Well we know kids love cupcakes. And most adults, too. But even the adults who turn their noses down on the traditional kids’ offering that is associated with childhood memories, end up being charmed and smile when they encounter the gourmet petite sweet. I still cannot get over using a massive pile of cupcakes as a wedding cake. And it is a popular trend that continues to delight and entertain.
I think hands down cupcakes are everyone’s favorite because technically you own that little cake and don’t have to share. Add some new thinking, and the mass-produced bakery case staple and homespun signature school lunch sweet is hip and hot. As one of my local baker friends says, “a cupcake brings a bigger smile than a slice of cake.” Predictions that the Cupcake Bubble is about to burst? Tell that to the kids.
Good cupcakes, homemade cake and with homemade frosting, are tough to find. Alot to times they are just way too sweet. But homemade you get to control all that. Forget greasy frostings and artificial flavors. We are talking sweet fresh butter, good imported chocolate, vanilla, and seasonal ingredients topped with everything from sugar dusted rose petals and gold leaf to confetti candy corn if you want to get frisky and look artsy. Decorations and frostings can be super simple or aimed to dazzle. But even a plain cupcake dusted with powdered sugar is divine. You don’t have to just go up with the frosting and decorations. Fillings, hidden within, can add a new dimension.
What is a cupcake? Cupcakes are a nice moist cake batter baked in cup shaped molds, our standard muffin tin. Because of their size, cupcakes bake very quickly and can dry out, so often a good cake batter does not make a great cupcake; the batter must be extra moist. The mold is lined with fluted paper liners to prevent sticking and facilitate easy handling. After baking, the little cake fits into the palm of your hand to eat.
Tips For Baking A Great Cupcake
Whether you are making a layer cake or individual cupcakes, the rules of the cake stay the same.
1. Do an initial read-through of the recipe, noting ingredients, amounts, and special pans. Assemble all ingredients and equipment. Be sure to use the correct size pans as specified in the recipe for best results since there are different size cupcake pans-miniature, standard, and oversized.
2. Preheat the oven before beginning the recipe. Use an oven thermometer to check temperature if in doubt. Cupcakes need an even, moderate heat for maximum success.
3. Prepare the pans by lining with fluted cupcake papers, a molded parchment liner, or just on the bottom with a cut-out round of parchment or waxed paper (Place the cupcake pan on a sheet of paper, then trace around the bottom with a knife point or scissors. Cut out with scissors and fit into the pan bottom.), then greasing sides and bottom with soft butter or a butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray. If you need to flour, coat with a thin layer of flour by tipping the pan back and forth to let the flour cling to all the surfaces and tapping out any excess flour. Alternately, use Baker’s Joy, a fat-and-flour vegetable baking spray. Some cupcakes will not use a paper liner, so they will need to be well greased.
4. When you make a cupcake batter, it is important to follow the recipe exactly, as the success of the cupcakes is due to precise measuring and proportioning of the ingredients. No skipping ingredients or arbitrary substitutions! Fill cup or spoon measures heaping full then level across the top with a knife or spatula.
5. Cream, beat, or fold exactly as specified in recipe for the exact amount of time to reach the desired consistency. There is a wide variety of batters from thick and fluffy to thin and pourable.
6. Scrape batter into the prepared pans with a rubber spatula or a measuring cup, filling the batter half to two-thirds full (or to the level directed in each recipe) so that the cupcakes will be the correct size and depth. Tap pan gently on countertop once to even top and remove large air pockets.
7. Bake on the center rack of a preheated oven. Allow at least 2 inches between pans and away from the oven walls for best heat circulation, otherwise all the cupcakes may not bake evenly. If your oven bakes uneven, rotate the pan halfway through baking. Bake multiple pans in stages rather than crowding (just put the filled cupcake pan in the refrigerator until baking).
8. Set a kitchen timer for about 5 minutes earlier than the designated baking time to test for doneness. Cupcakes are done when edges pull slightly away from the sides of pan and the top is dry. Touch center of layer lightly with finger; the surface should spring back, but if an impression remains, bake a few minutes longer. Insert a metal cake tester or bamboo skewer into the center of one of the cupcakes towards the middle of the pan; if it comes out clean with no batter attached, the cupcakes are done. If moist crumbs adhere, bake a few minutes longer.
9. Remove pans from oven with oven mitts and place the pans on a wire cooling rack. Wait about 5 minutes to let the cupcakes settle a bit. Then, run a knife around the edges to loosen or just gently remove with cupcakes with the paper liners to cool completely before frosting and decorating.