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Frugal Party Ideas: Box Mix Cupcakes Vs. Store Bought (& Three Easy Cupcake Decorations)

Planning a party is really fun. You get to come up with a theme then plan your party decorations and party menu around that. That’s the easy part. The hard part, though, is the execution. You have to make (or buy) the decorations. You have to cook the food.

And then there’s dessert.

By the time you get up to that, you’re pretty much worn out. You just want to go to the store and buy a box of cupcakes from the bakery and be done with it. But it’s so simple to just pick up a box of cake mix and make beautiful cupcakes super easily — and a lot cheaper than those store bought ones. Plus, if you follow our tips below, you can customize them to your theme while you’re still saving. Sounds like a frugal party home run to me.

Frugal Party Ideas: Box Mix Cupcakes Vs. Store Bought

What You’ll Need (for cupcakes at home):

  • Box cake mix
  • Canned frosting
  • Icing spatula (I use the Sweet Creations Straight Icing Spatula)
  • Syrup
  • Cupcake wrappers

What You’ll Do:


Bake the cupcakes according to the back of the box. To keep with your theme, use cupcake wrappers that are in the color or design of the party. If you’re keeping with being frugal, you can use reusable colorful silicone baking cups.

Let them cool completely (I generally leave them for a half hour — unless I forget about them and accidentally leave them longer).


Spoon half the can of frosting into a bowl (using the icing spatula). This way, if you accidentally get crumbs on your icing spatula, you’re not infecting the entire canister with them.


Scoop a generous dollop of icing on the cupcake.


Use the icing spatula to gently spread it around. If you always spread in the same direction, you’ll get a more uniform and faux-store bought effect than if you spread haphazardly. Then, you’re on to decorating.

Three Easy Cupcake Decorations

1. Syrup.
Slowly drizzle syrup (chocolate, caramel, etc.) over the cupcakes, making sure to go from edge to edge so some of it falls into the space between the wrapper and the actual cupcake. This gives your cupcakes a little extra moisture.

2. Sprinkles.
This is easy and your kids can help. Pick up sprinkles in your favorite colors (or just make edible glitter if you don’t have sprinkles on hand) and sprinkle them on your frosting.

3. Homemade toppers.
You can purchase cupcake toppers online, but it’s just as easy to make them. Google your party theme and find your favorite images. Print them out and tape them to toothpicks. Then, stick the toothpicks in the cupcakes. Easy. You can also combine these with the first two cupcake decorations.