Would a cupcake by another other name taste so sweet?

Since Carrie Bradshaw bit into a cupcake in Sex in the City it wasn’t long before beautifully decorated cupcakes starting popping up on high streets all around the world.

There are so many cupcake shops around now that we are spoilt for choice, you can get them custom designed, order them online and delivered directly to your door.

They are being arranged in beautiful patterns, themed for birthdays, baby showers and retirements.  People are even tending to order them for wedding cakes, in tiers or raining down on beautiful cupcake stands, rather than the traditional style wedding cake.  It seems that there is always a good reason to eat a cupcake.

Jaffa – Orange and Chocolate

But what has really started the revival?  Is it the idea of mixing the old with the new?   Is it because we are tending towards making/growing our own food that baking has made such a huge comeback?  There has got to be something said about the domestic godess’nes associated with being about to produce beautiful cupcakes.  Have a look in any bookstore there will be a plethora of cupcake books to choose from.  A few years ago google stated that the highest trending google search over a few months was for cupcake recipes.

Cupcakes have been around since the late 1700’s, and there are two schools of thought as to how they got their name.  The first is because the batter used to be measured in cups rather than by weight.  1 cup of butter, 2 cups of sugar, three cups of flour and four eggs (1,2,3,4 cakes).  The second thought is that it is because they were baked in pottery cups, very similar to ramekins these days.  These days muffin tins lined with cupcake cases are used to make them.

Christmas Pudding, Candy Cane Crunch, Santa Stuck in the Chimney, Lemon Christmas Tree cakes

These days cupcakes come in many forms, fairy cakes (smaller cupcakes), cake balls (cake crumbs combined with frosting, rolled into balls – much like truffles – and dipped in chocolate), cakepops (cake balls on sticks) and cupcakes in cones …. The options are endless ….

What’s the difference between a Muffin and a Cupcake?

Muffins are generally taller because their texture is stronger, due to more flour, they weigh more and they don’t necessarily need to be sweet, they also do not have icing on them.  Cupcakes however are generally lighter in texture and because of this they do not rise as high.  I found an excellent formulaic definition of the difference courtesy of Diana’s Desserts: ‘A basic formula for muffins is 2 cups flour, 2-4 tablespoons sugar, 2½ teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 egg, ¼ cup oil, shortening or butter and 1 cup milk. When the fat, sugar and egg ratio in a recipe reaches double or more than this, you have reached the cake level.

Cupcakes can be made out of any batter that you would normally make a cake with, however because of their size you will find that they can bake in up to half of the time of a standard size cake.  While chocolate and vanilla are the most common flavors around, you will find some absolute decadent flavors boasted on lots of menus around town.

Fashion or Fade?

Are Cupcakes just a fashion or a fade?  Will we get sick of them and are they too common now?  I remember in the 80’s when they made a small comeback, fairy cakes and butterfly cakes were a standard addition at any kids party or high tea, but this doesn’t compare with what we are experiencing at the moment.  Cupcakes have been around for a long time and I think they are a fashion that will continue for a while yet.

Often when out at a café or bakery, you will see these exquisite beauties fetching up to $6, are they really worth this amount?  I guess they are worth what someone is willing to pay for them.

Long story short, cupcakes are reasonably easy to make and quite economical as you can reduce the quantity of the ingredients for the amount of cupcakes needed.  They make a beautiful gift, occasion cake, special treat, plate to take out to share and the final product generally looks far more impressive compared to the small effort require to make them.

Give it a go, you may be nicely surprised.

If you need any inspiration, check out the following websites.

http://www.cupcakerecipes.com/

http://www.cupcakestyle.co.uk/inspiration.html

http://www.wilton.com/ideas/browse.cfm?cat=Cupcakes

http://www.marthastewart.com/274461/our-favorite-cupcakes/@center/276944/cupcakes

Happy Baking!

LL

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