Cupcake facts for kids
Frosted chocolate cupcakes with sprinkles
|Alternative name(s)||Fairy cake, patty cake, cup cake|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Main ingredient(s)||Butter, sugar, eggs, flour; optionally frosting and other cake decorations|
A cupcake (also British English: fairy cake; Hiberno English: bun; Australian English: fairy cake or patty cake) is a small cake designed to serve one person, which may be baked in a small thin paper or aluminum cup. As with larger cakes, icing and other cake decorations, such as candy, may be applied.
The first mention of the cupcake can be traced as far back as 1796, when a recipe notation of "a cake to be baked in small cups" was written in American Cookery. The earliest documentation of the term cupcake was in "Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats" in 1828 in Eliza Leslie's Receipts cookbook.
In the early 19th century, there were two different uses for the name cup cake or cupcake. In previous centuries, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds and took their name from the cups they were baked in. This is the use of the name that has remained, and the name of "cupcake" is now given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. While English fairy cakes vary in size more than American cupcakes, they are traditionally smaller and are rarely topped with elaborate icing.
A standard cupcake uses the same basic ingredients as standard-sized cakes: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Nearly any recipe that is suitable for a layer cake can be used to bake cupcakes. The cake batter used for cupcakes may be flavored or have other ingredients stirred in, such as raisins, berries, nuts, or chocolate chips.
Because their small size is more efficient for heat conduction, cupcakes bake much faster than a normal layered cake.
Cupcakes may be topped with frosting or other cake decorations. They may be filled with frosting, fruit, or pastry cream. For bakers making a small number of filled cupcakes, this is usually accomplished by using a spoon or knife to scoop a small hole in the top of the cupcake. Another method is to just insert the pastry bag in the middle of the cupcake. In commercial bakeries, the filling may be injected using a syringe. Elaborately decorated cupcakes may be made for special occasions.
- A cake in a mug is a variant that gained popularity on many internet cooking forums. The technique uses a mug as its cooking vessel and can be done in a microwave oven. The recipe often takes fewer than five minutes to prepare. The cake rises by mixing vegetable oil into a mixture of flour and other ingredients - as the oil in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets in the mixture which allows the cake to quickly rise. This variant has become popularised in recent years by the presence of numerous videos on social media websites, each claiming to detail the fastest method to create the finished product.
- A cake in a jar is another way of making cupcakes. The baker uses a glass jar instead of muffin tins or cupcake liners.
- A butterfly cake is a variant of cupcake, also called fairy cake for its fairy-like "wings". They can be made from any flavor of cake. The top of the fairy cake is cut off or carved out with a spoon, and cut in half. Then, butter cream, whipped cream or other sweet filling (e.g. jam) is spread into the hole. Finally, the two cut halves are stuck into the butter cream to resemble butterfly wings. The wings of the cake are often decorated using icing to form various patterns.
- Elaborately frosted cupcakes may be made for special occasions such as baby showers, graduations, or holidays.
- A cake ball is an individual portion of cake, round like a chocolate truffle, that is coated in chocolate. These are typically formed from crumbled cake mixed with frosting, rather than being baked as a sphere.
- A gourmet cupcake is a somewhat recent variant of cupcake. Gourmet cupcakes are large and filled cupcakes, based around a variety of flavor themes, such as Tiramisu or Cappuccino. In recent years there has been an upcropping of stores that sell only gourmet cupcakes in metropolitan areas.
- As an alternative to a plate of individual cakes, some bakers place standard cupcakes into a pattern and frost them to create a large design, such as a basket of flowers or a turtle.
Pans and liners
Originally, cupcakes were baked in heavy pottery cups. Some bakers still use individual ramekins, small coffee mugs, large tea cups, or other small ovenproof pottery-type dishes for baking cupcakes.
Cupcakes are usually baked in muffin tins. These pans are most often made from metal, with or without a non-stick surface, and generally have six or twelve depressions or "cups". They may also be made from stoneware, silicone rubber, or other materials. A standard size cup is 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter and holds about 4 ounces (110 g), although pans for both miniature and jumbo size cupcakes exist. Specialty pans may offer many different sizes and shapes.
Individual patty cases, or cupcake liners, may be used in baking. These are typically round sheets of thin paper pressed into a round, fluted cup shape. Liners can facilitate the easy removal of the cupcake from the tin after baking, keep the cupcake more moist, and reduce the effort needed to clean the pan. The use of liners is also considered a more sanitary option when cupcakes are being passed from hand to hand. Like cupcake pans, several sizes of paper liners are available, from miniature to jumbo.
In the early 21st century, a trend for cupcake shops, which are specialized bakeries that sell little or nothing except cupcakes, developed in the United States, playing off of the sense of nostalgia evoked by the cakes. Crumbs Bake Shop, a publicly traded business runs the largest cupcake shop chain in the U.S. Based in Beverly Hills, California, Sprinkles Cupcakes is owned by Candace Nelson, who is also a star judge on the Food Network's Cupcake Wars.
Cupcakes are sometimes used to celebrate and illustrate specific events or themes.
- A periodic table of cupcakes is a collection of decorated cupcakes arranged in order to represent the elements of the periodic table. Cupcakes are sometimes flavoured and coloured and usually iced with the appropriate atomic number and chemical symbol. The first person to bake and ice a set of cupcakes organised and coloured to represent the elements of the periodic table was Ida Freund in 1907. Ida Freund was the first woman to hold a post as a university chemistry lecturer in the UK. She used the cupcakes as a tool to engage and amuse her female students at Cambridge University.
Based on her original idea, periodic table cupcakes have become a popular and fun way to celebrate chemistry at school bake sales and events aiming to promote public engagement with science.
Images for kids
Cupcake Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.