A cupcake is a single-serving cake that can be decorated with frosting or other sweets. Most often, the term refers to a circular cake baked in a specialized pan or mold that has a series of interconnected cups for batter, but muffins and other single-serve cakes can also be called cupcakes. These individual servings are popular for birthday parties, because they eliminate arguments about who gets the largest slice of the cake and can also be made without ingredients that some people are allergic to.
The earliest mention of a cupcake comes from an American cookbook published in 1796. In its description, the recipe referred to a “light cake to bake in small cups,” but it wasn’t clear what type of batter was intended to be used. Later recipes used the term to describe any sort of light, single-serving cake that was shaped into cups. Today, nearly any cake recipe that is suitable for layer cakes can be converted to cupcakes by simply reducing the baking time and adding more cupcake-sized portions of the batter.
In addition to reducing cooking times, the size difference between cupcakes and other types of cakes allows for easier handling. This makes the treats ideal for children’s parties, where individuals can get their own cup-sized cake and enjoy a variety of flavors and decorations. Many cupcakes are even topped with chocolate ganache, buttercream, or other creamy frostings.
Muffins and cupcakes may seem quite similar in that they are both single-serving, handheld treats baked in a round pan and that both have a high sugar content. However, there are a few key differences between the two: flavors, texture and method of preparation.
While a standard cake is made using a mix of dry and wet ingredients, muffins are made by mixing the wet and dry ingredients separately. The difference in mixing methods is what makes the batters for both cupcakes and muffins different from one another.
In the case of cupcakes, bakers cream together the butter and sugar before adding the other wet and dry ingredients, resulting in a smooth, fluffy batter. In contrast, muffin recipes call for bakers to add the dry ingredients into the wet ones in stages and beat well between each addition.
When making a batch of cupcakes, the baker should ensure that all of the ingredients are at room temperature in order to achieve an even consistency. Also, it is important to measure accurately when combining wet and dry ingredients. Adding too much or too little of either can cause the batter to fail.
Adding a range of fillings to the cake batter, such as jam, chocolate or nuts, is an easy way for bakers to make their cupcakes stand out from others. It’s not uncommon for cupcakes to be topped with decorative frosting elements like flowers or plastic models as well, but it is important not to overdo the decoration in order to preserve the moist texture of the treat.