5 tips on making gourmet cupcakes at home

By Lizzy Early

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 5 2013 5:50 p.m. MST

Although gourmet cupcakes delicious to eat, many people can be intimidated by making them at home, thinking they are time consuming or too complicated. Here are some tips to help debunk the myth that great cupcakes need to be store-bought.

Tip 1: Get lined up

Cupcake liners — don’t underestimate the power they can have on your cupcake. Aren’t you tired of buying cute liners with decorative patterns, but when you bake with them the colors turn dull and the designs are barely there? That’s because you need greaseproof liners. Grocery stores are slowly getting on board to carry these next to the cake mixes in your baking aisle, but if you want a better selection, head online or to specialty stores like Gygi’s in Salt Lake.

Tip 2: The No. 1 cupcake mistake

Some people think that when they burn a cupcake, it’s like burnt toast where they can scrape off the first layer and it’s as good as new. Not so in cupcake baking. A burnt cupcake is a goner. In Utah, cupcakes bake faster, so always estimate baking times shorter than suggested. A cupcake is done baking when you can gently press the top with your finger and it springs back rather than staying indented from your finger. Remember, anything coming out of the oven or off the stove continues to bake for the next few minutes it’s out of the oven, so its crucial to not overbake anything.

Tip 3: Know your limits

So, you are not Martha Stewart or Betty Crocker — you don’t need to be! Know your baking limits and don’t overreach a project. If you plummet in the kitchen, you’ll avoid the oven for the next month, so you’ll be no better off. You should start with the easy things, then move your way up each time. You may see all the perfect pictures online of the gorgeous cakes and elegant pastries, but don’t expect yours to look that perfect the first time you take a stab at it. Someone gets paid very good money to make all those desserts look so perfect — it’s their job. And don’t feel restricted to recipes either, mix and match from other books and blogs and create something of your own.

Tip 4: Whip it, whip it good!

Buttercream. You need the right consistency to pipe a beautiful cupcake — so don’t cut corners! Start by really whipping the butter (and cream cheese if it’s called for) with your mixer, whether is a stand or hand mixer. By beating the butter, you bring oxygen into it, which makes it fluffier, and you will notice a change in color after about two minutes. Then, add your flavorings like extracts and then, one cup at a time, add in your powdered sugar.

If you live in a hotter or cooler place than where that recipe was created, then you’ll need a different amount of powdered sugar. (Hotter places need more powdered sugar and cooler places less.) The consistency should be thick enough that it keeps its shape if you drag your spatula. But at the same time, you don’t want it to be too stiff. However, if you aren’t piping your cupcake, and are using a knife to slather the frosting on, then you won’t need the frosting to be as stiff.

Tip 5: Top it off right

You frosted your cupcakes, congratulations! But you haven’t crossed the sugary finish line yet. You have to top it with something. Sprinkles, candy, flaked chocolate, fruit, cinnamon, ANYTHING — but do it. It finishes off the look and makes you look like a professional. Don’t worry about being too fancy, because usually the best cupcakes are topped with a raspberry, blueberries or a garden—fresh strawberry. Keep it simple and classy.

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NEAPOLITAN CUPCAKES

Makes: 48 cupcakes

Chocolate cake:

1 box devil’s food cake mix

3 eggs

½ cup oil

1 cup milk

⅓ cup sour cream

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla cake:

1 box white cake mix

3 eggs

⅓ cup oil

1 cup milk

1/3 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Strawberry buttercream:

2 cups butter, softened

¼ cup strawberry puree

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

6–8 cup powdered sugar

Fresh strawberries for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and line pans with cupcake liners.

Sift each cake mix into a separate bowl; set aside.

For chocolate cake: In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, milk, sour cream and vanilla extract.

Add sifted devil’s food cake mix; stir until smooth.

For vanilla cake: In a separate large bowl, combine eggs, oil, milk, sour cream, and vanilla extract. Add sifted white cake mix; stir until smooth.

Place a small scoop of chocolate batter in the side of each cupcake liner. Place a small scoop of vanilla batter next to the chocolate in each cupcake liner.

Bake for 16–20 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

For strawberry buttercream icing: Beat butter for 2 minutes, scrape down the bowl, and beat again.

Add strawberry puree and vanilla extract. Gradually add powdered sugar until the buttercream reaches the desired consistency.

Pipe buttercream onto cooled cupcakes and top with a fresh strawberry.

Note: Use Ateco No. 826 tip.

Lizzy Early, "Your Cup of Cake" published by Covenant Communications

Lizzy Early is the author of "Your Cup of Cake," published by Covenant Communications. She blogs at www.YourCupofCake.com.