Holy cupcake! We were thrilled with (and a little bit overwhelmed) by all the wonderful submissions we received for our annual reader recipe contest. Cupcakes by the dozens landed in our office recently for the official judge’s tasting (a tough job, but someone has to do it). Recipes ranged from Key Lime to lemon meringue, double chocolate to pumpkin spice. Ever impressed by the talent and creativity of the home bakers who enter our contests, it was difficult to choose the winner. But Ellie Hock’s Mariposa Cupcake, a chocolate, coffee and cinnamon recipe inspired by her recent trip to Guatemala, took the cake, so to speak. For her effort and expertise, Hock has won a cooking class generously donated by Viking Cooking School. Our thanks go out to everyone who entered our contest. We’ve published as many recipes and photos as space permits, but visit laduenews.com for even more tasty recipes! 

First Place

Mariposa Cupcakes

Ellie Hock of South St. Louis

Chocolate Cupcakes

• 3 oz finely chopped semisweet Hershey’s chocolate

• 1 1/2 c brewed Folger’s coffee

• 3 c sugar

• 2 1/2 c flour

• 1 1/2 c unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa powder

• 2 t baking soda

• 3/4 t baking powder

• 1 1/4 t salt

• 3 large eggs

• 3/4 c vegetable oil

• 1 1/2 c buttermilk

• 3/4 t vanilla

• 1/8 t cinnamon

Cinnamon Frosting

• 8 oz cream cheese, softened

• 1 t cinnamon

• 3 1/2 c powdered sugar

• 1/2 c butter, softened

• 1 t vanilla

• Keebler Bug Bite graham crackers (garnish)

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 300° and put liners in tin. Combine semisweet chocolate in bowl with hot coffee. Mix until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon. In another large bowl, beat eggs until lemon colored and thickened. Slowly add oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Slowly add sugar mixture and then coffee mix. Beat until combined well. Pour into cupcake liners, about 3/4 full and bake approximately 25 minutes. Check at 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes on rack and frost when completely cool.

Frosting: With electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, cinnamon and vanilla until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar. Frost cupcakes and top with Bug Bite butterfly.

Second Place

Ooey Gooey Cupcakes

Georgia Macon of Clayton


• 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

• 1 c sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 t vanilla

• 1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

• 1/2 c cocoa powder

• 1 t baking soda

• 1/2 t salt

• 1/2 c buttermilk

• 1/2 c hot water

Ooey Gooey Stuffing

• 3/4 c cream cheese

• 1/4 c sugar

• 1/2 c flaked coconut, sweetened

• 3/4 c chocolate chips

Cream Cheese Frosting

• 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened

• 1/3 c cream cheese, softened

• 2 c powdered sugar

• 1 t vanilla

Chocolate Sauce

• 1 c heavy cream

• 1 c semisweet chocolate chips

• 2 t vanilla

• 1 T light corn syrup

Cupcakes: Preheat over to 350°. Line tin with muffin liners. Beat together butter and sugar until creamy. In separate bowl, sift together flour, soda, salt and cocoa. Beat in the egg and vanilla thoroughly. Alternately add buttermilk and flour mixture, ending with buttermilk. Add the hot water, and mix until just combined. Divide the batter into 14 muffin cups, and spoon in stuffing (below). Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Stuffing: In small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar. Mix in chocolate chips and coconut. Spoon batter into cupcake tins.

Frosting: Beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time and beat at medium speed for three to five minutes. Mix in vanilla. Spread cupcakes with thin layer of icing.

Chocolate Sauce: Put chocolate chips and corn syrup in medium bowl. In small sauce pan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate chips and wait two minutes. Whisk together chocolate and cream, then add vanilla. Cool to room temperature, then drizzle over cupcakes.

Third Place

‘What More Can You Ask For’ Cupcakes

Peggy Umansky and Alana Umansky-Sabin of Chesterfield

Cookie Layer

• 12 T butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened

• 1 1/4 c light brown sugar, firmly packed

• 1/8 c sugar

• 2 t vanilla extract

• 3/4 t baking powder

• 3/4 t baking soda

• 1 large egg

• 2 1/4 c flour

• 1 1/2 c chocolate chips

Cheesecake Layer

• 16 oz softened cream cheese

• 1/2 c sugar

• 1 egg

• 1 t vanilla extract

• 4 T butter

• 1/4 c oil

• 1/2 c water

• 1 c flour

• 1 c sugar

• 1/4 c plus 2 T unsweetened cocoa

• 1 large egg

• 3/4 t baking soda

• 1/4 c buttermilk

• 1 t vanilla extract


• 3 1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

• 1/3 c heavy cream

Cookie Layer: Beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy. Mix in powder and soda. Add vanilla to the egg and blend the batter. Beat well. Stir in flour and mix in chocolate chips.

Cheesecake Layer: In a mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese and sugar until well-blended. Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until just combined.

Cupcake Layer: In medium saucepan, melt butter with vegetable oil and water over low heat. Sift the flour with the sugar, cocoa powder and baking soda. Add melted butter mixture and beat at low speed until smooth. Add the egg and beat until incorporated, then add the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Ganache: Put chips and cream in a pot. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the chocolate has melted. Let cool until thick. You may need to add some powdered sugar to thicken.

Constructing the Cupcakes: Scoop 1 1/2 T cookie dough into each liner. Press down to coat bottom. (You may need to use some flour so dough doesn’t stick.)  Place 2 1/2 T cheesecake filling into each liner. Add chocolate cupcake filling until liner is 2/3 full. Place in oven for 25 minutes or until done. Frost with chocolate ganache and top with mini chocolate chip cookie.

Honorable (Sweet) Mentions

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

Submitted by Darlene New of Chesterfield


• 3 1/3 c all-purpose flour

• 2 3/4 t baking powder

• 3/4 t baking soda

• 2 1/4 t salt

• 5 t cinnamon

• 2 t ginger

• 1 3/4 t grated nutmeg

• 1 t allspice

• 1/4 t cloves

• 14 T (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted buttermilk

• 1 2/3 c packed light brown sugar

• 1 2/3 c sugar

• 4 eggs

• 1 c milk

• 1 2/3 c (15 oz. can) pumpkin puree


• 1 c chopped pecans

• 1 box powdered sugar

•  8 oz. cream cheese 

• 1 stick butter

• 1 t vanilla

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Line the pan with paper cups or generously grease and flour the wells; tap out excess flour. Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves; set aside. With electric mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter on medium speed until smooth for one to two minutes. Add the sugars and beat until light and fluffy for about five minutes, stopping to scrap down sides of bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

     Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in three sections, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each part just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape bowl. Add the pumpkin puree and beat until incorporated. Fill wells with about 1/4 cup of batter. Bake about 15 to 17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before decorating. Repeat with remaining batter. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Frosting: Cream the cheese and butter. Add sugar and vanilla; blend well. After frosting the cupcakes, top with pecans or other holiday candy.

Julia’s Dreamy Chocolate Cupcakes

Submitted by Julia Tackes of Town & Country


• 1 large egg

• 3/4 c sugar

• 8 oz. cream cheese

Cake batter

• 2 1/4 c water

• 3/4 c oil

• 1 T vanilla

• 5 t balsamic vinegar

• 3 1/2 c flour

• 3/4 c dark chocolate cocoa powder

• 2 t baking soda

• 2 1/2 c sugar

• 1 t salt

• chocolate chips, Ghirardelli semi-sweet preferred

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners. Mix filling ingredients and place in a Zip-Lock or pastry bag for use later. Next, mix the wet ingredients: water, oil, vanilla and vinegar. Stir together the dry ingredients, except the chocolate chips. Stir the wet into the dry. Fill each cup 3/4 of the way with batter. Add a squeeze of the filling to the middle of each cupcake and top with lots of chips. Bake 26 to 28 minutes. Cool. 

‘Falling into Autumn’ Cupcakes

Submitted by Shannon Perschbacher of Belleville, Ill.

Pumpkin Apple Cupcakes

• 1 c cake flour

• 1/2 t  baking powder

• 1/2 t  baking soda

• 1/2 t salt

• 1 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice

• 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

• 1/2 c white sugar

• 1/2 c brown sugar

• 2 eggs

• 1 c pumpkin puree

• 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped fine

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cream Cheese Frosting

• 8 oz. cream cheese, softened

• 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

• 1/2 t vanilla extract

• 2 c powdered sugar, sifted

• 1 t pumpkin pie spice

Candied Pecans

• 1 egg

• 1/2 c white sugar

• 1/2 c brown sugar

• 1 t ground cinnamon

• 1/4 t ground nutmeg

• 3/4 t salt

• 1 lb. pecan halves

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Cream butter and sugars. Beat in eggs one at a time. Alternately mix in pumpkin and dry ingredients. Mix in apples. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full. Bake about 25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Makes about 12 cupcakes

Frosting: Beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually add powdered sugar and spice. If not used immediately, refrigerate; bring to room temperature before icing.

Candied Pecans: Preheat oven to 250°. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix together sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whip egg white until frothy. Add pecans and stir until coated. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients. Spread nuts evenly on baking sheet. Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes until nuts are dark golden. Slide parchment paper off baking sheet and onto wire rack; cool completely. Store in airtight container.

