A Love Affair With Cupcakes

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Cupcakes are one of the few foods with a universal appeal.  They might often be thought of as feminine, but alas, they taste too good to be forsaken by the male species. In fact, so irresistible are they that they were banned in New York schools to reduce obesity rates!

Cupcakes were first made in the 19th century, and their form was a result of function rather than fashion—people started making cakes in teacups so that they would cook faster in hearth ovens.  Their name came about because the ingredients were conveniently measured in cups rather than weighed, making them a revolutionary time-saving confection. Perhaps it was the case that somewhere along the way, people started realizing how cute these little cakes were, paving the way for the modern world’s obsession with them.

These petite treats add an element of cuteness, novelty, or class to every occasion, depending on how the baker dresses them up. In any case, they are quite simply a sugar-fuelled party designed to keep your mouth happy.

With the escalating number of businesses dedicated to cupcakes popping up everywhere, you can now have your (cup)cake, and eat it too. That’s not bad at all, considering how it is close to impossible to look at a little cake encased in a coloured paper liner, iced with a few swirls of fluffy frosting and sprinkles, and not be compelled to eat it. It doesn’t help that they are so versatile, which accounts for their ubiquitous presence in our lives these days.

And then there’s the seemingly endless number of flavours that cupcakes come in. If vanilla, chocolate or red velvet seem too predictable, there’s always salted caramel! Green tea and lemon! Earl grey and lavender! Of course, everyone is allowed a little creative license when it comes to creating new flavor combinations, but here are some cupcakes produced by bakers who may have taken things a little too far…

  • Okra cupcakes: we love them fried with chili and served with rice, but okra on a cupcake? We’re not sure why anyone thought these would be a good idea!
  • Chocolate curry cupcakes: The folks at Bloomingfoods Market and Deli in the States put together this recipe on their website for curious viewers to try. Now that’s one we might never want to make!
  • Mango chili cupcakes: The last time anyone got a shock from seeing chili in their dessert was when chili-flavoured chocolate was invented. Now that we’re finally accustomed to the strangeness of that, there’s something else we’ve got to try to get used to all over again…
  • Garlic cupcakes: We don’t recommend making these, unless you have some vampires to scare away.

If all this talk about cupcakes has gotten you craving for some, the good news is that they don’t require much skill to whip up! To guarantee maximum fluffiness in your final products, be careful not to over-mix your batter and make sure your ingredients are at room temperature when you use them.

If you are in need of a cupcake recipe, try this one for chocolate peanut butter cupcakes. Fudgy, crumbly and soft, iced with a decadent, creamy peanut butter frosting—this one is definitely a crowd pleaser that you can give to all your classmates (and maybe even your tutors) the next day!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Recipe courtesy of Barefoot Contessa, via Foodnetwork.com–Makes 16 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the icing:

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Apply liberally onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy!