Christmas Light Cupcakes

These Christmas Light Cupcakes are made with an embellished chocolate cake mix and the best vanilla buttercream frosting. They are adorable for Christmas and perfect for bake sales.

chocolate cupcakes decorated with vanilla frosting, black strings and m&ms

I was watching the Holiday Baking Championship and one of the contestants made a cake with Christmas lights all around it. It was the cutest thing. She pushed an M&M into the cake on its side so it had a 3D effect.

I loved it and it inspired these Christmas Light Cupcakes.

Ingredients //

I used an embellished cake mix recipe and my favorite vanilla buttercream. I normally make my cakes from scratch, but I ran out of cocoa.

Gather together milk chocolate cake mix, chocolate instant pudding mix, eggs, vegetable oil, water, sour cream and vanilla extract.

For the decorative Christmas string lights, you will need vanilla buttercream (store-bought or homemade), black frosting and m&m’s.

chocolate cupcakes decorated with vanilla frosting, black strings and m&ms on cake platter

Cake Mix. Boxed cake mix is the secret ingredient. And saves so much time in the kitchen. Use any flavor you have on hand.

Instant Pudding Mix. The second secret ingredient that really makes this holiday cupcake recipe shine. Make sure to match the pudding mix to the cake mix flavor.

Black Frosting. I’ve had quite a few questions about the black frosting. I bought mine at the grocery store in the baking aisle, you can also buy it online.

M&Ms. I kept it simple with regular m&m’s. You can also buy Christmas m&m’s, peanut, peanut butter, dark chocolate, crisp or pretzel.

How To Make // The Steps

This is a chocolate cupcake recipe, but you can use it for any flavor of cake. All it takes is one bowl, an electric mixer and two cupcake pans. Simply:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two muffin tins with 18 paper liners.
  • Add all cupcake ingredients in the order listed to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat well, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
  • Divide batter evenly between muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.
chocolate cupcakes on wire rack with pastry bag filled with frosting and bowl of m&ms
  • Using a large round tip, pipe buttercream in a swirl onto the cupcakes. Draw a black line around the surface of the frosting. Stick M&Ms vertically into the side of the cupcakes.
chocolate cupcakes on wire rack with pastry bag filled with frosting and m&ms

Christmas Cupcake Ideas //

So many possibilities. For some more festive holiday flair, try:

  • Christmas Trees: Tint the frosting green. Place a mini sugar cone in the center of each cupcake and pipe the frosting with a star tip around the cone. Add a star or white mints to the top to make it a Christmas tree.
  • Christmas Wreaths: Tint half the frosting green and leave the other half white. Smooth a layer of white frosting on top of each cupcake, then dot green frosting around the outer edge of the cupcake to form a wreath. Decorate with sprinkles.
  • Mini Christmas Cupcakes: Bake in mini cupcake tins and frost as directed for cute, pop-in-your-mouth treats.
chocolate cupcakes with green frosting in piping bag, sugar cones, white decorations and powdered sugar

Decorative, Festive & Kid-Friendly Recipe

This technique is so simple and has a big impact. So easy that the kids can do it. Prep the cupcakes and frosting 1-2 days in advance, if necessary.

I absolutely love how these turned out and they also tasted great.

Package for School Bake Sales

I made these for the kid’s bake sale at school and they were a hit.

I put each cupcake into a clear plastic cocktail glass. This keeps them from getting smooshed. I put the cup inside a clear plastic bag that I got at the craft store and tied it with a cute ribbon.

So easy and it looks really nice. For a bake sale, the presentation is important. You want people to buy your treats.

christmas light cupcakes on cake platter with m&ms on the side

Top Tips for Christmas Light Cupcakes:

  • Match the cake mix to the pudding mix. This really brings out the chocolate or vanilla flavor.
  • Purchase ready-made black frosting. It comes in a pouch or a can (like a bottle of hair product) and has little plastic tips. I used the round tip and piped it around the cupcake. You can always make your own, but I think that making black is difficult and looks greyer than true black.
  • Use your favorite m&m’s. Try Christmas m&m’s, peanut, peanut butter, dark chocolate, crisp or pretzel.
  • Get the kids in the kitchen. This easy cupcake recipe is so simple, even the kids can do it. Prep all the ingredients so they can decorate to their heart’s desire.
  • Package for a school bake sale. Place into clear cocktail glasses, then place them into small cellophane bags. Tie with a pretty ribbon. These cupcakes are sure to sell out fast.

More Christmas Dessert Recipes //

Originally published in December 2015, updated August 2020 with updated images and updated recipe card.

If you make this recipe, I’d love to know how it goes! Be sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, too!

chocolate cupcakes decorated with vanilla frosting, black strings and m&ms

Christmas Light Cupcakes

Yield: 18 cupcakes
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 52 minutes

These Christmas Light Cupcakes made with an embellished chocolate cake mix are fun, adorable, kid-friendly and perfect for bake sales.

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 1 box milk chocolate cake mix
  • 1 small box chocolate instant pudding mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

To decorate:

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line two muffin tins with 18 paper liners.
  2. Add cupcake ingredients to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat well, about 3 minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.
  3. Divide batter evenly between muffin tin. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely.
  4. Using a large round tip, pipe buttercream in a swirl onto the cupcakes. Draw a black line around the surface of the frosting. Stick M&Ms vertically into the side of the cupcakes.

Notes

I adapted this from With Sprinkles On Top.

Vanilla cake mix and vanilla instant pudding can be used for Vanilla Christmas cupcakes.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 149Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 59mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 2g

All information and tools presented and written within this site are intended for informational purposes only.

Bree-September-2020-50

Oh hey there!

Well, hello there! I’m Bree Hester, the Boston-based blogger and food photographer here at Baked Bree. Here you can get lots of weeknight meal inspiration, eat more plant-based meals, and still indulge in a decadent sweet treat. Baked Bree is a place where you will find great recipes and inspiration for your next family adventure.

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This Post Has 151 Comments

  1. June @ How to Philosophize with Cake

    What an adorable idea! Those cupcakes are so cute, and I’ll bet they’re delicious too 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      Thanks June!

      1. Liya

        Do you have to use the pudding mix? i can’t find any at the stores.

        1. bakedbree

          No, you can leave it out. It just adds moisture.

  2. Piper@GotItCookIt

    These are darling, such a simple idea! Love it.

    Just one little typo duplication where two paragraphs are the same… I sometimes do it too, by mistake, so I thought I would give you a heads up.

    1. bakedbree

      Thank you! I’ll fix it now.

  3. Terri

    Just wanted to tell you these are just about the cutest things I have ever seen!! Can’t wait to try them, you’re kicked up version of cake mix sounds great. Also the packaging is so smart. Love it all 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      Thank you Terri!

      1. Elizabeth

        I would like to make these, they are very cute. Not sure what you mean about Butter cream, Butter cream icing?

        1. Bree Hester

          Buttercream is icing. Butter and sugar whipped into frosting? What you put on cakes and cupcakes…

  4. Krisztina Williams

    This is sooo adorable, and I love that it doesn’t look too complicated either. I can’t wait to make it with my girls this week.:)

    ~Krisztina
    https://www.krisztinawilliams.com

    1. bakedbree

      Thank you! Have fun making these!

  5. Courtney

    Hi! These look so adorable! What brand cake mix do you think goes the best with your embellished recipe? Do you prefer a certain one? Can’t wait to make these!

    1. bakedbree

      I don’t have a preference, usually whatever is on sale. If I had to pick one, I would say Betty Crocker seems to be the one I use the most.

  6. valerie

    I have 2 questions. One is are these standard size cupcakes? The other and this one I have asked others as well. Is there a special cupcake liner you use to prevent the liners from fading? I have used many and the liners always seem to fade.

    1. bakedbree

      Standard size cupcakes. And they make bleed-proof cupcake liners now. I got them at Michael’s or Target.

  7. Isabella Melone

    Do you add everything with the boxed chocolate cake mix, or are we using just the powder and then go on to the next ingredients?

    1. bakedbree

      Dump it all in at the same time and let the mixer do the work.

  8. Lacie

    These cupcakes are about the cutest thing I’ve seen for Christmas! I just adore them! You did good! I spotted this idea on Pinterest and I must repin!

    1. bakedbree

      Thanks for the pin!

  9. Kayla Bird

    So Yummy.. Perfect wintertime snacks

    1. bakedbree

      Thank you! These taste really good too.

  10. Poppy

    Will the color of the m&m run after a fashion?

    1. bakedbree

      I made this the day before I served them and it didn’t. I probably wouldn’t do it much earlier than that.

  11. Emily

    I’ve also found candy coated sunflower seeds in bright colors that would work for lights 🙂 so cute!

    1. bakedbree

      They would work. Have fun making these!

