Cupcake method/recipe/mix recommenations?
June 18, 2008 9:42 PM   Subscribe

Recommend cheap, delicious/impressive, easy-in-large-batch (cup)cake recipes, methods, or mixes.

For our August wedding, my fiance and I will be making cupcakes in lieu of a wedding cake. We want to make 2-3 kinds for a total of 80-100 cupcakes. What's the best way to make impressive (as in, not obviously homemade) cupcakes for so many people without losing our minds? Answers may be in the form of 1) cake mix hacks 2) cake recipes or 3) kick ass (gourmet?) cake mix recommendations. Flavors don't so much matter but bonus points for some a bit off the beaten path.
posted by alpha_betty to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible is the cake bible, and contains recipes already scaled for large batches of various sizes. Everything is delicious and foolproof, if a bit fussy.
posted by HotToddy at 10:30 PM on June 18, 2008

The best cake mix hack I know is this, with accompanying story:

Last year we went to a birthday party for a small child whose mother is the ultimate status chick--fancy everything. She brought out an array of gorgeous cupcakes which I assumed came from a fancy bakery since they were in neat white boxes. They were delicious; I asked where they came from.

She told me she made them and the secret was thus: boxed cake mix. Sub butter for oil, sub milk for water. The icing was a standard buttercream, but she'd beaten in a bit of raspberry jam.

I later made these for my own kid's birthday, using lemon cake mix and adding a ton of fresh lemon juice and zest, and strawberry jam in the buttercream. Huge hit, everyone thought I was a genius.

Also, I used star shaped foil cupcake cups, which I found at my local grocery store. You just put them on a cookie sheet. It was awesome.
posted by padraigin at 10:53 PM on June 18, 2008 [15 favorites] [use apple cider vinegar].

it's a moosewood recipe i have been using for *years* as a cupcake fool-proof and passed on to more than one caf233; kitchen.
posted by tamarack at 11:03 PM on June 18, 2008

Rose Levy Beranbaum is amazing but the Cake Bible can be a little intimidating to a novice. The end result will be spectacular but that book gives me agita just thinking about the precision of the directions.

So my pick would be Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes. These are the most amazing cupcakes I have ever eaten and the recipe is really straightforward. If you don't like coconut, don't worry—the cupcake itself is a "plain" buttermilk cake that's extremely adaptable, so you can just use a different frosting.

The recipe as written is for 18 cupcakes and even though the author comes from a catering background, I always recommend doing doubled batches in two halves so you don't kill the leavening.

p.s. If you need to save yourself the headache of a scratch recipe (and I'm sure a wedding will lead to plenty of headaches!) then the Barefoot Contessa box mixes have won a zillion awards and I bet they'd be delicious. I'm starting to sound like a shill, but I'm just a fan!
posted by bcwinters at 5:40 AM on June 19, 2008

The Cake Bible is insanely precise -- so that when you, inevitably, add a bit too much flour, it won't have a major effect on the results. Her recipes are no harder than any other standard cake recipe -- easier, even, since you can't overbeat them. They are no harder or longer to make than a cake mix, and they are significantly better. You can use the checkerboard cake recipe and put chocolate in half of it if you want two flavours of cupcake with one recipe.

Her buttercreams are delicious, but a huge pain to make. You can then just add in different flavourings. She has a dozen or so suggestions -- raspberry, strawberry, apricot, mocha, hazelnut, etc -- and you can just split the icing recipe into two or three and add in different flavours to the same batch. You can add these same flavourings to any other buttercream recipe you like.

As a general rule, both cupcakes and buttercreams will freeze well, so you can make them at different times and put them together when it's convenient.
posted by jeather at 6:20 AM on June 19, 2008

This article from May 2008 Food & Wine looks like it might be helpful:
posted by maloon at 6:23 AM on June 19, 2008

Do you have a costco near you? Their cupcakes are awesome and very pretty. Plus, they come in flats of 20 which are easy to transport. If you called ahead to the bakery, they'd probably do something special with the icing- maybe sprinkles in your wedding colors.

With all the wedding stress, do you want to be baking, packaging and transporting 100 cupcakes?
posted by 26.2 at 7:01 AM on June 19, 2008

With all the wedding stress, do you want to be baking, packaging and transporting 100 cupcakes?

not really - and we're looking into bakeries that will do this on the cheap - but we're really looking for the aforementioned yummy-but-unusual quality (though i suppose we could make this in the frosting rather than the cake, which remains an option). if we found plain bakery cakes for cheap enough, a compromise could be made, but at this point we're still looking for things like padaraigin's suggestion or the contessa's coconut cupcakes to see if we and a few helpers could do it easily enough. i'll also be looking into the cake bible - thanks all (and keep 'em comin')!
posted by alpha_betty at 7:25 AM on June 19, 2008

I just made this Best Ever Chocolate Cake (based on a boxed mix) for Father's Day, and I think it would make fantastic cup cakes. I'd do a buttercream frosting on them though - I don't think the coolwhip frosting the recipe calls for would work well on cupcakes.
posted by geeky at 8:19 AM on June 19, 2008

I should add most cake mix recipes make about two dozen (24) cupcakes.
posted by geeky at 8:26 AM on June 19, 2008

Another option, if you want flavourings in the cake instead of the icing, is to make a white cake and use various extracts in it. Almond, lemon, mint, orange, coconut, etc.
posted by jeather at 8:33 AM on June 19, 2008

we're really looking for the aforementioned yummy-but-unusual quality

Oh hey what's up, guess what I just made a little while ago.

