A cupcake is a small cake typically designed for a single serving. It is often topped with frosting and other cake decorations. Many bakeries offer a line of these miniaturized cakes along with their regular cake varieties. A cupcake can be flavored or topped with additional ingredients, such as fruits, nuts and candy.
Cupcakes can be a special treat for any occasion, from birthday parties to holiday celebrations. They can be decorated to reflect the theme of the event, or they may be arranged to serve as a centerpiece for a table.
There are many different types of cupcakes, such as chocolate or strawberry. Some are glazed with a sweet topping, while others have a creamy frosting. A cupcake can be shaped to look like a bunny or bear, and is sometimes stuffed with fruit, nuts or other fillings. Unlike traditional cake recipes, which are baked in layers and then frosted, cupcakes are baked directly in liners. These are specialized paper baking cups, which make removal from the pan much easier and help to keep the cupcakes moist. Various sizes of these liners are available, from miniature to jumbo.
Some bakers enjoy making and decorating cupcakes, which can add a beautiful presentation to any dessert tray. These can be piped with flowers, writing, leaves or other elements to create a unique design. Other bakers prefer to use sprinkles and plastic models to create fun shapes and designs. Because the cupcakes are so small, it is important to add decorations sparingly to avoid overcrowding them.
The term cupcake was originally used to describe a small cake baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins or molds. As cooking methods evolved and the use of volume measurements became common, the cakes were baked in muffin tins instead. The name remained, and cupcakes came to refer to any small cake. The term is also used to refer to a single portion of a larger cake that has been cut into circles and then filled.
While some cake recipes are not suitable for cupcakes, nearly any recipe can be made into a small, single-serving treat by making a few minor changes. For example, a sponge or tortes can be baked as a cupcake by reducing the oven temperature and adding extra liquid to the batter.
In addition to the reduction in temperature, other changes that can be made include using a smaller pan or increasing the batter quantity. Other important factors are the type of batter and the ingredients used. Cake flour is preferred for cupcakes, and butter is used as the fat source rather than vegetable oil. The batter should be light and fluffy. A hot liquid, such as coffee or hot water, is often added to the batter to enhance the flavor and encourage proper formation of the bubbles that give cakes their soft, spongy texture. Muffins are usually made with a more dense batter, which can be prepared using whole wheat flour and vegetable oil.