November 17, 2007

Cupcakes

Here's the highly requested "CUPCAKE" post by Su ;)
I'll start off with my general thoughts on how cupcakes should be baked, eaten and shared...a few tips on baking cupcakes.,..and of course a couple of very simple and basic recipes to start everyone off to creating their very own petite indulgences.

The general idea for most of us baking at home is-- we pull out a cupcake recipe from the many many expensive and pretty cupcake recipes books we've purchased and pick a winner out from the many glossy photos inside;.. for those even lazier; we pull out a box of instant cupcake mix from the supermarket shelf; and tadah! CUPcakes! *laughs*
Well... I admit; for beginners; that is where it should all begin... I've had my share of cupcake mixes as well! You must agree though; that most of us improve beyond that skill level after a box or two of instant mix . Where do you go from there?
What you need to do then; is to add to the recipe; a couple spoonfuls of confidence, few generous drops of creativity and slather on a heaped spoonful of frosting fun~
This is what truly makes a good cupcake. My overall concept to creating cupcakes is; "Every food; every flavour; every meal can be expressed in a cupcake!" .. now ....that there is my MAgic Cupcake mOJO~; so don't you steal it for yourself.. *giggle* you're welcome to be inspired by it! and that really is the whole idea.. Be constantly inspired ... but of course~ the basics, must be mastered. *wink*

THE BASICS:
Now; everyone can follow a recipe... but I generally feel not everyone can bake a good cupcake with the same recipe. Why is this so?
It's a good point to remember; rules that apply to cake baking techniques or ingredients generally apply to cupcakes as well~ It really isn't that different from baking a regular cake! There are 2 very critical aspects of baking cupcakes which should be given extra attention.
1: Moisture in recipe ratios (milk; mashed fruit; cream; etc)
2: Over-baking and high oven temperatures


The ingredients: The quality of ingredients are extremely important
  • Vanilla essences are useless; go for vanilla extract!
  • Eggs are VERY important; ensure you have the size of the egg right; Good quality fresh eggs give white and vanilla cakes full flavour.
  • Flour should always be sifted; even if the recipe never said so; ... if you want a fluffy cupcake; just DO IT!
  • The chocolate must be the best quality you can find; look out for bad chocolates that taste good but contain high sugar content and very little cocoa butter. Always read the labels when you buy chocolate for baking. My favourite is Callebaut. Keep in mind; a recipe requiring 'milk/dark/white/cooking/couveture/eating" chocolate should not be substituted with a different type or variation; as they all have different properties which will contribute the the success of your baking.

The utensils: pans... liners and ovens

  • every oven is different; sometimes following the temperature on the recipe to the dot; isn't exactly the best thing to do. It is the "Suggested" temperature and the "suggested" cooking time. It's important to stand by your oven to watch the cakes progress (WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR) to make sure that the cupcakes aren't too far from/ up close to the heat source. The first batch you bake from every new recipe requires attention; running away to do something else and setting a timer always makes opportunities for big boo boos.
  • There are 3 general sizes of cupcake pans available; the texas 6-hole muffin tray (which are the largest) , the 12 standard muffin pan (most cupcakes are baked in these) and the mini muffin trays for tiny bitesized cupcakes
  • Make sure the liners you have suit the cupcake trays you're using and the recipe you intend to bake with. If you are using a high fat content recipe(with high fat; i don't mean in reference to health properties; but more of a higher butter/cream content in your recipe) you will generally end up with greasy bottoms on your cupcake liners if you use thin paper/lower quality patterned paper. Try going for foil bottoms; or maybe for one with a thick paper base and a glossy surface on the top to create a barrier for sticky fingers when you pick cupcakes up. Removing them from the cupcake pan straight out of the oven and drying them on a wire rack should help too!

The Baking Process:
  • Always lightly incorporate flour well and avoid over-stirring the batter. Check recipes to ensure a sufficient amount of moist ingredients such as mashed fruit; milk; cream or jam. The general idea is; an extremely thick batter will create a stiff cupcake.
  • Fill the cupcake paper moulds only 1/2 way up the sides if the recipe uses self raising flour/a fair amount of baking powder. Fill it 3/4 ways up if plain flour/almond meal is used. These recipes should require whipping of eggs till fluffy and doubled in volume before incorporation of other ingredients
  • Always preheat your oven before sliding in the muffin tray into the center of the oven.
  • Avoid opening and closing the oven door while cupcakes are baking.
  • Remember that temperatures vary according to oven sizes and brands; so this is where common sense comes in handy.
  • Store cooled unfrosted cupcakes in airtight containers/under clingfilm at ALL times! Little babycakes dry up pretty fast.

