Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably realized that people are kind of obsessed with cupcakes.
“Cupcakeries” seem to be popping up just about everywhere, and gourmet cupcakes are all the rage in baking circles. Cupcakes make the perfect dessert for basically any social occasion, due to their versatility and overall deliciousness. You can never go wrong with a baked good that you can eat in two bites (and that doesn’t require a fork).
If you’re feeling adventurous (and looking to seriously impress your friends), try these tips to make your own miniature masterpieces.
1. Skip the Box Mix
If you’re actually interested in impressing your friends with your serious baking skills, you’re going to have to bake from scratch. Most of the time it’s much easier than you’d think, and you won’t be limited to the flavors that are on sale at the store.
#SpoonTip: If you’re really crunched for time, try sprucing up a box mix by swapping water for buttermilk, or adding extra flavor using lemon zest or vanilla extract.
2. Make Your Own Frosting
This is a tip I cannot stress enough. If you have access to an electric handheld or stand mixer, take the time to make your own frosting. Trust me, it’s always worth it. Store bought frosting tends to taste extremely sweet and artificial, which can be the downfall to any great cake.
Most simple buttercream recipes only call for three ingredients: butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Plus, typically, they only take minutes to make. Try a traditional cream cheese frosting on your next batch of red velvet cupcakes or a smooth chocolate ganache to totally upgrade your cupcake flavor.
3. Use a Piping Bag
People eat with their eyes first, so make sure your cupcakes look clean and professional by using a piping bag to pipe your frosting on top. To get the traditional cupcake look, use a large star tip to swirl on your frosting. With a little practice, it’s a lot easier than it looks, and your swirls can make a big impression. If you don’t have a piping bag, simply cut a hole in the bottom of a gallon-sized Ziploc bag.
4. Bake Properly
Most recipes, including many box mixes, suggest that you set the oven temperature to 350° F and bake cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes. However, expert bakers suggest reducing the oven temperature to 325º F right as you put the cupcakes in the oven and baking them for an extra 5-10 minutes.
#SpoonTip: Never over bake a cupcake again. The best way to tell if a cupcake is finished baking is by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cupcake and making sure that it comes out clean.
5. Uniformity is Key
When baking cupcakes, especially in large amounts, make sure to keep your cupcakes all the same size to ensure they bake evenly in the oven. That way, they look much more professional. Try using an ice cream scoop to fill your cupcake liners approximately 2/3 of the way full with batter.
6. Try Using a Filling
Now you’ve reached the big stakes. Ready to shock and amaze people with your baking ability? Fill your cupcakes with something delicious and it will seriously surprise them when they take that first bite.
Using the open end of a large star tip, a cupcake corer, or even just a knife, remove the center of your cupcake (make sure they’re cool!) and fill it with anything you like. Some suggestions include vanilla pudding, fresh fruit, homemade caramel or even a ball of edible cookie dough.
When I’m baking, this is usually my favorite part. Typically, I like to use a garnish that represents what’s actually inside my cupcake, but feel free to use your imagination. However, always make your decorations edible. Try using fresh fruit, crumbled cookies or candy bars and shaved chocolate curls to make your cupcakes look extra fancy.
#SpoonTip: I’ve found that people are always impressed with a decadent chocolate drizzle.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Experiment
Sometimes you have to try something new. If you are following a recipe, don’t be scared to add in an extra ingredient you think could make it taste great. If you’re anxious about experimenting with your cakes, try simple swaps like using cake flour in place of all-purpose flour, or using fresh vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract.
In addition, don’t be afraid to try out flavor combinations that diverge from the traditional chocolate and vanilla (for an example, try out a french toast cupcake with maple buttercream and candied bacon).
9. Give It a Decadent Description
Name your beautiful and tasty little cakes and proudly share them with your friends. A named cupcake always sounds more appealing than something that’s not. Just keep it short, and of course, extra sweet.