Warning: Sprinkles, Edible Glitter, Pink Frosting and Cupcakes ahead! Every Summer my Niece comes out to hang out with me for a couple weeks. We always have a blast together. Along with the fun I’m always looking for ways to teach her new things, while trying to keep it a good time.
We have many things in common, one of them being a love for the almighty Cupcake. Usually, we make it a point to head up to our neighborhood Cupcake Royale or another little cafe across the street called Coffee to a Tea, which also houses the Sugar Rush Bakery, to have ourselves a cup of Joe and a couple tastings of the mini Cupcakes. Since we didn’t get around to our usual trip, I had an idea while watching Cupcake Wars on Food Network. Why not have a friendly “Cupcake-Off” right here at home?
So I ran the idea past her and it turns out that one of her favorite things to make is Cupcakes. We decided on a single basic batch of Yellow Cake and Cream Cheese Frosting as our base. We divided the Yellow Cake batter in half, then each of us took a half and divided that into thirds. We did the same thing with the Cream Cheese Frosting. Our end goal – to each create 2 Cupcakes in 3 flavors with a tasty frosting to go with it, for a total of 6 Cupcakes each.
We ransacked my pantry for cupcake decorations, dried fruits, food coloring and flavorings and came up with quite an impressive selection of possibilities. We then set to work creating our masterpieces.
The great thing about this little project was not just the fun of it, but that I was able to teach her a little bit about the science of baking. As we worked at our stations side by side, we talked about the limits of adding too much liquid or dry ingredients to the base batter and that the outcome could mean a crumbly dry Cupcake or a soggy Cupcake. We talked about flavor combinations, what tastes good with what and what doesn’t. I let her just discover the flavors and make her own choices about how she wanted her Cupcakes to taste, it was a really fun experience for the both of us. Creativity never tasted so good!
Some of the flavors we came up with were: Lime, Honey & Ginger – Lemon & Saffron – Cinnamon Maple Rum – Dark Chocolate Nutella – Cinnamon, Coffee & Chocolate – Coconut, Lime & Rum
This is a really great activity to do as a couple, with friends and especially with the kids. It doesn’t take that long to put together. You can use store bought boxed cake mix and frosting if you want to and the prep will go even faster. Here’s a partial list of things to get you started:
Cupcake Decoration Ideas
- Dried Fruits (whole or sliced into slivers) – mango, pineapple, papaya, raisins, dried cranberries, banana chips, etc
- Candy Pieces – chocolate chips or the hard candy shell kind with centers of chocolate, peanut butter or mint
- Color Sugar – available at most grocery stores in a rainbow of colors
- Edible Glitter – available at specialty shops and online
- Dragees/Edible Pearls – available at some grocery stores, specialty shops and online
- Nonpareils, Jimmies, Sprinkles & Hundreds-and-Thousands – little sugar based decorations that come in all shapes
- Savory – herb sprigs, sea salt and chili
- Citrus – Zest or lemon, lime or orange peels
Cupcake & Frosting Flavorings
- Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, pepper, chili, ginger, etc.
- Flavorings – vanilla, rum, almond, lemon, etc.
- Fresh Citrus – Juice and/or zest of lemons, limes, and oranges
- Nuts – pistachio, coconut, peanut, almond, pecan, walnut, etc.
- Spatula or knife to spread frosting
- Piping Bag with decorating tip (you can find these in most grocery stores near the cake decorating supplies)
- Cupcake papers
It is best to set everything out that is “up for grabs” within reach and view. It makes coming up with creative flavors much more inspiring.
Basic Yellow Cake Base
- 2 cups Flour, all purpose
- 2 1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 2/3 cup Butter, unsalted, softened to room temperature
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 4 large eggs
- 2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 325º. Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl until light creamy and fluffy. Add in your eggs one at a time, beating between each one until well combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, alternating with a little bit of the milk at a time (this alternating method helps create a smooth batter).
In a muffin pan, line it with paper baking cups or lightly grease and flour them. Fill baking cups to 2/3 full.
325º degrees for 14-17 minutes, let them cool completely before frosting. Yield should be about 12-14 Cupcakes
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8oz brick of Cream Cheese
4 Tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Pinch of Salt
2 1/4 cups Powdered Sugar, sifted
Combine cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt and mix until creamy. Add in Powdered Sugar 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches a consistency you like.
Tips for making your own flavors for cupcakes & frosting:
- Divide the batter or frosting into small batches.
- Add flavors, colors and additional ingredients a little at a time. It’s easier to add more flavor in than to take flavor out.
- When adding in flavored dry ingredients to the batter, you may need to add in an egg yolk or a little splash of water to keep the consistency right.
- When adding in flavored wet ingredients to the batter, you may need to add in an extra teaspoon of flour so the batter is not runny.
- When adding in flavored dry ingredients to the frosting, you may need to add a splash of milk/water/coconut milk/soy milk to loosen it up to be spreadable.
- When adding in flavored wet ingredients to the frosting, you may need to add back in a little more powdered sugar to firm it back up.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment, have fun and encourage each others creativity!
Bow down & be humble before the overall taste winner (Cinnamon Maple Rum with Vanilla Bean Frosting) – The Almighty Princess Cupcake by my niece TC.
Full Disclosure: I have received NO compensation from Coffee to a Tea, Cupcake Royale or Food Network for the mentions in this article.
Images by Kelly Cline ©2010 All Rights Reserved
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