What better way to celebrate R&I's year-end showcase of chefs' best recipes than with a batch of just-baked cupcakes?
This article first appeared in the 1 December 2005 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
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The hand-held treats are all the rage across the industry, cropping up in specialty shops from Cupcakes in Chicago to multi-unit Sprinkles Cupcakes, based in Beverly Hills, Calif. But the simple homespun dessert can easily be whipped up in any operation, either from scratch or mix.
New York City is home to the frosted Buttercup golden and chocolate versions shown here from Buttercup Bake Shop, the solo venture that former Magnolia Bakery co-owner Jennifer Appel opened in 1999. Once a clinical psychologist, Appel switched careers nearly a decade ago, turning her love of baking into a livelihood. Cupcakes aren't the only treats on the menu, but with eight different varieties, they're a main attraction.
Choices beyond yellow and chocolate draw on classic recipes such as red velvet, carrot and German chocolate. Spice cupcakes can be packed with walnuts and raisins and iced with cream-cheese frosting. Lady Baltimores include coconut, candied cherries, cookie crumbs and almonds and are crowned with meringue.
Most operators have resisted the urge to use oversized muffin pans for cupcakes, opting to keep them a manageable size. But with an easy flourish of icing and a decorative finish, the little cakes can command up to $3 each, a sweet reward for very little effort.
Appel's silky frosting relies on the typical mix of unsalted butter, milk, vanilla and confectioners' sugar to which pastel tints can be added; melted chocolate leads to richer results.
Colourful sprinkles in playful shapes introduce a touch of whimsy, but for extra flavour and texture, experiment with all manner of candies, cookies and nuts.
Takes the cake
For especially moist results, Appel uses both self-rising and all-purpose flour plus butter, sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla in her Buttercup Golden Layer Cake.