Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Praising the Cupcake; American in Character, Numerous in Variety, These Small 'Heavenly' Cakes Are Always in Good Taste

What singular food item seems to make everyone happy? There are many of course depending on your tastes, age or locale but I'd venture to guess that the cupcake will bring a smile to anyone's face no matter who you are or where you're from. One only needs to stand on line at Magnolia Bakery in New York's Greenwich Village to experience the universality of the small cake phenomena.

But I think the real popularity of the cupcake is it's simplicity with so many options available for the creative baker. I remember my mother making cupcakes from a small box ( I think it was Jiffy's Golden Yellow Cake Mix) but she never cheated when it came to the icing always using the recipe on the back of the Domino Confectioners Sugar box. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm....a happy memory!

Not surprisingly, cupcakes do have a bit of history and it is decidedly American. Back in 1796  a 'cake to be made in small cups' was mentioned in a book called 'American Cookery' and the first time the actual term 'cupcake' was documented was in a book published in 1828 called “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats”. The actual term comes from a cake that would fit into a tea cup and before muffin tins were available, cupcakes were baked in small pottery or ramekin-style baking cups. The tins, also called gem pans, became popular around the turn of the 20th century. Now, there are not only cupcake tins that come in small, medium and large, but cupcake cake pans, Christmas tree ornaments, cupcake-themed fabrics for aprons or kitchen decor, cupcake stands, pillows, cookie jars....well, you get the picture.

In the last ten years at least, cupcakes have had a renaissance. Popularized by HBO's 'Sex and the City' and cookbooks by Martha Stewart and many others devoted to the subject, cupcake bakeries have sprung up towns and cities all over the world with varieties unimaginable just a couple of years ago.

My daughter has a thriving cake business and cupcakes are one of the most requested items. I'm using her fabulous photos as illustrations here and will attach her website. I'm also including a basic cupcake recipe (for vanilla only) but using boxed cake mixes are perfectly acceptable in my world. The icing recipe is the original from the Domino's Sugar Box mentioned above. For nostalgia or just for fun, bake a batch for you and your family to enjoy!!

Basic Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes about a dozen regular size 
3 cups cake flour sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom of two 8-inch round cake pans and line with waxed paper or parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. Cream sugar and butter together until light. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Continue beating one minute. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on rack; remove and cool completely before decorating.

Cupcake toppers for a new baby
Domino's Butter Cream Frosting
3 3/4 cup - (1 lb. box) Domino® Confectioners Sugar
1/4 teaspoon - salt
1/4 cup - milk
1 teaspoon - vanilla extract
1/3 cup - butter or margarine (2/3 stick), softened

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer or with heavy spoon until smooth and creamy; scrape bowl often. If too stiff to spread easily, beat in a few drops of milk.

Not a cupcake but a popular cake 
from Heavenly Bites!

  • Peanut Butter Crunch—substitute peanut butter for butter, sprinkle either candy peanut butter pieces or chopped peanuts over frosting.
  • Chocolate—add ½ cup cocoa, top with chocolate curls, if desired.
  • Orange—substitute fresh orange juice for milk, add 1 tsp. orange rind, top with thin strips of orange peel. 
  • Cherry—substitute 3 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice for milk, add in 1/3 cup chopped maraschino cherries.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all the picture shout-outs mom!! Love you!