Decorating Directions: Bake and cool cupcakes. Prepare pastry bag with a Bismark tip; fill with bottled apple butter. Insert tip into cupcake and gently squeeze. Frost cupcakes. If desired, drizzle caramel sauce on top of frosting and place candied pecans on top.

Roseanna’s Banana Cupcakes

Submitted by Carole Marcum of  Frontenac


• 2 1/2 c sifted flour

• 1 1/4 c sugar

• 2 1/2 t baking powder

• 1/2 t baking soda

• 1/2 t salt

•  1/2 c shortening

• 1 1/2 c mashed ripe bananas

• 2 eggs

• 1 t vanilla

Speedy Frosting

• 1/4 c butter

• 1 lb. confections sugar

• 1/2 c mashed ripe bananas

• 1/2 t lemon juice

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 375°. Sift into mixing bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add shortening, 1/2 c mashed bananas and eggs. Beat two minutes at medium speed with mixer. Scrape down bowl and beaters. Add remaining bananas and vanilla. Beat for one minute. Bake in paper-lined cupcake tins for approximately 12 to 15 minutes. 

Frosting: Cream butter until soft. Add half the sugar; beat until blended. Add mashed bananas and lemon juice; blend. Add remaining sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and, if desired, garnish with decorating sugar and Runts bananas.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Submitted by Snjezana Jurcevic of St. Louis


• 8 T margarine

• 1 c sugar

• 1 c chocolate powder for cooking

• 1/2 c flour

• 1t baking powder

• 8 eggs


• rosehip jam

• strawberry whipped cream (made with strawberries and heavy cream)

• fresh strawberries

    Mix margarine and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Mix in dry ingredients. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool and frost, first with jam, then with whipped cream and strawberry half.

Chocolate Cupcake: Rylan’s Favorite

Submitted by Rylan  and Kimberly Cisel and grandma Linda Helms of Town & Country


• 1 1/4 c flour

• 4 T Hershey’s cocoa

• 1/2 c Crisco shortening (substitute: canola oil)

• 1 c sugar

• 1 egg unbeaten

• 1/2 c buttermilk

• 1 pinch salt

• 1 t vanilla

• 1/2 c boiling water


• Williams Sonoma milk chocolate frosting


• large leaf sprinkles

• Pumpkin leaves from Bissinger’s

Cupcakes: Sift flour and cocoa. Mix by hand shortening, sugar and unbeaten egg. Alternate flour mixture into egg mixture. Blend in buttermilk, salt and vanilla. Finally, add boiling water. Pour into cupcake tins and bake 20 minutes at 350°. Frost and garnish. Makes 12.

Graham Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Submitted by Monique Gasparh of Clayton


• 1 1/2 c plain graham cracker crumbs (about 1 and 3/4 cellophane packages of graham crackers)

• 1 c plus 2 T cake flour

• 1 t baking soda

• 1 t baking powder

• pinch of salt

• 1 c sugar

• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

• 3 eggs

• 1 c milk

• 1 t vanilla

Dark Chocolate Buttercream

• 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

• 2/3 c dark unsweetened cocoa

• 2 1/2 to 3 c powdered sugar

• 5 to 7 T milk

• 1 t vanilla

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Sift dry ingredients (except for sugar). Cream butter and sugar for about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time and blend well. Add vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk (beginning and ending with dry ingredients). Pour batter into prepared tins and bake 16 to 18 minutes for jumbo sized cupcakes (12 to 15 minutes for regular) or until cakes spring back when touched. Makes 12 jumbo or 24 regular.

Buttercream: Combine butter, cocoa and 1c powdered sugar with electric mixer on low speed. Gradually add remaining powdered sugar and milk until desired consistency. Stir in vanilla.

Apple, Fig and Walnut Cake

Submitted by Jan Gough of Creve Coeur


• 1 T butter

• 1/4 c raw sugar

• 1 c coarsely chopped walnuts (divided)

• 1 c butter, softened

• 1 1/2  c sugar

• 4 eggs

• 2 c flour

• 2 t baking soda

• 1/2 t salt

• 2 t cinnamon

• 1/4 t nutmeg

• 4 c cored, peeled and coarsely chopped apples (about 4 medium)

• 1 bag (6 ounces) dried Calimyrna figs coarsely chopped

Caramel Drizzle

• 1 1/2 c sugar

• 1 1/2 c heavy cream

• pinch of salt

Basic Buttercream

• 3 large egg whites, room temperature

• 3/4 c sugar

• pinch of salt

• 1 c unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

• flavoring(s) of choice

Cake: Grease muffin tins with 1T butter. Sprinkle raw sugar, turning pan to coat. Sprinkle 1/3 c walnuts evenly into the bottoms and set aside. In a large mixer bowl, beat 1 c butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. In medium bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture and beat at low speed until well combined. Stir in apples, figs and remaining 2/3 c walnuts. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake in 350° oven until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 15 minutes and turn onto wire rack to cool completely. Best if prepared one day before serving. Store covered at room temperature.

