Cupcakes are little palmfuls of joy. I don't think their appeal can be overstated.
A staple of classroom parties, cupcakes have jumped the divide from child's fancy to adult's guilty pleasure. Or maybe they have always had cachet as the treat that makes us feel 10 again. Cupcake-only stores and stories of wedding towers made of cupcakes are simply fueling our nostalgic fascination.
A new book by Martha Stewart will cement your love affair with the minicake. Martha Stewart's Cupcakes (Clarkson Potter, 2009) includes 175 recipes and ideas for the cutest darn cupcakes you'll ever see. Some are well-suited for a Labor Day picnic in the back yard or at beach, especially the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes that accompany this story.
Flip through the book and you'll be inspired to try many of them but daunted by others. Piped shells and pearls? Nesting baby bluebirds? Pastry certificate needed here.
But there are plenty of others, with gorgeous photos, that we mere domestic mortals can accomplish. I tested Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes, which are easy enough for novice bakers and young children, and Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes, which get their crumbly, cookie goodness from Oreos.
The surprise in the middle of the brownie cupcakes comes courtesy of a York Peppermint Patty. Clever girl, our Martha. A bit of batter goes into the paper-lined well and the unwrapped mint candy is pushed down, then covered with more batter. No icing needed, but a powdered sugar dusting would dress them up. Let cool completely or you may have trouble getting them off the paper.
Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes make use of a convenience product also. A whole Oreo is plopped into the bottom of the paper-lined muffin well and topped with cheesecake batter laced with crushed cookies. Give yourself some time for these adult cupcakes. They need to set up in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Here's a confession: I misread the recipe in my haste and instead of 2 pounds of cream cheese, I only mixed in two 8-ounce blocks (just 1 pound). It wasn't until a day later when I reread the recipe that I figured out why I only got 24 cupcakes instead of 30. Still, even with my goof, the cupcakes were delightful. I didn't really want 30 of them anyway. If a couple dozen is enough for you too, remember to halve the cream cheese.
There are still others I want to try such as tres leches and tiramisu cupcakes. Maybe I'll get brave and try my hand at delicate piped shells or the tiny birds next.
That Martha, she makes us believe we can do it all.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.