Tidbits Book Review – Cupcake Kit
Cupcake Kit – Elinor Klivans (Raincoast Books) ($26.95)
Score: 4.5/5 – This cookbook is packed with fantastic recipes, although one of them did need some tweaking.
Pros: I love how this cookbook is packaged. It comes in a small pretty box with a ribbon for a handle and contains a cookbook with 14 recipes, 250 decorative baking liners, a reusable pastry bag and assorted piping tips. The recipes are very easy to follow. The introduction lays out all the basics. Klivans offers up lots of useful information about pans, batters, frostings, baking, storing and transporting. She also gives very detailed tips on how to finish and decorate cupcakes so that they look fabulous.
The recipe section starts out with two basic cupcake recipes (one yellow and one chocolate) and two basic frosting recipes (cream cheese and chocolate). Klivans suggests that we try those first before moving on to the remaining 10 more advanced recipes. It’s good advice. I would have been disappointed if I had invested a lot of time and money in a cupcake recipe that, for whatever reason, didn’t work. Starting out with a simple recipe means that you can always toss it out and start again, if necessary. Because the basic mixes came together so easily and produced very good results, I had the confidence to try something more complicated. The liners that come with the cookbook are really cute. They come in fanciful designs in pink, green, yellow and orange, stripes or polka dots. The liners are also different sizes allowing you to make medium or mini cupcakes. The best part is that the package comes equipped with a reusable pastry bag and tips making decorating quick and easy. I’m not an avid baker, so having the accessories all together in one package really came in handy for me.
Cons: I must admit that I’m very picky when it comes to cupcakes. I’ve tried a few different recipes and, in most cases, the cupcakes are anything but moist and fluffy. I started easy with the basic yellow cupcake and chocolate frosting. True to the description, the batter came together very quickly. Although the cupcakes were very moist and light – the best I’ve had in a long time — I would have preferred them to be even moister. Perhaps I beat the batter too long, or maybe not long enough. Regardless, my technique might need some improvement. The other issue I encountered in making the icing. The 4 ounces of melted chocolate called for in the recipe didn’t produce the dark brown colour it was supposed to. My icing was light brown. On a second attempt, I added about a half cup of cocoa. Still, the frosting refused to turn that lovely dark brown colour.
Overall, this is a cookbook filled with doable cupcake recipes. The Hummingbird Swirl Cupcakes and the Spiderweb Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes worked out really well, too. Moist and slightly sweet, these cupcakes were a treat.
Hummingbird Swirls with Cream Cheese Frosting
With all the ingredients on hand, this recipe comes together very quickly. Feel free to alter the amount of icing sugar that goes into the frosting. I only used 1-1/2 cups, and it gave the frosting a nice subtle sweetness. Add more if you prefer a sweeter frosting. Grapeseed oil makes a nice alternative to canola or corn oil.
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola or corn oil
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mashed banana (1 banana)
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained
1/2 cup (2 oz) pecans, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups icing sugar
Method for Cupcakes
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the egg, egg yolk and sugar until thickened and lightened to a cream colour, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla until blended. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain.
4. Mix in the flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter is smooth.
5. Add the cinnamon, mashed banana, pineapple and pecans and blend into the batter. Fill each paper liner with about 1/3 cup of batter to about 1/4 inch from the top of the liner. Bake just until the top feels firm and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes from the pan onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
Method for Frosting
1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth and thoroughly blended, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.
2. Add the icing sugar, mixing until smooth, about 1 minute, then beat on medium speed for 1 minute to lighten it further.
3. Spoon the cream cheese frosting into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star pastry tip. Beginning at the edge of each cupcake, pipe swirls of frosting to cover the top. Pipe the frosting in a circular motion or back and forth in swirled lines over the top. Any pattern of swirls looks nice. Serve, or cover and refrigerate. The cupcakes can be covered and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Pick up your own kit at any Chapters and Indigo stores across Canada.