Updated: Jan 15
Swirled with frosting, covered in sprinkles, dipped in ganache, or drizzled with chocolate, cupcakes are a one-of-a-kind dessert that are whimsically versatile for any occasion. They have evolved far and wide from just chocolate and vanilla to fulfill almost all of our dessert dreams and fantasies. Luckily, today is National Cupcake Day, recognized annually on December 15 to commemorate these compact yet delectable sweets.
The History of Cupcakes & National Cupcake Day
While cupcakes were most certainly made and enjoyed during most of the 17th and 18th centuries, and are probably related to English Fairy Cakes, it wasn’t mentioned until about 1796. That’s when it appeared in a cookbook of American Cookery that was written by Amelia Simmons. However, it wasn’t referred to as a cup cake but as simply a “light cake to bake in small cups.” The original recipe for these small cakes called for half a pound of butter, half a pound of butter, two pounds of flour, one glass wine, nutmeg, cinnamon, emptins (a type of yeast) and rose water.
In 1828, Eliza Leslie wrote the book “Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats” that also contained a recipe for a small cake, but in that volume, she does indeed refer to it as a cupcake – which is believed to be the earliest written reference to that term.
All throughout the 19th century, the cupcake began to evolve. They started out as small cakes that contained ingredients that were measured out using a standard cup–hence, the name cup cake. The name signaled to the baker how to make the cake by using cups, much like the way a pound cake tells a baker how much each ingredient should weigh. Eventually, they would become known as 1-2-3-4 cakes because they contained four ingredients: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour and four eggs. These small yellow cakes were somewhat plain and were more like a lighter pound cake than a modern cupcake. However, these small cakes weren’t originally the size of cups, like modern cupcakes are today. No, they were a little larger. It wouldn’t be until a little bit later that they actually became cup-sized cakes.
Unfortunately, while the history of cupcakes seem to be well documented, the history of National Cupcake Day isn’t. It’s currently unknown when this holiday was created or who created it. Whomever it is, they should be thanked for giving us a day that gives us all an excuse to eat more cupcakes.
Want to try a great cupcake? Our feeling is any cupcake is a great cupcake, especially one that is homemade or baked in our stores. Here is a fantastic recipe from www.twopeasandtheirpod.com if you happen to like chocolate.
Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
For the chocolate ganache:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
For the chocolate buttercream frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips for decorating, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for one minute or until batter is smooth. Slowly pour in boiling water and mix until batter is smooth. Don’t over mix.
Fill liners about ½ full with batter. Bake cupcakes for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. In the bowl of stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until the frosting is smooth, about 3-4 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. Drizzle in the cooled melted chocolate and beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
To make the chocolate ganache, add the chocolate chips to a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat just until it bubbles around the edges or you can heat it in the microwave. Pour cream over the chocolate chips. Let the mixture stand for 30 seconds, then stir until the chocolate melts and a smooth ganache comes together, about 1-2 minutes.
Place the frosting in a pastry bag. Spoon the ganache onto the center of the cupcake. Spread to the edge of the cupcake. Let the cupcakes sit until the ganache firms up, about 5 minutes. Pipe chocolate buttercream frosting over the ganache. Decorate with mini chocolate chips, if desired.
Note-if you want to pipe a high frosting swirl on the cupcakes, you might need to double the frosting recipe. It just depends on how high you go with the frosting.
You can buy all of your ingredients at any Morton Williams. Stop in or order online for home delivery.