For some reason, baking relaxes me. It may be because it reminds me of weekends at my great grandma’s house at Wonder Lake and the memories we made over her teaching me how to truly sift flour and round those butter cookies into spheres of perfection. It may be because sometimes making a perfect batch of brownies is the only thing I don’t mess up that day. Or it may be because well, let’s face it, sometimes sweets are the only thing that can make a girl happy. Whatever it is, baking brings a smile to my face…especially baking cupcakes.
Sometimes intricate baking is a joy, and other times it’s a royal pain. Every once in a while (or for some of us, often), simple baking is the way to go. We all have those days when the cookie can’t make it to your mouth fast enough! I’m learning how to master baking cupcakes that are fun and very personal, but don’t take all the measuring and recipe following. One of the books that has been helping me learn this lesson is Hello, Cupcake! My brother gifted this to me one Christmas. He got it from his favorite store, Urban Outfitters (who knew they sold awesome cookbooks, right?!) and it was quite a thoughtful gift for his baking sister, moi.
I love Hello Cupcake because it teaches you how to cheat. In the back of the book, the authors provide their readers with simple recipes to follow to make cupcake batter. They even include recipes that merely require opening a box of baking mix and using buttermilk in place of water to make the end result more mouthwatering. Sometimes a girl just wants perfect presentation and a visual impression from her cupcakes that will knock your socks off. We busy ladies don’t always have time to slave over baking AND decorating.
I also have some favorite gourmet mixes that I can recommend to you with confidence, if you’re in the market for some delicious cupcakes any time in the near future. Williams-Sonoma makes a great brand called Sprinkles, and an LA-based cupcake shop called Famous Cupcakes has their own line of yummy mixes. They may be a tad pricier than your typical Betty Crocker, but I guarantee they’re worth it, especially because some of them even come with cute baking cups and/or the mixes to make a great frosting to pair with your delectable treats!
One of my favorite creations from Hello Cupcake to date is a batch of sunflower cupcakes I recreated for a tea party my dear friends Kelly and Karla were hosting (please excuse the picture quality, it was taken on my Blackberry). At first, I was reluctant to try what looked like a very intricate design on a cupcake, but after some practice I really got going. Another trick the authors of Hello Cupcake have helped me discover is that you don’t always need expensive baking tools to make your cupcakes works of art. To create the petal detail on these babies, all I had to do was load my yellow frosting into a Ziploc bag and cut the corner a certain way. I love making something out of nothing (see my profile, please!), so this Ziploc trick really caught my eye.
Even if baking isn’t your thing, you’re sure to impress your guests at any party with a cutesy cupcake dessert. You can try one of my favorite shortcuts and throw about a half cup of peanut butter in vanilla cake mix batter and stir another half cup into a container of pre-made chocolate frosting to create your own peanut butter chocolate cupcakes. Just throw a few Reese’s peanut butter chips on the top and you’re good to go! Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out for the second edition of Hello, Cupcake entitled What’s New, Cupcake? It’s already on my Christmas list.