Kitchen Lab: You’re My Cuppycake

You guys, I made cupcakes from stuff that was already in my kitchen. I didn’t have to go to the store for anything. WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?!

ingredients for vanilla cupcakes
The usual suspects

<– Forreals, this is what's in cupcakes.

Super easy, right? But wait! There are weird instructions in my recipe!

Herein begins my Ode to the Hand Mixer! (I don't sing so well.)

Butter isn't soft enough? Hand mixer. Recipe says to do anything for six minutes? Hand mixer. Just feeling lazy? Hand mixer. Power tools? HAND MIXER. Get you one, they’re pretty inexpensive. But the proverbial “they” really mean it when they tell you to put the beaters into the bowl of stuff, then turn it on. Just so’s ya know.

Anyway, cupcakes! If you can manage it, leave your stick of butter out to soften for a good long while. It’s okay, nobody will die if you leave butter out for a few hours. Preheat your oven to 350F, get all of your ingredients together so you don’t realize three eggs in that you really needed four, blah blah blah. Why on earth they tell you to “liberally butter” a muffin tin when you’re just gonna put fancy little ruffly papers in, I have no idea.

I hope that's "light." What does it even MEAN?
I hope that’s “light.” What does it even MEAN?

Step the First: HAND MIXER WOOT. You’re supposed to “cream” the butter. Butter is cream of some kind, if I’m not mistaken, so I just beat the hell out of it. Then you add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, probably gradually. And “beat until light, 3 or 4 minutes.” What? Butter is yellow, sugar is white, and it ain’t floatin’. I just beat the hell out of it some more.

Then you add four eggs. More beating. Then a teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract. (Yes, I had it in my kitchen. It was Christmas!) Stir the dry ingredients (2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt… what’s the point of 1/4 teaspoon?) together in a separate bowl, and add the whole shebang to the mush you’ve already beat the hell out of a little at a time. You also need 3/4 cup of milk interspersed in there somewhere, I almost forgot it myself and wondered what was wrong with my cupcakes.

TADA! You just made cupcake batter! Who knew?

baking cupcakes viewed through an oven door
Rise, my angels! RISE!

Pour the batter into the cupcake papers in the tins. You can fill ’em most of the way up. Bake for 20-25 minutes, and let them cool before you put frosting on them.

What’s that you say? You have no frosting? BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! You don’t need that weird stuff from the store with weirdo sprinkles and Yellow Number Five. You need [PaulaDeen] more butter! [/PaulaDeen]

I should have told you to let TWO sticks of butter get all soft. Because you need the other one for the frosting. And again with the hand mixer! Can you tell I am a fan of the power tools? Yes. So yeah, cream this butter too. Gradually add 4 cups of confectioners sugar and 6 tablespoons of cream or milk, a little at a time… don’t panic, just keep going, it will mix in I promise. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract at the end, and kapow! Frosting!

Oh, you want chocolate frosting? Like the picture! Yes! I have the secret. And it doesn’t involve double boilers and melted chocolate squares and any debate between sweetened and unsweetened and where the hell do they keep this stuff anyway? It’s like looking for honey or syrup at the grocery store, I swear. Or marshmallows, you can never find marshmallows.

It's fake. But real. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS
It’s fake. But real. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS

But here it is, the super trick, which is from (I’m not kidding) this cookbook my mom had when I was a kid. It’s Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, copyright 1963 and looks every inch the part. This thing is seriously awesome, a book full of cookies! Granted, most of the recipes are intended for people who either have waaaay too much time on their hands, or are at home long enough to put everything together in bits and pieces while doing other things. (Chill six hours? Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

So rather than burn the hell out of your wrist trying to cobble together something resembling a double boiler out of your crappy cookware in order to melt two stinkin’ squares of chocolate, just use whatever method you prefer to melt one tablespoon of butter and mix it into three tablespoons of cocoa for each square of chocolate you need. It’s pretty great, and it works. I mean, there are fourteen different recipes for icing in the back of this book, Betty knows her stuff.

five vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting on a plate
You’re my cuppycake!

Add the chocolate when you’re about halfway through the sugar-adding process, and blam, chocolate frosting. Smear it all over those ‘cakes! Aw yeah! And if you think you’re putting too much frosting on your cupcakes, you’re probably wrong.

And if you really need to add sprinkles… fine.

Go make some and let me know how they turn out!

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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