Here are my answers to some frequently asked cupcake questions. Feel free to post general questions/comments that don’t pertain to a particular recipe and I will answer them as soon as I can! More answers coming soon…
Q. Where can I find those neat baking cups you use?
A. I have purchased them from here, where they are inexpensive, but the shipping is high. For UK folks, a helpful reader pointed out this site which has the regular size and the mini size!
I should mention, if a little late, that the first time I saw these types of cups was at Chubby Hubby, where he used them as containers for little banana cakes. I can’t locate the post, though :(
Q. How does one eat cupcake from these cupcake papers?
A. I will admit it. The papers, while nice to look at, are difficult to eat out of. I recommend three ways of handling it…
1. Clip the rolled up part of the paper ever so slightly before filling. This will give folks a place to easily tear the paper off the cupcake.
2. If you gingerly grab on the rolled up part at either side of a fold and tug the paper will start to come apart. If you continue this all the way around the cupcake you will actually end up with a little plate!
3.Use a spoon or fork to eat your cupcake.
Q. Where do you get your food coloring? Can I use regular, grocery store food coloring if I can’t find the gel food coloring?
A. The gel food coloring is thicker and more potent, so you need less to get the same effect as with the more liquidy stuff you find in the grocery store. This is mostly important with frostings as the liquid food coloring can mess with the consistency especially if you are trying to get a very vibrant color. Gel is better for this purpose.
When adding food coloring to batter, it’s less of an issue. However, if you are adding a lot of coloring, adjust the amount of liquid in the recipe. For example, if you add a tablespoon of liquid food coloring to a red velvet recipe, cut back on a tablespoon of the buttermilk.
I get my gel food coloring at a local cake supply store, Sugar N Spice. I use Americolor brand and there are plenty of online shops that sell it. Here is just one, Kerekes.
Q. How do you get those cool swirls on your cupcakes? My tips seem too small which ones are you using?
A. Using a big, plain or star tip is key to getting a nice looking swirl. I use Kaiser brand tips as they are readily available at a local grocery store, Andronico’s. I have also found some online stores that sell Kaiser tips, but the selection seems limited. Here is a starter set that includes a filling tip, which is something I need…
Find a list of basic equipment here.
Q. Can I make these regular cupcakes mini sized or the mini cupcakes regular sized?
A. Almost all the recipes I have will work in either size. The important thing to note is the baking time. On average, mini cupcakes take 12-15 minutes to bake and regular cupcakes take 22-25 minutes to bake.
Q. How long to jumbo cupcakes take to bake? Where can I get jumbo cupcake papers?
A. I normally don’t bake ‘jumbo’ cupcakes. I am a firm believer that cupcakes should look cute and they are cuter the smaller they are.
Q. Do cupcakes need to be refrigerated? Can they be frozen? How are they best stored?
A. I find that room temperature; air-tight storage retains the most flavor, texture, and moisture. However there are some frostings and fillings that I believe should be refrigerated if cupcakes are stored for more than a few hours – mostly for safety reasons. So, if you are storing cupcakes overnight and they are frosted with cream cheese or filled with whipped cream, then store them in tupperware, in a cake box wrapped in plastic wrap, or in a cupcake container wrapped in plastic wrap.
I have frozen unfrosted cupcakes before when I simply had too much to do too close to an event and needed to get the cupcakes baked off the weekend before. I have had success with cakes, but ultimately I believe that freezing detracts from the texture and flavor of the cupcake. So, I try to not do it. If you must, double wrap unfrosted cupcakes and place in an airtight container or freezer bag and freeze but for not more than a week. To defrost, place the wrapped cupcakes and let defrost wrapped for 6-8 hours, and then unwrap.
Q. How much does a stick of butter weigh?
A. 110 grams give or take a few. Here is a good resource for weights of a cup of various ingredients.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional baker or pastry chef. I have, however, been baking fairly consistently since I was 13. I have taken a week long pastry class at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (which was awesome, by the way) and some consumer classes at the California Culinary Academy. I went to school for chemical engineering, but am now a software quality engineer. The schooling influences my approach to baking (methodical) and the software experience helped with adding a third column to the blogger template (why no three-column templates, blogger?). The whole digital food photography thing is a new world for me and I am enjoying the challenge immensely.
To sum it up - I speak from experience only. I try not to answer questions that I don't have answers for, but will do some googling and forward references to folks if I haven't figured out the problem in the past.