Jul 7, 2011

My Cupcake Secret Weapon

Who doesn't love festive cupcakes!? I was inspired by the awesome holiday, America's independence and Martha Stewart last weekend to make some yummy cupcakes. I can actually proudly say my cupcakes didn't suck! In fact, they tasted delish! Not to toot my own horn but...TOOT!

I wanted to share my designer creations with all of you and share a little cupcake secret.

Cupcakes are still so the rage. Who knew food could be so trendy!? Between Magnolia Bakery, Crumbs, Georgetown Cupcakes, Sprinkles and the countless cupcake shows on TV, it seems like this food's popularity isn't dying down any time soon. So here's my only beef. I see a line wrapped around the block at places like Georgetown Cupcakes or Magnolia Bakery and I get how much people want to taste these puppies. While I think these shops produce beautiful cakes with inventive frosting flavors, I gotta say sometimes the actual cake (the essence of the whole situation) is a bit dry. Ever notice that? Sometimes the best cupcake is a simple, do-it-yourself box to oven cupcake. Now trust me, I'm not saying I'm an expert by any means. My baking skills have definitely produced some dry, stiff cupcakes in the past, but I think I found the solution.

In my quest to make the most moist cupcake around I decided I needed a secret ingredient. A new element that was gonna change the game.

Enter Applesauce. I personally can't stand eating the stuff on it's own but in a cupcake it works beautifully. By replacing the 1/4 cup of oil with a 1/4 of applesauce, the cake becomes more moist and healthy! More importantly, it doesn't change the flavor and the moist texture lasts. So the next time you're in the mood to make cupcakes, consider applesauce as your secret weapon.

As for the rest of the cupcake, I'm proud to say I made my own buttercream frosting. It's actually an extremely easy recipe from The Joy of Baking.

Buttercream Frosting = 4 cups of confectioner's sugar (a little more than one box's worth), 1 cup of butter, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract  and 4 tablespoons of milk or light cream.

Recipe: Add the butter to a bowl and beat it until smooth with an electric mixer. I didn't have an electric mixer and the frosting turned out fine but in general a mixer would make the consistency smoother and the ingredients more blended. Add the vanilla extract and with the mixer on low gradually beat in the sugar. Add the milk and beat to combine and then on high speed, beat the frosting till it's light and fluffy. Cover the frosting with plastic wrap if you're not using it right away. You can store the frosting for up to 10 days in a fridge. This recipe actually makes a ton of frosting so feel free to cut the portions in half if you want to make about 24 cupcakes or if you want to decorate with lots of frosting, stick to these proportions.

Martha Stewart's version which look much more refined and neat
The decorations are inspired by Martha Stewart. Her 4th of July Cupcakes call for red licorice laces and blue piped frosting dots. Instead of the blue frosting I used blue mini M&M's, which I think add a nice crunch and texture to the cake. To make the flag, cut the licorice into two separate lengths. You need three longer pieces for the bottom of the flag and three shorter pieces for the top of the flag and 4 blue mini M&M's per cupcake. Get a bag of mini M&M's and Twizzler Pull & Peel and you'll be all set. They're super easy to assemble and really yummy. Mine were pretty long and not particularly neat compared to ol' Martha's but tasted yummy. Test of the length of the licorice a bit to find the right size for your cupcakes.

So, although Independence Day is over, I hope you enjoy the photos of my 4th of July cupcakes. Try making the cupcakes with applesauce for yourself and tell me if you notice a difference. I'm eager to make more festive cupcakes and when I do, I'll be sure to share with all of you! Hope you enjoy!

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