• Bake cupcakes in paper or foil liners, unless a recipe specifies otherwise. Liners come in a regular 2 1/2-inch size, a 1 5/8-inch mini size and a 3 1/2-inch extra-large size.
• Don't ever butter a cupcake liner, but when making dense or very moist cupcakes, spray with no-stick canola oil cooking spray for easy removal, recommends Elinor Klivans. When baking extra-large or big-top cupcakes, spray the top of the pan so the batter doesn't stick.
• Use shiny rather than dark pans for baking. Some experts use nonstick pans to keep cleanup to a minimum. You can also bake cupcakes in specialty cupcake-style pans in flower, star and heart shapes.
• Fill standard-size cupcake liners 2/3 (1/4 cup batter) to 3/4 (1/3 cup batter) full, depending on recipe instructions. "To streamline the cupcake-making process, use an ice cream scoop (in different sizes) with a spring action lever to fill the cups," advises Anne Byrn, noting that the scoop has changed her cupcake baking forever.
• Recipes with 1 cup flour make about 12 to 18 cupcakes, notes Klivans. Figure that the batter from an 18.5-ounce box of cake mix will make 20 to 24 standard 2 1/2-inch cupcakes, 36 mini 2-inch cupcakes and 12 jumbo or extra-large 3- to 4-inch cupcakes, notes Byrn.
• Preheat the oven 10 to 15 minutes prior to baking.
• Watch cupcakes carefully to avoid overbaking. Invest in an oven thermometer and check to make sure your oven is baking at the correct temperature.
• If you're having a party, bake a bunch of different flavored mini cupcakes so people can have tastes of each. If recipes don't specify mini baking times, note that minis will take more than half of the baking time recommended for standard size cupcakes. Figure around 16 minutes for minis and 20 to 25 minutes for standard size cupcakes.
• Use the toothpick in the center test for doneness. In most cases, if the toothpick comes out clean, it's done and if cake sticks, bake a little longer.
• Cool cupcakes in pan 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out on rack to cool completely.
• Use a small offset spatula (it has a flat rounded blade designed for even spreading) for frosting cupcakes as the crooked handle gives you extra leverage.
• Decorate cupcakes with sprinkles, M&Ms, chopped nuts, toffee, peppermint candies, jelly beans, chopped or shaved (with a vegetable peeler) light, dark or white chocolate, cookie crumbs, gumdrops, sifted cocoa powder, fresh fruits, edible fresh flowers, candied flower petals, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Also pipe on frosting designs if desired or use a knife to create swirls in buttercream frostings. Plastic stencils with small designs can also be used (sift powdered sugar or cocoa powder over stencil openings and remove stencil carefully).
• If traveling with cupcakes (some travel better than others; i.e. frostings and glazes that harden) during the summer, be sure to chill them first and transport in individual cupcake containers or disposable pans with plastic lids (available in 9x13, single serving or other sizes).
• Cupcakes are best consumed the day they are baked.
• You may freeze most cupcakes, unfrosted, for up to three months.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
In her article, "Cupcake wisdom," Natalie Haughton of Los Angeles' Daily News offers some cupcake-baking tips: