy to drop an unwrapped caramel candy in the middle of each puddle of batter. When they are baked, you can barely see a sign that they’re in there, but there’s a caramel-y surprise waiting.

While my chocolate cupcakes baked, I made the turtle candy. I roasted some pecans, arranging them on foil in groups of four for my turtles’ legs. I then dropped a spoonful of melted caramel in the center of each pecan cluster. Next, I swirled on a spoonful of melted chocolate chips.

turtle candy

To complete my turtles, I made heads with half pecans and finished with some green sprinkles. Vanilla frosting colored blue gave my sea turtles a place to swim.

swimming turtle cupcakes

*Sea turtles are endangered. Learn more about the real turtles and how you can help protect them at www.conserveturtles.org.

The Cupcakes

Black and white cookies are a New York classic, so I thought I’d make a cupcake version for a returning native’s bridal shower.

cupcake tower with black and white cookie cupcakes

For these, I baked straight from Bon Appetit. Why muck around when their test kitchens already perfected a recipe for black-and-white cupcakes? One of my co-hostesses found them on good ol’ Pinterest, and—after inspecting the ingredients for NYC b&w cookie authenticity—I carefully followed the directions.

black & white cupcake process

The hardest part was getting the halves of icing exact. I had been thinking that any irregularities on the chocolate side would be more noticeable, so I did those first in case I needed to cover up imperfections. The white icing was not opaque enough, however, to allow for correcting when I added the second side. Next time, I might start with the white half.

They weren’t perfect, but I think they looked enough the part! And they tasted just right.

I believe it was the bride’s sister (and Woman of Honor) who called them “cupcookies” and began lobbying for more cupcake versions of various cookies. Maybe… What kind of cupcookies would you like to see?

The Wrappers

I made cupcake wrappers from NYC subway maps and from a design on the shower invitations. Making your own wrappers is really easy to do. Offbeat Bride has a great tutorial including a template. I found that my cupcakes were smaller than the template, so I trimmed until they fit as I wanted.

nyc subway cupcake wrappers

Birthday girls get their wishes, and one of my friend’s was to have toffee cupcakes at her party.

toffee cupcake

These were easy. I make what amounts to toffee chip cupcakes, adding about a cup of Heath Toffee Bits to a basic vanilla cupcake recipe. For the frosting, I melted a square of unsweetened chocolate and added it to my basic buttercream recipe until it tasted right! A generous sprinkle of toffee pieces and crumbs finished them nicely.

Next time, maybe I’ll try my hand at making homemade toffee!

Her new age is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, but I fell short of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy theme. I did add a robot and a couple of spaceships I had on hand.

robot toffee cupcakes

What did they taste like? Well, I’ll have to tell you next week. I’m off the sugar for a few days (don’t be shocked), but I froze two samples for later research.

From the honoree:

The toffee had a chewy crunch and a very slightly salty tang. It was perfect with the sweet, moist cake