Although I’m known mainly for my cookies, I also dabble in cupcakes from time to time. My youngest son actually much prefers them to the over saturation of cookies in our house... Cookier kid problems! When I originally started my business, I offered cupcakes regularly as well. But as the cookie side exploded, I shifted my focus mainly to them and now do cupcakes mostly just for holidays. And if you’re wondering if I do cakes, the answer is no. Just no. Give me all the royal icing in the world, just don’t ask me to bake you cake!
And I’ll say it right now... I’m no stranger to boxed mixes for cupcakes when it comes to my own cupcakes for my family. They surely don’t care and sometimes you simply don’t have the time or desire to haul out every single ingredient needed. Take no shame friends! Betty Crocker knows.
Giving a boxed mix that baked from scratch taste isn’t hard either, here’s what you do: swap out the water for milk, add an extra egg for added moisture and toss in some ready to serve pudding. You know those snack ones you pack in your kids lunch? Yeah, those. Use one individual container, either chocolate or vanilla depending on your flavour and it adds even more moisture and density to your cupcakes. No need to adjust the baking temperature or time. Best part is that your annoyingly perfect neighbour, "Susan" who bakes everything from scratch will never know!
Either way you do it, the main thing for cupcakes is always what you put on top (well, for me at least). Luckily your 4 year old gives zero care about your piping technique, your Facebook friends might do a double take though when you post a picture of your homemade birthday treats. If you are looking for that extra wow, here’s where I can help. I’m by no means a pro when it comes to every single icing recipe out there, but I can tell you what has worked for me!
Any time I share photos of my cupcakes, I get questions about the icing I use. I like to stick with a traditional American style buttercream. It’s always a hit and the best for decorating with as it holds its form perfectly on the cupcake by crusting over just slightly, but still remaining super soft to the bite. And if you just like adding a layer of the store bought icing, again totally cool. But you’ll want to stop reading here...
Traditional Buttercream recipe:
1 cup of unsalted butter, room temp
4 - 4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1-2 tsp of flavouring
1-2 tbsp of milk or whipping cream
Pinch of salt
-In your stand mixer, run your butter through first with the paddle attachment.
-Add in all of your powdered sugar, mixing on low to start and increasing the speed once combined and scraping the edges when needed. The amount of powdered sugar you use is dependant on your decorating use, some designs may require a stiffer icing such as florals, which in that case you want to use that half a cup more.
-Pour in your flavouring and milk / whipping cream (whichever is your preference or what you have on hand), and continue mixing until you can increase the speed.
-Add in a pinch of salt (and colouring if you are doing the entire batch) and mix on high, scraping the sides when needed for 3-4 minutes.
This recipe doubles perfectly in a standard 5 quart mixer!
Now if your aren’t into anything super decorative for your cupcakes and want a buttercream that is going to hold its form, yet stay soft and NOT crust over on the outside - this next recipe is for you. It’s perfect for piping your basic swirls and rosettes, and has a really nice end consistency. It’s a bit more work than the traditional buttercream above but worth it. So put on your fancy pants and read on!
Soft Buttercream recipe:
1.5 cups of unsalted butter, room temp
1.5 cups of high ratio solid vegetable shortening, room temp
6 cups of powdered sugar
6 tbsp of whipping cream
2 tsp of flavouring
1/4 tsp of salt
-In your stand mixer, combine the butter and vegetable shortening with a paddle attachment. Once combined, whip on a medium speed for 3 minutes scraping the edges when needed.
-Add in all of the powdered sugar and salt at once. Once combined, whip for another 3 minutes.
-Pour in your whipping cream and flavouring, and whip for another 5 minutes.
Your mixture will gain volume the more you whip it which is what gives it that light and fluffy texture!
When you’re ready to decorating your cupcakes (the fun part), you’ll want piping bags and whatever decorating tip your design requires. There are many tip charts online to use as a resource when deciding which one to use.
I like to add a little extra to my cupcakes when I can. Maybe some fun sprinkles or candies to go with the theme. If you're a sprinkle junkie like myself, there are A LOT of options. This is the part where you can really give your cupcakes that unique visual touch. One of my favourite things to do is to add a small simply decorated sugar cookie as a topper (go figure, right?). When adding a cookie topper, you want to ensure it is no larger than 1.5 - 2 inches so that it will not be too heavy and stay on the icing.
Good luck in your cupcake decorating adventures! Remember that at the end of the day, it’s a cupcake and cupcakes make people happy no matter how perfect or deliciously imperfect they are!
Corianne Froese is the owner and operator of Corianne's Custom Cookies in Chestermere AB, Canada. When life as a wife and mom of two young boys allows, she loves to create and share her love of decorated cookies with others. You can follow her on Instagram and Facebook for her most up to date work!