  12. lana jurgens

    what is used to make a black line???? these are so cleaver

    1. bakedbree

      Packaged black frosting. It is listed in the ingredients.

  13. Wendy

    I can’t wait to make these. I am always in a hurry and need quick, delicious, creative desserts. These sound perfect for our Lion Club Christmas party. I love Chocolate Eclair cake! It is easy and delicious!,Always a hit at events! Thanks!

    1. bakedbree

      These will also be a hit!

  14. Nancy

    How did you put the frosting on the cupcake?
    These are so cute! Want to make them with my granddaughters.

    1. bakedbree

      Piping bag fitted with a large, round tip.

  15. Debomatic

    I love this idea!! I question the premise black icing, though. Does it come in a small tube (about 4″ or 5″ long) so that the black line comes out thin?

    1. Debomatic

      I meant “pre-made” icing

    2. bakedbree

      It comes in a tube and you can buy little plastic tips for it.

  16. Gina Gutierrez

    These cupcakes are so adorable! But I must ask you again I know its listed but I don’t know your talking about packaged frosting? Do you mean frosting in canisters that have a tip on their already?

    1. bakedbree

      Yes, I bought pre-colored black frosting, they sell it at the grocery store.

      1. Shirley phares

        Not in canisters but in little tubes.

        1. bakedbree

          Exactly.

  17. Toni

    These are adorable! I’m planning to make them for Christmas this year. However, I was wondering if these are mini cupcakes, or regular sized ones? 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this! 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      Regular sized.

  18. Di

    What do you do with the pudding mix? I see it listed but not in the directions.

    1. bakedbree

      With the dry ingredients.

  19. Arlene M. Puliafico

    Instead of M&M’s, I am going to use small jelly beans. Can’t wait to make these for my Christmas guests. Thanks

    1. bakedbree

      That will be cute.

  20. Beth

    Made them today for a Christmas party tonight. Didn’t come out as nice as yours but I’m pleased with them. Wish I could attach a picture! Thanks for the ideas!

    1. bakedbree

      I’m sure they were adorable.

  21. Nsncy

    I thought maybe it was string black licorice, for the cord.

    1. bakedbree

      Nope, it’s frosting.

  22. Angelina McCune

    When do you add sour cream? Im a little confused because you only mentioned the cake mix. And then the frosting.

    1. bakedbree

      You put all of the cake ingredients in together. Just like when you make a cake mix.

      1. Candace

        Could you use cream cheese instead of sour cream?

        1. bakedbree

          In the batter? I don’t think so. I’d just skip it if you don’t have it.

          1. CANDACE

            WHAT ABOUT GREEK YOGURT?

            1. bakedbree

              I guess? I don’t like the way that it tastes, so I wouldn’t. But if you want to try it, go ahead and see what happens.

  23. CC

    Hi. I don’t have a stand mixer for the frosting. Can it be done with a hand mixer? Thank you! Looking forward to making them.

    1. bakedbree

      Of course!

  24. Katie

    I have a question, how long does it make all together? I’m making some for both sides of my family and for the children in our church congregation.

    1. bakedbree

      It takes a little bit longer than normal cupcakes because of putting on the candy lights, but not super labor intensive. It’s a great job if you have kid helpers.

  25. Patricia

    Silly question about the packaging: How did people “eat” the cupcakes? Did they attempt to dump it out of the clear plastic cup OR did they use a fork and eat the cupcake from the cup?

    1. bakedbree

      You can just lift them out.

  26. Bronwen

    These are so cute!! I was just wondering if you used mini m&m’s or just regular ones?

    1. bakedbree

      I used the regular size.

      1. Jamie

        Ha! Just saw this comment LOL….

  27. Jamie

    Hello! Just found your website through Pinterest. I am making these for a “dessert contest” at a company party my husband is having tomorrow. Can you settle our argument about whether those are regular sized M&Ms or mini M&Ms? Also, I like to adapt box mixes similarly to yours — “matching” pudding mix, yes! — and then I add three eggs, 1 cup of oil and 1 cup of ginger ale! They’re ALWAYS amazing and I get compliments all the time about how moist and delicious they are. A nice combo is strawberry cake mix with cheesecake flavored pudding mix!

  28. Joan

    This recipe looks so cute! Going to make them to bring to Christmas Eve. Couldn’t find icing in a can with tips so will try with black writing gel by Cake Mate also found in the grocery store baking aisle. Think it will work fine.

    1. bakedbree

      It should work perfectly.

