Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hello Cupcake!

To say that cupcakes are a craze is an understatement.  You can find a cupcake bakery in almost every town these days.  Believe me, if I won the lottery or found myself suddenly semi-affluent, I'd open one in a minute, and it'd be incredible! But, there's that thing of needing benefits and a paycheck that keeps me loyal to the 9-to-5 routine I've established over the past 21 years!  I have had dreams of opening my own shop, and visions of what it would be like, even creating a business plan as part of my masters thesis.  I still have that on hold for the possibility that one day I'd have the wherewithall and the ability to take that dream out and dust it off.  Hey, you never know!

Lisa's Baby Shower Mni-Cupcakes

Cupcakes have taken center stage for many celebrations, even weddings, in recent years.  There's something about that small little serving of cake-meets-frosting that elicits happiness.  I recently made a gift of tiny little cupcakes for expectant mom Lisa's baby shower.  She loved them! 

Even cupcake packaging has come a long way.  There are small boxes for individual cupcakes if you want to give one person something special on an ordinary day.  A co-worker told me that her little girl was sad because of something that was going on, and the next day I brought cupcakes to her to brighten her daughter's day. 

Catherine's birthday cupcakes - red velvet!

My friend Catherine loves all things Victorian, and for her birthday one year I made her pretty cupcakes decorated in tiny mauve flowers.  She loved them. 

Dark chocolate cupcakes with
buttercream and sprinkles!

My most ambitious project was for a wedding a few years ago.  It was a cupcake wedding cake, displayed on a custom-made stand that a friend made especially for the occasion (and it only cost me two cases of Corona!).  It  holds three tiers of cupcakes below and an 8-inch round cake on top. 

Carrie's wedding cake with
fondant butterflies and flowers

The really great thing about cupcakes is that you can have almost instant gratification.  A cupcake can bake in 15-20 minutes, and is cool enough to frost in a half-hour. 

The cutest thing about a cupcake is that my grandson Henry LOVES them.  When I made Lisa's baby shower cupcakes, I had enough batter and frosting left over to make a half-dozen mini-cupcakes for Henry's house.  As I walked through the door, he ran toward me and literally shook in excitement.  Now, every time I walk into their house he runs toward me and excitedly asks, "Cupcake?" and I have to say, "No, not today.  They're all gone." He turns his palms upside down and expressivley repeats, with clear disappointment, "All gone..."  I promise him that we'll make them again, soon.  Henry's birthday is in three weeks, and he has been lovingly looking through a party catalogue that displays all kinds of birthday party goods including cupcake displays.  He focuses on the cupcake page and whispers "cupcake...".  Just adorable.

Henry, checking out cupcakes
in a party catalogue!

Here's a recipe for a basic cupcake and frosting.  If you have an hour, you can make these!

Oven - 350 degrees F
line a standard muffin pan with paper liners

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus two tablespoons milk

Cream sugar with butter for a full five minutes.  Don't skimp on the time, it's necessary for a smooth batter.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for a full minute after each addition.  Add vanilla extract and mix in well.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add by thirds to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition, until it is all incorporated.  Mix in milk until the batter is smooth.  The batter will be pudding-like in consistency.
Divide batter among baking cups, careful not to fill more than 2/3 full.  For portion control, I like to use a standard-sized levered ice cream scoop so try that if you have one.  For mini cupcakes, I dispense the batter from a disposable pastry bag with just the tip cut off.   You can do that with a zippered storage bag too, it's just a bit unwieldy so be careful. 
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top springs back when pressed lightly.
Cool and frost!

1 bar butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk plus more as needed

Cream butter with vanilla extract.  Slowly beat in confectioners sugar, a bit at a time, with a few teaspoons of the milk until you've added all and both are incorporated.  If necessary, add more milk, a few drops at a time, until the frosting is desired consistency.  You can always add more liquid, but you can never take it away if you've added too much, so be conservative as you go.


  1. These look great, Jeanne! I am always amazed at how beautiful your cake artwork is. :) Can't wait to see what you make for Henry's upcoming birthday! I loved reading about how obsessed he is with cupcakes. Too cute.

    Happy spring time!


  2. Hi Colleen! So good to hear from you. Thanks for your lovely comment! Henry's birthday seems to be taking on a "pirate" theme (see his photo on this post - he's wearing a pirate hat!), so Katie and I are thinking about a treasure chest cake with gold coins. There will have to be cupcakes as well, so I have ideas percolating in my head until I actually settle on a design. It will be fun!

  3. I am thrilled to be mentioned in your post with that lovely reference to the delicious and beautiful Victorian-themed cupcakes you made for my birthday. Have you tried out the cupcake gadget I got you for your birthday? Eager to see how it works. Catherine