We bake at our house all summer because our whole family loves cupcakes—and so do all the various aunts, uncles, and cousins who invariably show up for a night or two during July and August. We usually whip up a basic recipe for vanilla cupcakes, and then move on to the icing and the decorations!
I like to make my own frosting, and when family visits I encourage all our guests to grab a cupcake, decorate it, and join the fun. However, one young guest last weekend was visibly perplexed when he realized our frosting didn’t come out of a can. Eventually, he got into the spirit of the activity, fell in love with our homemade frosting, and his cupcake creations were amazing!
Here’s the basic recipe for tasty vanilla cupcakes, along with three sweet frosting and decorating options. Serve them up at a family party—or let your child help you make a batch whenever he wants to show off his decorating skills.
What You’ll Need
- Cooking spray for the muffin tin
- 6 tablespoons softened butter
- 3 egg yolks
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup milk
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- Pinch of salt
What to Do
- Preheat the oven to 350°F while your chef-in-training sprays a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
- Let your child measure and add the butter to a large mixing bowl. Show her how to crack and separate the eggs—or do this step yourself. She can add the egg yolks to the batter, and then add the sugar, vanilla, and milk. You can refrigerate the whites and use within 2 days.Teachable Moment: Stump-Your-Friends Cupcake Facts
- There are a few theories on how the cupcake got its name. Some researchers think it was because this tiny cake for one was baked inside a small cup.
- Another theory suggests that the name cupcake came about because bakers were originally supposed to use one cup of each ingredient in a batch of batter.
- Cupcakes have been known by many other names over the years. For example, in Britain, cupcakes are called fairy cakes.
- They’ve also been called “quarter cakes,” as well as “1-2-3-4 cakes” to help remember a newer, improved recipe: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs per batch!
- Beat ingredients with an electric mixer set on medium for 1 minute. Let your helper add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat for 2 more minutes.
- Spoon batter into the muffin tins, or let your budding chef do this with your assistance. Demonstrate how to carefully smooth out the mixture so the batter is evenly distributed in each cup.Teachable Moment: The Evolution of Cupcakes as We Know It
- The first description of what we call a cupcake today appeared in American Cookery, a book by Amelia Simmons, in 1796. The first written use of the word cupcake showed up in the Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats by Eliza Leslie in 1828—32 years later.
- The cupcake was a huge game changer for cake lovers and bakers. The reason? It was so much smaller than a traditional cake it needed far less time baking. So: quicker gratification.
- Cupcakes didn’t start getting a fluffy icing topping until the 1920s, almost two hundred years after Americans tried their first cupcake.
- Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
3 Totally Adorable Cupcake Flavors and Add-ons for a Mix-and-Match Party
For strawberry-and-cream cupcakes: Whip 2 cups heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar to taste and beat until mixture can be spread easily. Frost cupcakes and then top each one with fresh strawberry slices. Refrigerate until time to serve.
For blueberry-lemon cupcakes: Use lemon extract in place of vanilla extract when baking these cupcakes and let your helper stir one half cup of blueberries into the batter. Tint canned frosting light yellow and add a couple of drops of lemon extract. Frost cupcakes. Decorate tops with whole fresh blueberries.
Watermelon Cupcakes Tint the cupcake batter green and bake as usual. Tint canned frosting pink. Frost cupcakes. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips—a stand-in for watermelon seeds!All of the above fit right in at barbecues, cookouts, picnics, and parties.