  29. Maria

    These are the most delicious cupcakes! I made them for my daughters Christmas party at school and swore I will never make plain old box cupcakes ever again. I am not a buttercream fan, but this buttercream is perfect. Recipe perfection. Thank you!

    1. bakedbree

      I’m glad that you like it so much! Merry Christmas!

  30. valerie

    I had a question I made these with chocolate pudding and they came out great. I was wondering if adding the vanilla extract to a lemon cake/pudding mix will change the flavor much?

  31. Giftcards2Canada.com

    This is such a sweet idea! What a neat idea to put them into individual cups. Thanks for sharing!

    1. bakedbree

      It really helps deliver them safely and still cute!

  32. Asad @ My Quirky Creation

    I can assure that this cupcakes are very sweet and delicious. Perfect treat for Christmas!

    1. bakedbree

      Thank you! I love this recipe too.

  33. Noreen

    Hi I was reading the previous comments the chocolate instant-pudding mix is used to add moisture. If I bought a cake mix that is already moist supreme do i still need to put pudding? If yes how many cups? (Since I also bought a pudding mix). Thank you! 🙂

    1. bakedbree

      You don’t have to. I actually made this over the weekend and didn’t use pudding mix and it was still really moist and held up to a few days of decorating.

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  36. Sandy

    Hi! These are so cute. I need to make mini cupcakes for a children’s event. Can I just use everything the same except use mini M&M’s?

    1. bakedbree

      Exactly! These sold out so fast, they were a HIT!

  37. Danielle

    Great recipe! Thank you! Do you refrigerate because of buttercream frosting?

    1. bakedbree

      You don’t have to, but I like to.

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  39. LilyBeth

    These are so cute. Have you had any issues with the m&m colors bleeding into the white icing? I would like to make and decorate for school tomorrow, but I am worried about bleeding…

    1. bakedbree

      No, I made these for a bake sale, and they were fine and there was no bleeding at all.

  40. Juanita

    Hi. I just made these. They are so cute and easy peasy. Thanks for the idea! I have some of the buttercream frosting left over. How long will it last in the fridge?

    1. bakedbree

      You are welcome! A few days, or you can freeze it, but you will need to re-whip it a bit. A hand mixer does the job.

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  61. hugh

    Is it possible to use the brown M + Ms and just say the lights arent plugged in ? Also wont the icing run when these are defrosted for presenting ?

    1. bakedbree

      You can do whatever you like. And no, it doesn’t.

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  64. Angela

    I made these for our Christmas party, and they were a hit! So moist and delicious, and so, so cute! I added food coloring to the frosting to make some red, some green, and some white (I used canned frosting). I will try the buttercream frosting next. Thanks so much!

    1. bakedbree

      I am so glad! The cupcakes also work for cake and I made it three times this season. It’s the best recipe.

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  79. Jill

    The cupcakes are delicious and the icing is the best buttercream I’ve ever made. Thank you for the step by step directions – foolproof. Can’t wait to see the kids faces tomorrow.

    1. bakedbree

      It’s really good, isn’t it! Hope they liked them.

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  85. Juanita

    Hi. I’ve kept your recipe on Pinterest because I’ve made these cupcakes before. They are delish! I want to make them again but when I click onto the link for the vanilla buttercream, it will not come up. Could you check it? Thanks!

      1. Juanita

        It’s working now. Thanks!

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  88. amanda

    this cake hack of using box mix and embellishing is my favorite! i use it all the time whether its chocolate or vanilla cake and it always turns out so good! could you sub the water for unsweetened coconut milk and vanilla cake mix to make a coconut cake?

    thanks for this! this recipe is a staple in my house and the strand of lights was not hard to do and looked so good on our christmas table last year for our fire company dinner and our whole fire company enjoyed them!

    1. Bree Hester

      Yes! You can use any liquid you like.

  89. Kimela Dooley

    Thank you for such a cute idea. A friend was asking for cupcakes for a Christmas Party for the Foster children and I am not a bakery but these r so cuter think I can do this

    1. Bree Hester

      This is so easy, you absolutely will be able to do it.

  90. Sam

    Where is the recipe for the icing? thanks

    1. Bree Hester

      CLick on the text or link and it will bring you to the recipe.

  91. Pader

    Hi Bree,
    Have you tried making this in a sheet pan 9×13? I’m wondering if you have and if so, how long did you bake it for?

    1. Bree Hester

      No, it’s a cupcake recipe, but probably 25-30 minutes.

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