If you like piña coladas… then put it in a cupcake. As boozy bakes become increasingly common, bakers are turning to cocktail menus for inspiration.

What do James Bond, the ‘Dude’ and the Sex and the City girls have in common? Their love of cocktails, of course! Whether it’s a Vesper martini or a cosmopolitan, cocktails make a statement. So it was only a matter of time before they featured in cupcakes.

“Cupcakes are becoming more adventurous and the addition of alcohol just shows how they continue to evolve,” explains Yvonne Donald, owner of online business Kake & Cupkakery. “They are moving away from being something for a children’s party to something more sophisticated.”

The rise of gin on its own and as a flavouring means that, while G&T cupcakes will likely prove popular, it’ll take something slightly more special to stand out.

“Look at cocktail flavours to create excitement and show off with themed decoration,” suggests Cristiana Ballarini, category marketing director at CSM Bakery Solutions. Piña coladas, mojitos, margaritas and espresso martinis are among her top recommendations.

Choose alcohol with a distinctive flavour, advises Jane Rylands from oven manufacturer Bellings. “Just adding a slug of vodka or gin to your cake batter isn’t going to add much flavour once the alcohol burns off in the oven, so pick cocktails, liqueurs and beers that pack a real punch,” she says.

Pimm’s is great in the summer while Baileys and Champagne-based cocktail flavours are ideal for the festive season, Rylands adds.

Meanwhile, limoncello, brandy, rum, amaretto, and coffee liqueur also work well and easily complement flavours such as chocolate, pineapple, bananas, salted caramel and raspberries, says Donald.

But just because something tastes good in its liquid form, doesn’t mean it will translate to cupcakes. Pernod or absinthe, for example, might be too divisive for a mainstream cupcake and clear spirits are unlikely to bring much in terms of flavour.

“Some flavours don’t carry well in cake and can be overpowering,” believes Donald. “Vodka on its own isn’t the best and wine such as prosecco is really popular, but to get the distinct flavour will take a lot of prosecco. If used in too high a quantity, it can affect the buttercream and cause it to split.”

There is a solution to this problem, notes Chris Hall, head of brand at Renshaw.

“There are loads of alcohol-free products out there on the market, like the Sainsbury’s Gin & Tonic Flavouring – just because it tastes of alcohol doesn’t mean it needs to actually contain alcohol,” he explains, noting other flavours such as prosecco and rum are available.

For purists, there are a number of ways to infuse cakes with alcohol, according to Donald, such as adding it to the batter, pouring over a warm cake or mixing into the frosting. For even more of a hit, bakers can add a mini shot by inserting a pipette filled with alcohol into the cake.

A key part of a cocktail’s ‘wow factor’ are the accompaniments such as an umbrella or a wedge of fruit – something bakers should seek to replicate with their creations.

“Try to keep flavours and toppings as close to the original cocktail recipe as possible,” says Shenna Darcheville, founder of Cakes By Shenna Darcheville, which specialises in alcohol-infused cakes.

“For mojito cupcakes, top with a lime wedge, a bit of mint and sprinkle with brown sugar. Use a passion fruit on top of a pornstar martini and for piña coladas use a pineapple wedge, glazed cherry and toasted coconut flakes.”

Toppings help add to the overall cocktail cupcake experience, enhancing the flavours and fun factor while helping to increase profit margins. So take a leaf out of Bond’s book and shake things up.

The cherry on the top

What’s on top of a cupcake is just as important as the cake itself.

As consumers demand more innovative flavours, baked goods laden with toppings are in high demand. Plain frosting on cupcakes will no longer cut it.

“With cupcakes ‘anything goes’, meaning they are versatile enough for bakers to introduce many different new ideas,” says Jacqui Passmore, Dawn Foods marketing manager UK and Ireland.

“Toppings can range from traditional frostings decorated with sugar strands through to over-the-top loaded options, featuring popcorn, favourite sweets and childhood cereals such as Coco Pops and charms, ideal for appealing to our sense of fun and nostalgia.”

Top 10 influential cupcake flavours by CSM Bakery Solutions

  • Chocolate
  • Coconut
  • Peanut butter
  • Red velvet
  • Margarita
  • Mojito
  • Lemon & lime
  • Mocha
  • Salted caramel
  • Strawberry daiquiri