Last year, I did this project that I loved doing.  It incorporated several of my favorite things: taste-testing, painting, baking, and gift giving.  I thought it would be fun to deliver a “lemonade break” as a gift!
lemonade gift
First I had to hunt down a fabulous lemon cupcake recipe.  (I shared this research a few months ago on somewhat simple.)  I did a side by side comparison and had as many friends and neighbors I could find, volunteer for the calories.  In order to keep it fair, I always make the topping/frosting constant when I’m just looking for the best cake recipe.  You can see that the three I tried looked a little different.
For this trial, the winner was this recipe (from Your Home Based Mom) and I added something of my own too.  This was the easiest of all the recipes I tried, and they were a big hit!
1 pkg of (betty crocker) lemon cake mix
1 small pkg jello vanilla instant pudding
4 eggs
3/4 c water
3/4 c oil
1 c sour cream
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
Stir it up and evenly fill 24 cupcake papers. Bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean.  They will just barely be starting to brown in a couple spots.  My oven only took 15 minutes.  The key to moist cupcakes is not to over bake!  Of course you don’t want them under baked either so it’s a fine line.
These cupcakes are beautiful and perfectly domed!  And they have a strong lemon flavor!  
I used this lemon cream cheese frosting (from my baking addiction) recipe because it was already my favorite!
And then I added my secret sprinkles which are crushed up lemon heads.  A little dusting of this and it adds an even more awesome kick.  It almost looks like rock candy or course sanding sugar.  I’ve also added lemon heads to lemon cookies!  
This is a really lemony treat!  
I wrapped them up in my favorite clear boxes that show off these beauties!  
I tied it with a strip of fabric instead of ribbon for a homey vibe.  
Yes, I over-think every detail.  It’s how I roll.  🙂  
And then leave it to Target dollar aisle to have the perfect added touch!  I found these lemonade notepads and such there (last summer).
lemonade gifts
So my cupcakes were all set, but before all this, I had to think of a way to serve the lemonade.  I found some fabulous unfinished wood trays at Michael’s.  That’s when I decided a hand painted tray would be fun!  But did I mention I was making 36 of these gifts?  So with this image as inspiration, I made a homemade stamp out of a clear piece of plastic and foam sticky sheets.  
lemonade stamp
After 3 layers of white paint were dry, I stamped my image onto the tray (picture 1).  Then I highlighted some areas with a darker yellow and a paint brush (picture 2).  And finally, I added more depth with a dark gold paint (picture 3).  
painted tray
I am not an artist… AT ALL.  I still draw stick people.  But I wanted to give the trays a hand-painted look despite my cutting corners with the stamp.  
painted tray 2
To distress my tray, I used a little method I remember my mom using.  She would put a dab of brown paint in Minwax Paste Finishing Wax.  Then with an old rag, wipe it onto the wood in the areas where she wanted the distressing.  Then she rubbed it all in.  I treated the rest of the tray with the wax, minus the paint.  This gives it a hand-rubbed look and a protective coat.  
lemonade tray distressing
I’m not going to lie, these gifts took about a month to complete and deliver.  (I already know I’m crazy, so you don’t have to leave a comment and tell me that- haha!)  But once I get obsessed with an idea, I have to see it through.  I did accomplish it!  My gift delivery included a tray of lemonade in one hand and a box of my favorite lemonade cupcakes in the other.  
There’s nothing more satisfying than working hard to accomplish a goal and then putting your feet up with a tall glass of lemonade!