By now, many of us have given up on New Year’s resolutions to lose weight – and we could all use a little pick-me-up.
So it’s time to bake up some sunshine with cupcakes.
Cupcakes are featured on the February covers of Martha Stewart Living and Better Homes & Garden magazines. Even the February edition of Oprah’s O magazine has a recipe for Red Hot Velvet Cupcakes with a not-so-traditional cinnamon buttercream frosting.
Kerry Johnson, co-owner of the Cupcake Station in Birmingham, Mich., doesn’t see the cupcake trend cooling anytime soon. “Our business is booming more after Christmas than before Christmas,” says Johnson. People “seem more comfortable spending a couple dollars on a cupcake. It’s an inexpensive way to make people happy.”
These days, cupcake flavors have evolved. The Cupcake Station, for example, offers 20 flavors daily. Cupcakes are popular for wedding receptions, wedding showers and baby showers – and not just because they’re cute and easy to handle.
“What we’re finding is if you bring a cake to a shower at a restaurant, they may charge you a cutting fee,” says Pam Turkin of Just Baked in Livonia, Mich. “My customers are telling me that they can get four to five different flavors and everyone can get what they like instead of one cake flavor.”
Here are some tips to remember when preparing cupcakes:
• Don’t overfill the tins. If you do, the batter could spill over.
• An ice cream scoop works well to ladle the batter into the tins. Or use a one-quarter cup measure so the cupcakes are the same size. Coat the scoop or measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray so the batter pours out easily.
• Once you remove cupcakes from the oven, let them cool completely before frosting. Cover or place in an airtight container to keep them from drying out.
• When frosting, cover the top completely. The frosting keeps the cupcake from drying out.
• Use paper liners for easier cleanup. You can find decorative liners at cake and candy supply stores.
• Use a pastry bag to frost the cupcakes. No pastry bag? Use a plastic sealable bag with the corner tip cut off.
Cupcakes runneth over with joyful fillings, frostings
Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry filling
The cream filling in these cupcakes is a terrific addition. This frosting is simple and gets a creamy boost from marshmallow creme.
1 box (18.25 ounces) chocolate cake mix
1 container (8 ounces) frozen nondairy whipped topping, thawed
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
2 1/4 to 2 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons almond-flavored liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Toasted sliced almonds
Prepare the cake mix following cupcake instructions. Let cupcakes cool completely.
In a medium bowl, beat together the whipped topping and cream cheese at medium speed until smooth. Add the preserves, beating until the mixture is smooth. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the mixture is smooth. Spoon the mixture into a squeeze bottle or use a pastry bag with a narrow tip (about 1/8 inch). Insert tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze a good tablespoon of filling into each center. It’s OK if some seeps out the top. Repeat with all cupcakes.
• To make the frosting: In a medium bowl beat the butter and marshmallow creme at medium speed with an electric mixture until smooth. Gradually beat in 2 1/4 cups of the confectioners’ sugar. Add more if it is not sweet enough. Add the almond liqueur and beat until smooth.
Frost the cupcakes and garnish with sliced almonds and raspberries, if desired. Makes 24.
Brown sugar pound cupcakes
with brown butter glaze
The brown-butter glaze, different from standard cupcake frostings, adds a rich buttery taste. These are best served immediately.
For the cupcakes:
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
For the glaze: 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 to 4 tablespoons whole milk
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour.
Scrape sides of bowl. Divide the batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat until golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Carefully pour butter into a bowl, leaving sediment behind.
Add the sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk to the butter and stir until smooth. If glaze is too thick, add more milk.
Set rack with cooled cupcakes over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spoon glaze over cupcake tops, and let stand until set. If glaze gets too hard, reheat it gently so you can spoon it. Serve glazed cupcakes immediately. Makes 29.
Banana cupcakes with caramel buttercream frosting
This recipe makes a little more than you may actually need.
3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed (about 2 cups), plus sliced bananas for garnish
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Caramel buttercream frosting 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 1/4 cup water 1/4 cup heavy cream
Swiss Meringue Buttercream (recipe below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a separate bowl, mix together the mashed bananas, buttermilk and vanilla.
Add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the banana and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the pecans. You can leave out a small amount of chopped pecans to sprinkle on the tops if desired.
Scrape sides of bowl. Divide the batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
• To make the frosting: Bring 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Wash sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Cook, undisturbed, until caramel is dark amber. Remove from heat and add cream slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon until smooth. When cool, fold in Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
Once cupcakes are cool, frost tops with caramel buttercream. Frosted cupcakes will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to three days. Top with banana slices before serving. Makes 24.
Swiss meringue buttercream
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg whites (at room temperature)
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a heatproof bowl, place the sugar and egg whites. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated. If the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added, don’t worry. It will become smooth again with continued beating. Add the vanilla, and beat just until combined.
Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator, up to three days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes. Makes 5 cups.
Source: Cooking with Paula Deen magazine, February issue. Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2009 issue Source: Adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine, February 2009 issue. Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2009 issue. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen