Pastry chef Zac Young—owner (aka "Sprinkle Master") of the groundbreaking direct-to-consumer bakery PieCaken—shares one of his adorable desserts just in time for the holidays: gnome cupcakes. Made from a box cake mix, canned frosting and store-bought candies, they are easy to assemble and will delight people of all ages! 

Original Piecaken

Original Piecaken


Note: To make the recipe, you'll need 24 white, blue or red cupcake liners and a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip. If you don't have a piping bag set up, you can use a small spoon to create the hair and swirl frosting down each cupcake for the beard. 

Pro Tip from Zac: You can flavor the frosting with a little lemon or orange extract, if you like.  

For more fun holiday desserts, check out Rach's 5-Minute Fudge Wreath and Stuffed Cake with 5 Flavors


For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 box red velvet cake mix
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 6 candy canes, crushed into very small pieces
For the Frosting:
  • One 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tub vanilla frosting
  • One 1-pound box powdered sugar
To Finish:
  • ¼ cup red sanding sugar (gold is fun, too)
  • 24 sugar cone-style ice cream cones
  • 12 pink chewy fruit candies (such as Starburst), halved
  • 48 round chocolate candies (such as peanut M&M's, Milk Duds or Junior Mints)


Serves: Makes 24 cupcakes


For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to the temperature on the cake mix box. Line two 12-cavity muffin tins with white or blue cupcake liners. (You can also bake the cupcakes in 2 batches.) 

Empty the cake mix into a large bowl. Add the cocoa powder and prepare the cake mix according to package directions. Add a scant ¼ cup of batter to each liner and sprinkle a teaspoon of crushed candy cane on top of each cupcake. Bake as directed and let cool.  

For the frosting, in a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and frosting using a hand mixer or whisk. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until thick and smooth.  

To make the hats, pour the sanding sugar on a small plate. Using a small knife or offset spatula, spread a thin layer of frosting on an ice cream cone and then roll it in the sanding sugar. Repeat with the remaining cones.  

To assemble the gnomes, fill a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip (see Note) with the remaining frosting. Pipe a small zigzag around the top of each cooled cupcake to make the hair.  

To make the beard, pipe a large zigzag tapering off each cupcake and down the side. Place the hats on top of the cupcakes.  

To make the nose, shape half a chewy fruit candy into a ball and place it at the top of the beard on a cupcake. Repeat with the remaining fruit candies. 

To make the feet, place two round chocolate candies at the bottom of a cupcake on each side of the beard. Repeat with the remaining chocolate candies.