Cupcakes — Serious Whimsy

February 20, 2011

For me, the cinema is not a slice of life, but a piece of cake.
~Alfred Hitchcock

May seem decidedly banal to some, but these winsome morsels have gained a new found presence in the food chain.

An invention of the early 19th century, cupcakes evolved as a kitchen convenience—a quicker, dainty cake. The earliest written reference to the term “cupcake” was in Eliza Leslie’s 1828 cookbook Receipts. Two theories have emerged behind the word. One was that they were cakes simply cooked in cups, and the other referred to a cake where the ingredients were measured by cups. Before then, cake baking ingredients had traditionally been weighed.

In recent years, cupcakes have become much the culinary pop icon with bakeries, shops, stands, mobile vendors, cookbooks, blogs, and magazines devoted solely to these sweet delicacies. Classic chocolate and vanilla have given way to more hip, theatrical versions such as strawberry champagne, tiramisu with marscapone, meringue buttercream and pinot noir chocolate.

A more traditional, but far from timid, cupcake follows.


3 C all purpose flour
2 C granulated white sugar
3 t baking powder
1/2 t salt

1 C unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
2 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 t pure vanilla extract

1 C whole plain yogurt

Line two muffin tins (24 muffin cups) with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350 F

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat to combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter, egg, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and yogurt. Beat the wet and dry ingredients together at medium speed until the batter is smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, assuring that he flour is fully incorporated.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake until pale gold, about 20-25 minutes, and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cupcakes have completely cooled, frost with icing.

Chocolate Icing

8 ozs high quality unsweetened chocolate (70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
1 1/3 C unsalted butter, room temperature
2 2/3 C confectioners (powdered) sugar, sifted
1 t pure vanilla extract

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy, about 2 -3 minutes.