Friday, July 31, 2009


The, it's not a new sitcom! Buttercream is a broad term for a type of frosting. It is usually a fat (butter, margarine or shortening) mixed with powdered sugar and a flavoring. The type of fat used depends on the environmental stability you need - a hot afternoon with pure butter would not be pretty. Some recipes call for non-fat milk solids and/or small amounts of egg whites. Buttercreams made with shortening can withstand warmer temperatures much better than those made only with butter.

Meringue buttercreams - a mixture of water and sugar are heated to form a syrup which is poured over egg whites and beaten to form a meringue The most common types are Swiss Meringue and Italian Meringue. French buttercream uses egg yolks instead of egg whites.

Decorator's buttercream - the sweetest and most firm of the buttercreams. Also called Rose Paste, it can be used as an icing and to create roses and other decorations.

There are numerous buttercream recipes and every baker has to experiment to find a recipe that works for your specific environment. What I use at Lake Tahoe would not be a good fit for my family in Mississippi. Google buttercream recipes and find the one that is right for you!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Seven-Minute Icing

Every southern recipe box contains a seven-minute icing recipe. Mine is on a 4 x 6 recipe card. It is bent with torn edges...and has egg white stains all over it. I should copy it onto a new recipe card, but there is something comforting about the stains and torn edges.

Seven-minute icing is like spreadable divinity candy with a marshmallow consistency. I remember it being used most often for coconut cakes, devil's food cupcakes, and as an alternative to cream cheese icing for red velvet cakes. This icing is only stable for about 24 hours or so and would not be a good choice if you need an icing to last for several days; it will start to separate and the egg whites will deflate. For best results, use it the same day it is made. Your cake or cupcakes must also be completely cooled. If not, the egg whites will deflate and the icing will "melt" on the warm cake.

Humidity alert - southern cooks will already know this. This icing is not a good choice to make on humid days. The increased humidity prevents the egg whites from getting firm and you may end up with a bowl of white soup.

Seven-Minute Icing

2 cups white sugar
3 egg whites
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl on top of a double boiler, combine the sugar, egg whites, corn syrup, water and vanilla. Place over boiling water and beat with an electric mixer on high speed for 7 minutes, or until frosting is completely cool and forms peaks when beaters are raised. Remove from heat. Use immediately to frost cooled cupcakes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Ganache is both a frosting and a glaze. If used while still warm, it makes a shiny glaze on top of cupcakes. If cooled to room temperature, it becomes a spreadable frosting. Refrigerated ganache can be formed into truffles. The typical ganache is made by heating heavy cream and pouring it over chopped chocolate (semi-sweet or bittersweet). Flavorings or liqueurs can also be added.

To make a glaze: use one part cream to three parts chocolate

To make a filling: use one part cream to one part chocolate

To make truffles: use one part cream to two parts chocolate

The taste and quality of a ganache is dependent on the quality of the chocolate you use. Chocolate quality varies widely. A chocolate with a high content of cocoa butter will produce a ganache that is more firm that one with a lower cocoa butter content. A chocolate with a velvety smooth texture will produce a smooth ganache.

Ganache (glaze)

8 ounces chocolate – chopped
¾ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon flavoring or liqueur

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream and butter over medium heat. Bring to just a boil and pour over chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk and add flavorings if desired.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Frosting vs. Icing

Is there any difference between frosting and icing? Are they interchangeable terms? The answer is that they mean the exact same thing. The term "frosting" is used more often in the United States and "icing" is used more often other countries. This is probably because confectioners or powdered sugar is also known as "icing sugar."

The postings for this week will explore the most commonly used frostings/icings: how they are made and for what types of cakes they are best suited. I will include recipes!

  • Ganache

  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • Italian Buttercream

  • French Buttercream

  • Royal Icing

  • Decorator's Buttercream

  • American Buttercream

  • Seven-Minute Icing

  • Cream Cheese Frosting

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Recipe of the Week - High Altitude Yellow Cake

Week 3

This week's recipe is a follow-up to the high altitude post from two days ago. It is a basic recipe for 5000 feet with adjustments for up to 10,000 feet.

