More American than apple pie: the cupcake (Photo courtesy of MarthaStewart.com)
CakeWalk is a weekly column by Mary Ann Porch dedicated to every baker who has ever struggled to achieve the right consistency with their icing, unsuccessfully searched for the perfect cupcake topper or just wants to learn something new. Because with a few helpful tips, cupcakes are a cakewalk.
The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. Independence Day, for me has always represented, the quintessential summer afternoon/evening with friends and family, full of swimming pools, fireworks, and best of all, amazing food. As a kid, every year my mom would make homemade vanilla cream, sometimes throwing in some delicious fresh peaches for a little kick. I have vivid memories of hovering over the ice cream maker in the garage waiting for the gadget to run its course so I could indulge in my favorite summertime treat. Plus, my mom earned the badge for “Coolest Mom in the World” because for the week following Independence Day, she allowed us to eat as much ice cream as our stomachs could manage. This even included for breakfast. This was back in the day when my metabolism was a freak of nature – I could have eaten an entire horse and not gained a single pound, something that is incomprehensible today.
As an adult, themed cocktails have replaced the homemade ice cream, but the tradition of delicious food at outdoor barbeques continues. Luckily for me, I’ve managed to become friends with some fine cooks.
I’ve discovered that the key to any great party food is size. Finger food is best, as utensils require acrobatics involving balancing a drink, a plate and possibly a sparkler. With this in mind, can anyone think of a better party treat to celebrate the Fourth of July with than the all-American cupcake? As mentioned in last week’s column, the cupcake has become an American icon in the dessert realm, so it only seems appropriate that our little frosting topped friend make an appearance at one of the biggest parties of the year.
Luckily, Fourth of July cupcake options are endless. Whether you choose a festive cupcake wrapper or decorative topping, it’s all about making the cupcakes appropriate for the party you are attending.
Miniature American flags make for a great show of patriotism (Photo courtesy of CountryLiving.com)
For instance, if your party is a bit more upscale, Martha Stewart offers some terrific ideas such as substituting blueberries and strawberries for sprinkles, two naturally festive fruits because of their patriotic colors.
Festive colored fruit can be substituted for sprinkles if attending a more upscale barbeque (Photo courtesy of MarthaStewart.com)
If your soiree is more family oriented, kids will appreciate festive sprinkles and cupcake toppers such as edible stars. Stores such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma carry seasonal decorating tools such as Fourth of July sprinkle kits.
Companies like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and Crate & Barrel carry seasonal sprinkle kits
For those of you who really want to amp up the red, white and blue theme, why not make a red velvet cake as the base? With a dollop of buttercream on top and perhaps an American flag topper, you might as well be Uncle Sam! If you want to give your partygoers a bit of a surprise, make a red, white and blue cake base (recipe below).
For the barbeque I’ll be attending, I’ll be bringing vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream icing. For decoration, I’ll be mixing it up with flag toppers and patriotic sprinkles because even though there won’t be any kids at this party, there will be plenty of adults that think they are 10 years old.
Regardless of age, you’ll find that cupcakes are a welcome addition to any Fourth of July party. I hope this week’s column inspires you to make your own Independence Day cupcakes so you’ll learn that preparing festival party treats is as simple as a cakewalk.
How do YOU decorate your Fourth of July cupcakes? If you send in your photos, I’ll be sure to update this post with your creative designs! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fourth of July Cupcakes
18 1/4 ounces white cake mix
1 cup water (or as indicated on cake mix directions)
1/3 cup oil (or as indicated on cake mix directions)
3 eggs (or as indicated on cake mix directions)
1/2 teaspoon blue food coloring
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1 (16 ounce) can vanilla frosting
red white and blue candy sprinkle
Prepare cake mix according to package directions. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups batter with blue food coloring. In another small bowl, combine red food coloring with 1 1/3 cups batter. Leave the remaining batter plain.
Fill paper-lined muffin tins with 2 tablespoons red batter, 2 tablespoons plain batter, and 2 tablespoons blue batter. Do not swirl batter i.e. leave it layered. Bake at 350º for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a cupcake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan and then remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with vanilla frosting and decorate with sprinkles.
Makes about 18 cupcakes
(Recipe and photo courtesy of A Recipe a Day)
Previous CakeWalk Columns:
The symbolic power of the cupcake (June 26, 2009)
Giving something back to your community by simply making a cupcake (June 19, 2009)
The secret delights of regional cupcakes (June 12, 2009)
The silver dragée strikes again! (June 5, 2009)
Chic cupcakes for any budget - take that recession! (May 29, 2009)
Top me off bartender…err, baker in this case (May 22, 2009)
The importance of a moist cake (May 15, 2009)
The Savory Cupcake Dilemma of 2009 (May 8, 2009)
Will the real buttercream icing please stand up? (May 1, 2009)
Mary Ann is the founder of the New York City chapter of CupcakeCamp NYC, an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and eat cupcakes in an open environment. She is also the founder of Puff and Choux, a blog dedicated to the pastry and dessert arts. You can contact her at email@example.com with any questions, ideas or just to chit chat. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MaryAPorch.