Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Yes, We Have Cupcakes

Amazing as it may seem to those of us who know how to bake cupcakes, on the retail market people are willing to pay over $3 per cupcake and I know of a place that gets over $5 per cupcake. I think that makes this a craze...a cupcake craze.

What is the appeal of cupcakes?

For one thing, most cupcakes are pretty, even fanciful. Adorned with swirls of icing, sprinkles, coconut or nuts, sparkling sugar in clear or colored form, and cute candies or candied flowers, too, they look good enough to eat.

That's the second part...they are a small indulgence. If you cut them in halves or quarters, you can share them with friends. If you buy four kinds and have four friends, each of you can taste four flavor combinations!

A variety of flavor combos is another part of the appeal. One place might combine chocolate and peanut butter for a proven pairing of compatible tastes, while another place might combine salted caramel and peanut butter for something a bit trendier.

Another winning notion is that these beauties are portable and usually less expensive than a whole cake...but cuter than a cake slice.

Last, but certainly not least, they look like a party! How many of us remember cupcakes as the main attraction at school birthday parties? Since busy Moms could purchase them at a bakery but stay at home Moms could make a batch themselves, it was a treat that provided equal opportunity to Moms...and we got to eat cake!

So no matter what reason you like for enjoying a cupcake, I hope you will find one so that you consider making a batch yourself.

Last week I made a batch of chocolate ones to celebrate a friend's birthday. I used packaged chocolate cake mix (but I added more dark cocoa and some additional vanilla extract and almond extract to mask some of the chemical taste that is often found with commercial cake mixes). I really didn't have the time to make from scratch cupcakes since I needed the time for the frosting.

One of the best parts of a cupcake should truly be the frosting. In this case it really was! I made Coffee Rum Buttercream and piped it on in a nice swirl. Notice that this recipe allows you to make really well defined swirls of buttercream. Since I'm in a fall mood already, I added orange and chocolate sprinkles and popped a candy corn in the middle of each.

Pretty?...check. Dividable?...check. Interesting flavor combo?...check. Cute and portable?...check. Looks like a party?...absolutely!

Since you probably have your own favorite chocolate cake recipe or cake mix, I'm just going to give you the buttercream recipe. You can use the photos for inspiration to make them cute, or create your own decorations. It's hard to go wrong with cupcakes.

Coffee Rum Buttercream

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water (but don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 3 minutes.

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled, about 5 minutes. Switch to the paddles and beat in the softened butter a few small pieces at a time, and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth, about 6 – 10 minutes. While the buttercream is becoming smooth, dissolve the espresso powder in the rum in a small bowl. Once the buttercream is smooth, add the espresso mixture, a little at a time and beat until everything is smooth again.

3. Put the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe swirls of buttercream on the top of each cupcake and decorate as you like. Any leftover buttercream can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.


  1. ::sigh:: CANDYCORN!
    Nothing else says "autumn" quite the same way... lovely looking cupcakes. I don't know why we're all so obsessed with them - I didn't like them as a child because you never knew what you were going to get during a classroom birthday party scenario -- but if the frosting is good, they can indeed be a reasonable serving of cake. Yum.

  2. O

    YUM. Those are amazing looking!

  3. Oh, yes, those look like a party right there!

    Don't you feel wonderful knowing that you have the skills to make such beautiful cupcakes and don't have to shell out $3 per cupcake?

  4. Next Sister Down7:54 AM

    Wow, that buttercream looks fabulous! Of the commercial cupcakes I've had, I thought they were really vehicles for the wonderful buttercream. And now that I have read the instructions for making the buttercream, I can understand why they can charge that much for the cupcakes. It looks like finicky work and something best done with a KitchenAid mixer or something else that has a whisk attachment. I guess I could do the whisk part by hand, but to be honest, I'm too lazy. And that's why the cupcake shops can charge so much--because I'm not the only lazy one.

    I don't really understand the cupcake craze, because cupcakes aren't my favorite type of baked treat. But I hear stories from friends who work in D.C. There's a mobile cupcake vendor that charges $5, and people come from their offices and line up to buy. I guess if you're stuck in cubicle land, you take your workday pleasures where you can find them.

    First time I knew that cupcakes were starting to be a new trend was four or five years ago when I attended a wedding, and instead of a wedding cake, there were cupcakes.

  5. Coffee Rum ... I'm there.
    These are just the best party announcement I can imagine.

  6. Tanita, Y'all need to move back here to CA soon! And you can skip the cake and go right to the buttercream if you like...its that good!

    Cuppy, thanks! From you that is a special compliment :)

    Lynn, Yeah I've actually purchased some of the lovely Seattle area cupcakes and I like mine better...plus saving all that dough.

    Next Sister Down, If you can whip cream by hand for German Babies you could probably do the buttercream easily, too. After all folks were making buttercream frosting long before we had electric mixers. But buying them is good, too. Full employment for bakers!
    I remember going to a wedding where they had a tower of cupcakes instead of a cake. Cute, but I would rather have a slice of cake. I can understand the appeal of having one once and a while at work...even for $5 a pop...wish I had that opportunity here.

    Tanna, Yep coffe and rum are awesome together. Bet you are finding some great flavor combos in France, too. My boss complains that he is eating too many fabulous croissants...how is that possible?