Who doesn’t love a good cupcake? With a higher frosting-to-cake ratio than most full-sized cakes, cupcakes are individual bites of delight. They look cute and, when prepared correctly, are a perfect sweet treat for any occasion.
But how do you make a perfect cupcake? Sure, they look charming and carefree, but as with any kind of baking, crafting an ideal cupcake requires precision and technique. We spoke to Lisa Mansour at NY Cake to get her tips for perfect cupcakes. From cupcake temperature and frosting to the best tools to use, she gave us all the inside know-how needed to produce professional-looking and -tasting cupcakes every time!
It makes sense that if you are trying to make a perfect cupcake, you might want to follow a good cupcake recipe. Sure, using a cake mix is fine and dandy, you may as well go all out. Try a number of different recipes until you find one that you love and trust. Make sure your ingredients are room temperature before you start and make sure you don’t overcook your cupcakes! All ovens are slightly different, so you will want to check to see if they are cooked a few minutes before the recipe says they will be.
Now that the cupcakes are out of the oven, it’s time to take a break and let them cool — a crucial step that must not be skipped, according to Mansour. “When they come out of the oven, they need to cool,” she says. “That is the key, because if you ice a cupcake when it’s hot, the frosting will slide right off and you’ll have mushy mess.” And nobody likes a kitchen mess of mushy and half-melted frosting, right?
When it comes to choosing the right frosting, Mansour offers a few options. “I think homemade is always better than store bought,” she says. “But if you don’t feel like making it, there’s nothing wrong with buying a container and making it your own. You can even flavor frosting from the store — add some lemon extract, add some rum extract and make it your own.” For her cupcakes, she loves to use a classic, old-fashioned American buttercream. “It is easy to make and easy to use, and it’s tasty as well!” she says.
“The key to making them look professional is having the right tools,” Mansour explains. “Cupcakes are very easy to make, but when you have the right tools, it makes everything look perfect.” And you don’t need to break the bank to get them “The basic tools for decorating cupcakes would be a pastry bag and a couple of different tips — a star tip, a round tip and maybe some specialty tips,” Mansour says. You can find all of these items at specialty baking store like NY Cake as well as online.
Always fold your pastry bag down before you fill it to avoid making a mess and to ensure you fill it evenly and easily. Try to fill the bag from the bottom up and make sure you don’t over fill it; if you do, the frosting will probably end up being squeezed out of the top as you pipe your cupcakes. Once the bag is about halfway filled, roll the bag back up and squeeze the frosting to the bottom, towards the tip, getting rid of any air bubbles as you do. Twist the extra, unfilled bag at the top to effectively close off the large open end before icing your cupcakes!
“I frost a cupcake using a pastry bag,” says Mansour. “I start on the outside edge and go towards the middle, just like an ice cream cone. You can also start in the middle and go the opposite way for a totally different effect.” Mansour swirls the frosting in a circular motion and applies even pressure to the piping bag to ensure the frosting comes out neatly and in a controlled manner.
Whether you pipe from one edge into the center or from the center outward, you can produce lovely results. Starting from the edge usually results in more frosting on the cupcake, so deciding which way to frost is really a matter of preference.
There are many different kinds of piping tips one can buy besides the basic round tip. Using the same technique with different tips will give you different results — a simple way to change things up if you feel so inclined! One of Mansour’s favorite tips is a ball tip, which she calls “quite fun to use.” “It gives a very ruffley effect,” she explains. “You squeeze and twist your hand back and forth and you’ll see the ruffles come right out — ruffles of frosting!” Mansour also uses a specialty rose tip for an simple but impressive effect. “All you have to do is squeeze, stop and pull away and you have a rose!”
Don’t stop at frosting your cupcakes. According to Mansour, there are countless ways you can jazz them up for truly fabulous results “The sky is the limit!” she says. “We have sprinkles — all different colors of the rainbow — pearls, dragees, jimmies, coarse sugar, super glitter, there’s so much you can do — and it’s all up to you to create your own style… I love buying the sprinkles all separate, and then I make my own blends.” Try making your own fun and unique blend of sprinkles!
Of course, after putting so much time an effort into making a batch of cupcakes, it would be a shame to ruin them en route to whatever event they are destined for. Never fear! Mansour has a solution: “When I have to travel with my cupcakes, I always put them in cupcake containers so they’re individually secure, because the last thing you want to do is get to your event and find they’re all smooshed. So definitely get a cupcake container, whether it’s a reusable cupcake carrier or a disposable one.” Even if you don’t plan to travel with your cupcakes, proper storage containers will help keep them looking and tasting fresh for longer.
Don’t forget to have fun when you are making and frosting your cupcakes. Mansour’s advice: “It’s all about having fun! Just go and be creative, do it with your family, do it with your friends, your children. It’s all about happiness — cake brings happiness to everyone, so just have fun!” You never know — with a bit of practice, your homemade cupcakes might even compete with the 101 best cupcakes in America!
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