Bacon Cupcakes

I started with the recipe for Amy Sedaris's vanilla cupcakes, and the recipe for Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World's peanut-butter frosting, but I made a number of changes. I guess the most noticeable change was the addition of two pounds of bacon. The recipe turned out shockingly well! Very strong bacon flavor, which is good, as I was worried the peanut butter in the frosting would overpower it. But nope, the bacon and honey and peanut flavors blended beautifully. A number of my friends tried the cupcakes with skeptical looks on their faces, expecting little more than a stupid culinary novelty act, and the response I got, again and again, was, "Wait... these are, like, genuinely great."

The recipe is as follows:


1. Mince 2 pounds bacon (go with something smokey; I used an applewood-smoked bacon).

2. Fry that in a big-ass skillet until it's as brown and crisp as you can get it before it burns.

3. Drain the bacon-bits using a sieve or something, but save the grease in a bowl. Set the grease aside to cool, and pat the bacon dry on some paper towels. Divide the bacon bits into two equal piles.

Now, the cupcakes:

1.25 sticks (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter
2 Tbsp bacon-grease
1.25 cups honey
0.25 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2.5 tsp baking powder
0.25 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1.25 cups milk

4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

5. Mix butter and bacon grease with an electric mixer until it's smooth. Keep beating as you add honey, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt, flour, and milk, all in that order.

6. Add half your bacon bits to the batter.

7. Pour into two muffin tins of twelve each, lined with baking cups. The batter should come about 2/3 way up the side of the tin, and there should be enough for 24 cupcakes total.

8. Sprinkle the rest of your bacon-bits on top of the cupcakes, then press down on them a smidge, so that bacon is lodged in the top of each cup's batter.

9. Bake for twenty minutes, or until golden-brown. Remember to turn them, halfway through the baking (my oven, like most, gives different temperatures in the front and back).

While those are baking, you can make the frosting:

0.5 cup bacon-grease
4 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
2.5 cups confectioner's sugar
3 Tbsp milk

10. Clean out the mixing bowl you were just using, and use it and your mixer to cream together the butter and bacon grease.

11. While the mixer's running, add the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla. Add the confectioner's sugar, and continue beating (the mixture will stiffen up). Add the milk as the mixer runs, and the frosting should become pliable and smooth again.

12. After the cupcakes are done baking, let them cool for ten minutes or so, then turn them out of the pans. When they're reasonably cool, frost them.

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:43 AM on June 19, 2008 [7 favorites]

The Cupcake Project is a blog that's all about trying a million types of cupcakes for use in a wedding. Stef, who writes it, is very friendly, and I bet if you email her asking for advice, she would be happy to give helpful suggestions on managing cupcakes in a wedding situation.
posted by aubilenon at 9:33 AM on June 19, 2008

Not a recipe, but a presentation suggestion: Depending on how formal your wedding is, every large party I host, I set up a cupcake "bar" and it seems to be the biggest hit.

A beautifully arranged stack of unfrosted cupcakes of various flavors, typically marked (they sell cupcake stands cheap at Bed, Bath & beyond and similar). Bowls full of a large variety of frosting types and other things that are good as toppings (marshmallow fluff, powdered sugar, creme fraiche) with butter knives or rubber spatulas. And then tiny bowls filled with sprinkles/jimmies, edible decor, candy flowers, mini marshmallows, etc. I often have a dessert syrup or writing frosting as well.

I typically put a camera there so people can document the cupcakes they made as well. You can dress it up with the types of dishware you serve it in and by the variety and type of toppings by including some more exotic things.

Easier to transport by about a million. Much less of a headache for you prepwise. It's an activity, not just a dessert. And people get precisely the dessert they want.
posted by Gucky at 9:41 AM on June 19, 2008 [6 favorites]

Upate: I will be using the cheat padraigin gives above for eternity, but upon researching vendors for buying cupcakes, my fiance and I have decided to go with either Costco ($15.99/20 cupcakes) or Wal-Mart ($5.00/dozen) for our wedding cakes. Thanks to everyone for replies! You can bet I'll be using these suggestions for birthday parties and the like.
posted by alpha_betty at 7:00 AM on July 4, 2008

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