Caramel Drizzle: In heavy-bottomed, high-sided saucepan, cook the sugar over medium-high heat until it begins to melt around the edges, about five minutes. Stirring with a wooden spoon, continue to cook until the sugar is melted and has turned amber, about three minutes longer. Carefully pour the cream down the side of the pan, stirring constantly until completely smooth. Stir in the salt. Pour the caramel into a small heatproof bowl and let cool completely before using. (The caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. Bring to room temperature before using.)

Buttercream: In a large heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until sugar has completely dissolved and mixture is very warm to the touch, about two minutes. Remove bowl from saucepan. On high speed, beat the egg white mixture until fluffy and it holds stiff peaks, about six minutes. On medium-low speed, add the salt and butter a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is too liquidy after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, three to five minutes more. Add the flavoring(s) of choice and beat until combined. Spread immediately.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Submitted by Carrie Crompton of St. Louis


• 1 c plus 2 T all-purpose flour

• 2 T cornstarch

• 1 1/4 t baking powder

• 1/8 t salt

• 3/4 c sugar

• 2 eggs, room temperature

• 2 t lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

• lemon zest of 1 lemon

• 4 T unsalted butter, melted

• 1/4 c oil

• 1/2 c milk, room temperature


• 1 c sugar

• 3 T water

• 2 egg whites, room temperature

• pinch of salt

• pinch of cream of tarter

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Place liners in muffin tin. In a small bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, powder and salt together. In a separate large bowl, beat sugar, eggs and lemon juice together on medium-high. Add the butter and oil and beat until completely incorporated. Add half the dry ingredients and half the milk; repeat with second half of dry ingredients and milk. Beat together until completely incorporated. Pour batter into the lined tins, filling about halfway full. Bake cupcakes in the center of oven for 20 to 30 minutes. They are done when springy and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let them cool in tin for five minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Frosting: In small saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to boil over moderately high heat. Stir constantly for two to three minutes, or until sugar has dissolved. In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, salt and cream of tarter with hand mixer until soft peaks form. Turn the mixer to medium and pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites. Beat the frosting for five minutes, or until it’s cool and fluffy. Immediately spread frosting on cupcakes. Use a piping bag with a large star tip to get a swirled effect. Broil the frosted cupcakes for several minutes in a 350° oven. Watch them closely, as they broil quickly. Cool cupcakes on wire rack. Place lemon zest on top of the cooled cupcakes.

Gluten-Free Banana Caramel Cupcakes with Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frosting

Submitted by Maya Bradstreet of Clayton


• 2/3 c polenta or cornmeal

• 1/3 c white rice flour

• 1/3 sorghum flour

• 1/3 c tapioca flour

• 1/4 t xanthan gum

•  1/4 t salt

• 1 1/4 t baking powder

• 1/2 t baking soda

• 6 T softened butter (or oil)

• 1 1/4 c packed light brown sugar

• 2 eggs (or egg substitute)

• 2 ripe bananas, mashed

• 1 1/2 t vanilla

4 T plain yogurt (or coconut milk)

Mascarpone Whipped Cream Frost

• 4 oz. mascarpone cheese

• 1 c chilled heavy cream

• 1/4 c powdered sugar

• 1 t vanilla (optional)

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350° and set rack to middle of oven. Grease tins with oil or butter. Mix dry ingredients. Beat butter (or oil) and brown sugar on high until soft and incorporated. Beat in eggs (or substitute), one at a time until smooth. Add bananas, vanilla and yogurt/milk, and beat until just combined. Beat in dry ingredients on low speed until just combined. Spoon batter into cupcake liners so they are 3/4 full. Bake for about 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar or spread with mascarpone whipped cream frosting. Makes 12 to 15 cupcakes.

Frosting: Whip all ingredients together until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until using.

Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate Cupcakes

Submitted by Rachel Eilbott of Chesterfield


• 1/4 lb. butter

• 1 c sugar

• 4 eggs

• 1 c flour

• 1 t  baking powder

• 1 can Hershey’s syrup

• 1 t vanilla

• 1 c chocolate chips (floured)

• double-stuffed chocolate Oreos


• 2 c sugar

• 2/3 c milk

• 10 T butter

• 2 c chocolate chips

Cupcakes: Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, flour, powder, syrup and vanilla. Beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Put batter on top of half a double-stuffed chocolate Oreo. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes. Makes about 24 cupcakes.

Frosting: In small saucepan, combine sugar, butter and milk. Boil, stirring constantly for one minute. Frosting will thicken as it cools.