Cupcakes are great, but many are wondering how this little birthday and school room treat has come to create such a fuss. Not only are cupcake centric eateries springing up across the country, from home-style Magnolia Bakery on the East Coast to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills, but these once quaint cakes are being served everywhere – even at black tie events!
It's no secret that Hollywood's played a part, featuring cupcake shops in popular television shows, but the glory really goes to these miniature cakes.
Take flavor and colors for example. One dessert doesn't have to mean one flavor and look. A single batch of cupcakes can offer a rainbow of flavors and tinted icings, from lemon to hazelnut, from pretty pastels to vibrant tangerine and hot pink. Cupcakes are doing for many store-front bakeries what 31 Flavors did for ice-cream parlors.
And, there's so much you can do with cupcakes. As with cakes, you can add fillings, sculpt into fun designs and stack them.
While some of the upscale cupcake boutiques use expensive ingredients like Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, you don't have to go all out to create cupcakes fit for a special event like a wedding. Just be sure to use fresh and natural ingredients, such as butter and fresh fruit instead of margarine and frozen.
Cupcakes – Your own 31 Flavors
Here's how you can serve a variety of flavors and a palette of colors - all from a couple cupcake pans.
Divide white icing (snow-white buttercream or cream cheese) into separate dishes. Add flavor and food coloring to each dish. Due to the bitter taste of food coloring, don't use extra to achieve dark colors or red. Instead use a more intense form of coloring such as gel.
Cupcake Baking Tips
For two dozen cupcakes, make enough batter for two 9-inch cakes.
Bake in cupcake or muffin pans, and fill your liners 2/3 full.
Usually cupcakes are baked at 350° F (adjust for high altitude) and for around 23 minutes, give or take a few. Use the toothpick test.
As with other cakes, always cool completely before decorating.
Loose crumbs should be brushed off gently before icing.
Smooth icing with a knife and short strokes. Leave smooth or pipe a frosty swirl on top, depending how you want to decorate.
Decorating your Cupcakes
You can decorate your cupcakes with just about anything you use to decorate larger cakes. Some of the most popular cupcake decorations are grated coconut, gum drops, piped flowers and figures, shaved chocolate, whimsical designs created with candies - and of course sprinkles.
To fill a cupcake, cut out a cone from the top. Then place a teaspoon of filling inside. Before replacing the top, cut off its cone (since the space it filled is not filled with filling).
Also called pull-apart cakes, these are perfect for birthday parties and youth events. Each guest pulls off a cupcake. Serving's a cinch and clean-up's, well a piece of cake. And a great plus with little ones – everyone gets the same size serving!
You can sculpt a cupcake cake into just about any shape you can imagine: numbers (for birthday ages), sports (footballs, team logos and names, etc.) holiday figures, flowers, Easter baskets and bunnies, cats and dogs, well you get the picture. The shape doesn't have to be exact (and probably won't), but the decorating will add the realism.
Here's how it works:
Bake cupcakes in double liners (for extra strength).
Arrange baked cupcakes on a covered, sturdy cake board. Play around with this until you get the shape you want. Staggering works best, and keep them close together.
Dab icing onto the bottoms of the cupcake liners, returning them as you do to their original positions. The icing will, once it dries, help hold the cupcakes in position.
Crumb-coat. This is optional. Thin some icing or make a glaze. Spread over all the cupcakes. Crumbs will show, but that's ok. When it dries, the crumbs won't be swept up into your final coat of icing.
When the crumb coat has dried, smooth your regular icing over the whole cupcake cake.
Tip: If you have extra cupcakes, decorate to match, and place them on a separate plate. For example, Blue's paw print on each cupcake can accessorize a Blue's Clues cupcake cake.
Serving: Pull up and forward. If the cupcake is stuck, slide a knife under it
Cupcake Tier Cake
Tiered cupcake holders have become quite popular at weddings, birthdays and other special occasions. You can take this to a higher level of creativity by creating a tiered cupcake cake! Assemble wedding cake tiers (straight up in graduating sizes is easiest), and arrange cupcakes and accessories to create a complete look.
Here's another example of how you can work this cupcake magic. Create a Christmas tree by using cupcakes on the tiers as ornaments and tucking sprigs of pesticide-free pine needles between the cupcakes. On the top tier, place a tree topper surrounded by more cupcake ornaments.
Finally, one more cupcake tip. Cupcakes, if stored in freezer bags, will keep well in the freezer for up two months. Be sure to squeeze all the air out you can before sealing the bags. You can have a large variety of cake types and flavors on hand to thaw to decorate!