You might reflexively picture a cupcake with a dollop of buttery frosting on top. But that creamy goodness isn’t the only suitable topping for a cupcake. Versatile cupcakes can take on a variety of toppings. Since frosting helps keep cupcakes moist, you need a tasty replacement that also prevents your cupcakes from drying out.
Light, sweet marshmallow toppings can be spread or piped like frosting. Use marshmallow cream instead of frosting -- available in your grocery store -- and tint it with a gel or powdered food coloring. Liquid food coloring contains too much water, which can cause marshmallow cream to break. Alternatively, lightly press a large marshmallow into the center of each cupcake about two minutes before they’re ready to come out of the oven. The melting marshmallow coats the top of the cupcake without the need to spread or pipe anything.
Fondant, a pliable sugar dough, creates a smooth surface on top of cupcakes. Start with a thin layer of jam; piping gel, a clear decorating gel found in craft and bakery supply stores; or melted chocolate on the cupcake's surface to help the fondant stick. Use a circle cookie cutter to precut fondant circles in the same size as your cupcake to make applying them easier. From there you can decorate the fondant with cut-out fondant shapes, edible paint or sugar flowers.
Whipped cream makes a creamy, airy topping for cupcakes that traps in moisture. You can spread store-bought whipped cream onto the cupcakes using a spatula. Homemade whipped cream -- made by whipping chilled heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar -- can be piped on top of a cupcake. Try topping the whipped cream with drizzled chocolate, chopped nuts or candies.
Chocolate ganache, a smooth, decadent coating made with heavy cream, chocolate and vanilla extract, spreads to a gleam on top of cupcakes. Prepare ganache according to any recipe, but allow it to chill and harden slightly so that it adheres to the cupcake’s surface. Ganache can stand alone or be combined with chopped candies, powdered sugar or fresh fruit to finish.
Rich and creamy peanut butter or hazelnut spreads help trap in the moisture similar to frosting. They come ready-to-spread at your local grocery store, which makes them a suitable replacement for frosting if you’re in a hurry. Jams can also be spread on top of cupcakes. Use a flavor that works well with your cupcake, such as raspberry jam on top of vanilla cupcakes. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top or a touch of powdered sugar for additional taste and texture.