Frosting: The cupcake is just an ordinary miniature cake without its crowning glory!

I have a fair variety of frosting types I like to use for dressing up cupcakes~ Each of them are specifically matched to accentuate the flavours and textures of each individual cupcake recipe.
With all that being said; it is a good idea to keep in mind that; people like to eat and taste CAKE.. not just frosting!

I'm going to list the icing's I generally use below;....and will probably be getting emails with tag subject lines such as "Can I Have the Recipe for the frosting on cupcake So&So Please?!"
We'll... I'd love to help; but this is my story...
I've got the concept of how the frostings are made written down in this list...and it will be left to your own discretion to make ratios of sugar proportions to cheese/cream/butter.
Everyone has a different perception/tolerance to sweetness; and to tell you the truth; I myself never follow a standard recipe.
I change proportions everytime I frost a different cake....because every cupcake recipe deserves a different frosting!
So...
Here is me telling you how I do mine...and it's up to you to work out the amount used in each ingredient which would work best to suit you.
  • Buttercream: Heavy and generally sweeter than other types of frosting. Beat unsalted butter till pale and fluffy add in icing sugar a little at a time till you reach desired sweetness. Food flavourings such as almond, coconut or vanilla can be added to create a different flavour. Add in a little cream to create a smooth pipe-able icing.
  • Cream cheese frosting: I really like this variation of frosting with fruit cakes (banana/carrot/etc.). Beat Philadelphia cream cheese with icing sugar and a couple drops of milk till thick and icing sugar is fully dissolved. Not as much sugar is needed in comparison to buttercream as cream cheese frostings are meant to have a distinct 'cheese' taste to them
  • Chocolate Ganache/Fudge: It can be done with milk, dark or white chocolate; Good chocolate is a MUST. The thickness of fudge can be altered by playing around with the ratio of chocolate to cream. Store ganache in the fridge to create a pipe-able thick frosting. Heat cream and stir in chocolate pieces to melt into a rich and thick sauce to create your glossy frosting. Never try resting ganache in the freezer; this creates lumps.
  • Whipped cream: Whip whipping cream together with flavour essences or just icing sugar to create a smooth and frothy frosting suitable for fillings or even cupcake toppers. This can be a little difficult to do in hot and humid weather. It can be difficult; but not impossible; try a little dissolved gelatine to create a stiff frosting. Cream frosted goods must be refrigerated and shouldn't be stored for over a day.
  • Fondant: For more info click HERE
Frostings can be piped with a piping tube design of your choice; or smoothed over the top with a mini spatula; work on a big dollop on the top from the inside-out in a circular motion around the cupcake surface.
**Again remembering when slathering your cupcakes with frosting; that cupcakes should taste like CAKE more than it should like frosting! This is where it gets difficult and complicated even for the best of bakers. Its a very fine line between too thick; too sweet; too dry and just perfect!
Sweeter and thicker frostings require a smaller swirl/layer over the top and with whipped and frothy frostings generally go well with a small scoop of filling in cupcake centers. Keep tasting them as you go along! YAY for tasting!! :P


Take an inquisitive stroll down the supermarket baking aisle and I guarantee you shall find numerous helping hands when it comes to pretty-fying edible sweet treats!
There is no excuse for a 'naked' cupcake with No colourful trimmings or frostings in this day and age! Pre-made frostings can even be bought in tubs for your convenience!
An abundance of sparkly sprinklers, food colourings, coloured sugars, candy, gummy lollies, moulded sweets and foil covered chocolates are all there to help us create fancy looking cakes; without fancy baking skills. *wink*


Get creative with what you can do; think beyond just PLACING the candy on top... or just colouring the icing before you spoon it over the cupcake;
Think along the lines of..
  • chopping up the nuts/candy...
  • matching the colours;
  • creating a theme for all your cupcakes!
  • Use teddy cookies! OR oreos?... Use a medley of fresh fruit...some jam/peanut butter? vanilla custard filled; cinnamon sugar?
  • How about sticking a lolly pop in the center?
  • Alcohol! Alcohol is always good!!
It really is up to you..... from fresh edible flowers... to fancy piped designs; it really comes down to ..not what you SHOULD do to a cupcake... but what you CAN do!
It's your little cake; your piece of art; it's something you have created...
Don't let a book with tempting looking photographs tell you, "you should make strawberries and cream or a fancy morello cherry blackforest cupcake"~
Keep in mind that all our cupcakes do not need to look like professionally done fondant/piping work on a picture perfect cupcake; add on a big chunk of whatever you wish over the top! Slather on a scoop of ice cream if its what you love!~...
I personally feel...as long as you had fun baking + decorating them.... and if eating them makes you happy; you're a great cupcake-tier~
The essence of it all should be creativity~ Don't be discouraged if your past 'creations' broke out into rock hard cupcakes; or you've had a frosting that refused to set;... it happens...*shrug* pick yourself up! Alter the recipe and try it again! It's what makes a good cupcake..
The experiences through the drafted recipes; it's what makes it fun!..and it's certainly what makes it into your little cookbook journal which you'd show your kids in 20-30 odd years and say... "See... Mommy/Daddy created this amazing cupcake recipe when she/he was your age" *wink*

