I recently demonstrated several cupcake recipes at a fundraiser for the San Diego chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. When I was asked to do this demonstration, I was a little concerned about the topic, thinking that there may not be enough interest. Was I wrong about that! The event was sold out, and all nine recipes were a big hit.
It was easy to see that cupcakes are making a comeback.
Cupcakes have a lot to offer. They are basically a cake made on a small scale, so just about any cake recipe can be made into cupcakes.
But one thing cupcake makers should know is that when using a cake recipe, be sure to bake the cupcakes for less time than the cake. If a recipe calls for the cake to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, bake the cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes. Of course, it’s a good idea to check for doneness with a cake tester or toothpick.
Also, when putting the batter into the cupcake pans, fill each cavity only two-thirds to three-quarters full, because the cupcakes will rise as they bake. A two-inch-wide ice-cream scoop works really well for putting the batter into the cupcake pans.
With so many cake recipes to choose from, the different types of cupcakes that can be made are practically endless. And it’s possible to create variations by adding toasted and chopped nuts or dried fruit to any recipe.
Toppings can be varied also. Traditional icings, buttercream frostings, whipped cream, and ganache can all be used. As an example, in two of the recipes in my book The Essential Baker — Dark Chocolate Cupcakes and White Chocolate Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting — I use dark chocolate ganache and white chocolate cream-cheese frosting for the toppings. For those who like a little extra topping, use a melon baller or a small ice-cream scoop to scoop out a little of the center of the cupcake, then fill it with the topping.
Decorating cupcakes is a lot of fun. Here’s where you want to pull out your pastry bag and tips and be creative. I like to use a large star tube to create a striking swirl design on top of cupcakes. Varying design patterns, sprinkling cocoa powder or confectioners’ sugar on top, or accenting them with a sliver of candied fruit or chopped nuts are all good ideas to give pizzazz to your cupcakes. It’s also great to use decorative candles on cupcakes to create a theme, like spelling out “Happy Birthday.”
I like to serve cupcakes with a scoop of ice cream or sorbet or “floated” in a raspberry or caramel sauce.
All this flexibility, plus the fact that everyone can have his own individual cake, has brought the cupcake back into the limelight. And those on “portion control” diets can appreciate the size of cupcakes; they’re usually smaller than that big slice out of a normal cake, especially if you make them in mini-cupcake pans.
Why not have a cupcake-making party for your next gathering? Kids and adults alike will be delighted with the outcome.
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