Cupcakes are the king of all dessert foods, and for one reason: you can basically add anything to them and they still taste like sugary happiness. Once you choose vanilla or chocolate for a base, the world cupcake is your oyster. Classic ingredients like lemon, coconut, peanut better, and caramel are staples, but that’s just the beginning.

You can have your very own Cupcake Wars in your kitchen (minus the stress and grand prize) with creative, bizarre ingredients that’ll turn you into baker extraordinaire. Here are the ingredients that’ll take your cakes from “Wow these are amazing!” to “ohmyGODgivemethisrecipeASAP.” 



Photo courtesy of @sarahhwiseman on Instagram

Perfect for celebrations, New Years Eve, or acing that final. Champagne’s natural flavors are fruity, with notes of apple and pear, so adding the bubbly compliments the sweetness of your cake  perfectly. Add a tablespoon or two to your cream cheese frosting and you’ll never go back (go for the Cupcake brand of champs, because of the name, obvs).

Maple Syrup


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If you are trying to cut back on sugar, maple syrup is a great substitute because it’s actually good for you (in moderation). It’s natural and isn’t processed, unlike white cane sugar. Plus, it adds the maple flavor alongside the sweetness, giving the cupcake that something extra.

Red Wine


Photo by Caty Schnack

Sometimes you need a pop of color… and alcohol… and chocolate — so have it all with red wine cupcakes. The good thing about baking with alcohol is no specific kind or brand is required, just use whatever you have at home. Put only a couple tablespoons in the cake and frosting to get the wine flavor, as a little goes a long way. Switch out the milk chocolate for dark and you’ve got a truly decadent taste.



Photo courtesy of @tbkurtoglu on Instagram

Nothing says warm spring days like flowers and citrus, so why not add a little spring into your cupcake recipe? Lavender isn’t new to the baking world, but besides in those fancy cupcake shops, you don’t exactly see the flavor used very often. It can make the traditional vanilla flavor taste light and fresh, especially when paired with lemon.

#SpoonTip: Add only a drop of lavender extract, or the cake will literally taste like a flower. 



Photo courtesy of @kellykralblog on Instagram

Lemons are used constantly in cupcake recipes, but don’t forget about lime, which can be just as easily added to give it a tangy, refreshing twist. Mixing lime juice (be generous) and zest with vanilla gives the cupcake juuuuust the right amount of tartness. It’s a great pairing to a berry base, like blackberry or strawberry.

Cherry Coke


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No diet Coke allowed here. Go back to your childhood sipping-Coke-out-of-a-straw days (or was that our parents…?) and put a cup of Cherry Coke into your chocolate cupcake. Top it with a cherry and wow your friends with this creative ingredient.

#SpoonTip: Wait for the fizz to die down, or it’ll make the consistency of the batter weird. 

Green Tea


Photo courtesy of @annaliza_0620 on Instagram

When you have dessert, usually tea or coffee is right there with it, so I’d like to personally thank the genius who decided to combine the two. Brew a pot of green tea and pour some into your vanilla batter for a cupcake just as zen as you. Namaste.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch


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Yes, I really mean the cereal. All you have to do is start with a cinnamon batter and crush Cinnamon Toast Crunch in a baggie until the pieces are fine crumbs to garnish the top of the cupcake. Top it with a piece of cereal to really make the flavor stand out. Cupcakes for breakfast, anyone?

There’s always room for more creativity when it comes to baking. The next time you’re tempted to go for a simple cupcake recipe, switching it up with one of these ingredients can make all the difference. Life is what you bake it, people.