The recipes:
All purpose cupcake batter : makes 12 in standard muffin tray.
*Feel free to flavour this with essences /add chopped nuts/fruit/chocolate chipsweeteners (condensed milk) etc. Play around with it!
130gms butter
3/4cups caster sugar
2 eggs (large)

1 tsp vanilla essence(if not using any other)
1 1/2 cup self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk (more if neccesary)


Beat sugar and butter till pale and fluffy. Add in essences and eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Fold in sifted flour+baking powder alternately with milk in 3 portions till well incorporated. Spoon into cupcake liners. Bake in preheated 180degree oven till done~ (should not take any more than 12-15 minutes)

All purpose Chocolate cupcake batter: makes 12 in standard muffin tray.
1 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
125 gms melted butter
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1 1/4 cups self raising flour sifted
2 eggs slightly beaten (large eggs)

Beat all ingredients other than flour with an electric beater till well incorporated. Fold in sifted bicarb of soda and flour in 2 portions. Spoon into cupcake cases and bake in
180degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

33 comments:

-jiaen- said...

Thanks for all the tips gal. Love your cupcakes! You're so full of creative juices! ;)

Manggy said...

Thanks for this post, Su! I've actually avoided making cupcakes as they're too big a trend these days here, but when it dies down, I'll be sure to visit this again, heh :) (I dunno... I must like showing off my skill at cutting whole cakes.)

robiewankenobie said...

This is amazing! Thank you for taking the time to outline your process. Two quick questions...how much flour for the white cupcakes? Also, I'm curious, you use self rising for the chocolate? Not cake flour?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Su Yin. Im sure alot of us will appreciate this. Its true that we have to portion out and experiment with different things. That's real cookin! just wanted to ask, will you be having another high tea session before heading back? Please have the rest you deserve and soak up the joys here before heading back and looking forward to all things you've yet to enjoy.

ben

Jacelyn said...

Hi Su Yin, as always, it's very sweet of you to share all these with everyone. =)

P/s: You left out the flour measurement for the vanilla cupcake recipe.

~ashieBee~ said...

suyiiiiiiiiiin =)

thanks for the cuppycakes tutorial *winkwink*

Anonymous said...

All purpose cupcake batter - Flour missin? :o

Graeme said...

Wow. Extensive! Thing is, we all know now that you know what you're talking about.

You certainly know your cupcake from your muffin. Great post.

bureaucrat said...

wow. thanks for the advice. i'm going to print this out and keep it with my folio of recipes!

Imbi & Itchy said...

Hi Su-Yin,

Thanks for this article, it's full of tips and I can't wait to get started though my cupcake mould's been sitting in my pantry for ages. True to what's been said, making cupcakes are easy but making a tasty good one is not. I've always had problem with controlling the heat of the oven, with the batter used as well .. now that you've enlighten me, I'm more confident. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks so much!! shucks, i shud stop cheking ur blog everyday now tt my exams in 1 wks time (i;m fr SMU btw. wish i had known ur sis(:). i feel lykk baking now :P

oh btw, do u noe wat's the difference between devil's food cupcake and normal choc cupcake? which one taste better?

-kas

Anonymous said...