High Altitude Yellow Cake
(above 10,000 ft. decrease baking powder to 1 1/8 tsp.)

3 c. sifted cake flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs - refrigerator temperature
1 c. shortening - room temperature
1 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. milk - refrigerator temperature
2 tsp. vanilla

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add shortening, milk, vanilla & eggs. Beat for 30 seconds on low speed - scraping bowl
frequently. Beat 7 1/2 minutes on high speed.
Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full.

Bake 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool completely.
Makes 36 cupcakes.

Friday, July 24, 2009

High Altitude Cupcakes

I tried a new cupcake recipe yesterday, which always comes with a little anxiety at my Lake Tahoe altitude of 6900 ft. About halfway through the baking process I started to get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach...which was followed by the actual sinking of the centers of the cupcakes. The good news is that the cupcakes tasted really good - despite the craters. Not even a ton of frosting could fill up those sinkholes so I ate the batter and threw the cupcakes away.

High altitude baking has many challenges and there are many resources available online. Here is the one I use the most:

High Altitude Baking: 200 Delicious Recipes & Tips for Perfect High Altitude Cookies, Cakes, Breads & More
Patricia Kendall - Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Is a Gourmet Cupcake?

Everywhere you look bakeries are advertising gourmet cupcakes...but trying to locate an exact definition of the gourmet cupcake can be difficult. Wikipedia defines gourmet as a cultural ideal associated with fine food, characterized by high-quality ingredients with a special presentation. For cupcakes, this means making the batter from scratch in small batches, using the most decadent ingredients available. Presentation usually involves special liners or wrappers and being exquisitely decorated.

Since there is no standard definition, can we really tell a gourmet cupcake from a regular cupcake just by looking at it?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Recipe of the Week - Buttermilk White Cupcakes

Week 2

I didn't grow up in a family that embraced change. It was the South, after all. Our cupcakes were chocolate, yellow, and maybe strawberry or red velvet (on special occasions).

Exotic cupcake flavors do entice the tastebuds, but sometimes plain old white cupcakes satisfy best. I have tried numerous white cake recipes and most of them are dry and not very tasty. However, the featured recipe this week does not disappoint.

Buttermilk White CupCakes

4 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup shortening
2 tsp vanilla

Let egg whites stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake tins with liners.

In large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add buttermilk, shortening, and vanilla; beat on low until combined. Beat on medium 2 minutes more, scraping bowl. Add egg whites; beat 2 more minutes.

Spread in pans. Bake 25-30 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched and wooden pick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How to Frost a Red Velvet Cupcake

As you have read in previous posts, I am from Mississippi. If you go to any southern home on a holiday, you will likely find a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. The only acceptable alternative would be a seven-minute frosting, which is actually just spreadable Divinity candy.

I had heard rumors about a type of frosting for red velvet cake made from boiled milk and flour (a butter roux) so I decided to make a batch last weekend...and I could not throw it out fast enough. What are these people thinking?? The butter roux was not sweet and left a "furry" feeling on my teeth - but mostly it was just not sweet. Why eat icing if you aren't going to raise your blood sugar to dangerous levels?

The red velvet cupcake with cream cheese icing is a southern tradition...please respect it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cupcake Tree

Always on the lookout for interesting ways to display cupcakes, I recently came across these cardboard tiered displays from Cupcake Tree. They are available in two sizes: regular (holds 150-300 cupcakes) and mini (holds up to 100 cupcakes). Choose round or square!

Cupcake Tree displays can be decorated in a variety of ways. You can glue leaves, ribbon, silk flowers, candy, crayons or garland to the edges. You can add chocolates, seashells, flowers, candy or fruit between the tiers. The Cupcake Tree web site offers creative decorating ideas and photos!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Cupcake Inspiration

I am constantly scouring bookstores for new cupcake inspiration - recipes, ways to display the mighty cupcake, and decorations. Decorations are my passion and I like to experiment with all types of media - especially sugar flowers. I have absolutely no artistic ability but I can create gum paste copies from pictures. Thomas Edison said,"If I try 10,000 times to make something and it doesn't work, I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways not to make it." This accurately describes my sugar flower experiences.

