In my humble and openly anti-fondant opinion, decorated cupcakes look terrific but no one actually eats them. Adults may try to be polite and chew through a gummy layer of icing but kids will openly scrape all that hard work right off to get at the tasty bits below. Who could blame? Buttercream is the only way to go. Home-made buttercream. I shudder at the thought of store-bought icing. But look carefully at these owl cupcakes, courtesy of food blog Caramel Potatoes, and you will see something no kid (or adult) will object to: Oreo cookie tops. What a splendid idea.
I suppose, in a pinch, you could buy pre-iced cupcakes and just decorate the tops. But I find grocery store-bought cakes taste lousy too. I was liberated years ago from the rigours of baking from scratch by a chef friend who told me that there is no shame in using a box mix, so it's been Duncan Hines ever since. It's one bowl and an egg while the house fills with good baking smells and I get to wear an apron for an hour. Win-Win.