Hi Su,this is Chiara from Italy. Thank you SO much for sharing your tips and recipes. I love baking and try many different things and flavours but haven't found my favourite frosting yet...the ones I tried were too sweet or too buttery. I'll try the Philadelphia cream cheese one, it sounds great and not too sweet. Thank you so much and keep baking, you're so talented.
Chiara

Anonymous said...

oh i forgot to ask one more thing. if i were to include alcohol (eg baileys/rum), how much shud I put per recipe? and do i need to alter anything to the recipe? wat's the effect on the cake (more moist/dry/fluffy)?

hee... hope i didn't ask too many qns :P

-kas

m said...

thanks heaps! just love to drool over the sooo tasty looking photos! your photos are just as great as the food! ; )

FeR said...

thanks for the exhaustive "tutorial"! *hehe*

the only thing I am puzzled about...is looking at the cupcakes other people bake. I seem to have a problem with my cakes "sweating" when I cool them. The surface becomes wet (as compared to when they first came out of the oven) and will continue to be wet/sticky even after it's completely cooled. It happens when I attempt to make chocolate cupcakes...not too bad with the vanilla ones. wonder what am I doing wrong...everyone else's cakes look so nice! Got the recipe from another website and even in her pictures, her cupcakes doesn't look like it suffers from my problem. Hmmm...anyone experienced this before?

(cewah! treating this spot like a forum! *sorry!*)

Anonymous said...

All of these pictures are like, cupcake porn! haha; i can't wait to have an excuse to make cupcakes now that i have this manifesto. kudos!

Anonymous said...

woow thx for the tips! =)

GG said...

Thanks for the tips, Su Yin! Appreciate that! You're great!

singairishgirl said...

Wow Su, that is so great of you to share what you know in detail. Thanks for all the tips. Will use this as a reference guide. :)

note to fer - I have that problem with chocolate cupcakes too, and they shrink in the cups. I believe you use melted chocolate? I think that's the culprit. You have to fill up the cup to 3/4 or more full as they do shrink. I believe if you use cocoa powder, you won't have that problem. Try Su's choc cake recipe. I will try it soon and see the result.

FeR said...

singairishgirl: oh no, it doesn't shrink. just "sweats"...instead of being like the ones we see in the pictures where the surface is dry/matte instead of shiny and sticky (like how mine turned out). both with melted chocolate and powder...same problem. i wonder if it has anything to do with other ingredients that makes it wet...milk? too much moisture?

singairishgirl said...

Sweats like water droplets? I don't know then. ;P I don't see them on your blog post.

Ling's Passion said...

Fer : I am not a pro but I think it has got to do with the ratio of wet to dry ingredients. Try reducing the wet ingredient slightly e.g. milk, egg or butter. Like Su said, it is about adjusting the ingredients to suit individual's taste and liking.

Mei said...

Excellent stuff here, Su!!!! Have always loved the stuff you churn out! Very inspiring!

Cat said...

Just found ur blog and im so impressed and excited. I may rush out 2moro morning and get some goodies and try these out. Only problem will be trying not to eat them all before hubby gets in from work!

Thank you for sharing

Kim Jiheon said...

Thanks for sharing your recepe!
But can i have the recepe for the Buttercream frosting?

Squishy said...

Thank you very much for the tips. They are excellent. I am making a cup cake wedding cake very soon and your tips are very well appreciated. Your cakes look wonderful.

Cheers Amelita

Wanda said...

Fantastic tutorial Su Yin. Thank you for sharing your expertise with everyone. There is no doubt about it, you have the cupcake world in the palm of your hands.

Great stuff.

Wanda
from
www.only-cookware.com

piyo-chan said...

awesome post! :) thanks heaps!!!

Yu Jie said...

Hi Su, would just like to thank you for this really informative page! I live in London and one of the problems is that we do not have cake/bleached flour like in Singapore, only self-raising/plain flour. Thanks to your recipe I can make these vanilla cupcakes here and they turned out great on the first try! The only modifications I made were to reduce the sugar amount by quite a lot (guess it's cos I don't really have a sweet tooth :p), and to add in some chocolate chunks :) Thanks once again!

tsfmeuk said...

Hi Su!
Awesome work!
I would love to see your work
bring you great recognition.

I have been 2 Kuala Lumpur & loved the atmosphere...I have now fallen in love with your cooking.

I would love 2 bake all the cakes but don't have the skills to do so...would love to meet you on my next trip if possible...

Have u considered publishing your work? Not just a cook book...more of a cooking experience...journey of flavors what say?

Let me know if your up 4 it!
take care

-Tara :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this post!! I've just started baking regularly and I have been doing some research before trying cupcakes and this post is incredible! I can't wait to start, so thank you!om

Anonymous said...

Hi!I really love your blog and learn many things already..but I have a problem with your chocolate cupcake. I think the amount of liquid is not appropriate with the dry ingredients which eventually makes a VERY DIFFERENT cupcake than I expected. I'm just wondering if you made a mistake while typing the ingredients proportion or miss something...?!
I hope you will be able to correct it if ever...Thanks for all the tips and for sharing so many things to others. God Bless

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this blog! i am entering a cupcake baking contest at my high school and this will definetly help!