My favorite sources of cupcake inspiration:

Martha Stewart's Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone's Favorite Treat
Martha Stewart Living

125 Best Cupcake Recipes
Julie Hasso

Elinor Klivans

The Artful Cupcake: Baking & Decorating Delicious Indulgences
Marcianne Miller

Crazy About Cupcakes
Krystina Castella

Hello Cupcake! Irresistably Playful Creations Anyone Can Make
Alan Richardson & Karen Tack

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recipe of the Week - Apple Spice Cupcakes

Week 1

Today marks the end of the first week of this blog! To celebrate, a new feature is being added: the Recipe of the Week. Each week I will post a cupcake recipe and give some history behind it.

I was raised in Mississippi and southern recipes are passed down unchanged for generations. Maybe we are stubborn or lazy and don't want to change what has always been. Sometimes we get brave and tweak the recipes, but the truth is that most recipes are great just the way they are. Life in the South centers around food and the memory of dessert after Sunday dinner (that's lunch to anyone not raised in the South) is still embedded in my taste buds. My grandmother would bake a cake on Saturday afternoon and we had to walk past the display on the sideboard until after church on Sunday, when everyone gathered for the biggest meal of the week. Sneaking a taste of icing would have brought down the wrath of the gods! Pure torture!

This week's recipe comes from a 3 x 5 index card found inside one of my mother's old recipe books. It was passed down from my grandmother and though she is no longer with us, nothing would make her happier than to know I have shared it.

Apple Spice Cupcakes with Seven-Minute Icing

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter - room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
4 eggs - room temperature
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (you can add some grated apple if you dare!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare your cupcake pan with liners. Combine flour, baking soda, salt & spices.

With an electric mixer, cream butter & both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Add applesauce and then flour mixture, beating until just combined. Fill cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake approximately 20 minutes, but check frequently after 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Seven-Minute Icing

2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

In a large bowl over a saucepan filled with 2 inches of simmering water, combine the egg whites, sugar, 5 tablespoons water, cream of tartar, and corn syrup. Whip with a hand-held electric mixer for seven minutes or until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. Stir in the vanilla.

Frost cooled cupcakes and serve the same day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cupcake Bouquets

Send a edible bouquet today...and I don't mean flowers! Cupcake bouquets are an outside-the-box idea for wedding and party centerpieces. Order from your local bakery or try to make your own. There are numerous online sites and YouTube videos demonstrating how to do-it-yourself.
I made this one using a Wilton cupcake stand and a flower pot with silk ivy and maple leaves.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cupcake Wrappers

Cupcake wrappers can turn an ordinary cupcake into a work of art! They can be used for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays or any special occasion. An online search will take you to the cupcake wrapper universe...but here are a few of my favorite sites.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cupcake Martini

Martini glasses are a great way to serve a cupcake for a special occasion. Decorate the glasses with fresh or silk flowers and create a cupcake topper with piped chocolate.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cupcake Stands

How did I become involved with cupcakes? After attending a few weddings last year, I began to take notice of how boring cake stands seemed to be. I live at Lake Tahoe and destination weddings are common, with many brides choosing non-traditional venues. I wanted to offer brides a variety of traditional and non-traditional cake stands.

At about this same time, a friend of mine who makes beautiful multi-tiered wedding cakes asked me to make cupcakes for an upcoming wedding. How would I display these cupcakes? I started doing research on cupcake stands and found that the options consisted of cardboard or acrylic...your basic round and square shapes. This must change!

I started making custom cake stands and also collecting unusual plant stands to display my cupcakes...and thanks to a few local wedding planners and florists, I soon had a business renting cake stands. Here are a few of my most popular ones!

Welcome to Carpe Cupcakes!

Welcome to the first post of Carpe Cupcakes! I love all things cupcake and will try my best to provide interesting & informative information. If you would like to share pictures and cupcake adventures, please email me at