By Jasmin Sun, Food & Wine
In 2012, the confectionery geniuses at New York City's Magnolia Bakery began offering their Sex and the City-approved cupcakes for national delivery. The company spent nearly two years testing out packaging before adding cupcakes to its lineup of cookies, brownies and bars already available online. (The cupcakes had a tendency to become less than pristine during the shipment process.)
"I think my mother's sick of me sending her cupcakes," says Magnolia Bakery president Bobbie Lloyd. That's not to say Lloyd will ever tire of America's enduring dessert obsession. She served cupcakes at her wedding long before they became trendy. While Magnolia's cupcakes can arrive literally overnight, Lloyd is happy to encourage baking at home. Here, she shares six mistakes that home bakers make when trying to create the perfect cupcake.
1. Skimming the recipe. Thoroughly reading the full recipe before getting started will help you avoid unwanted surprises midway through. Even as a professional baker, Lloyd admits to skipping this step: "There have been times where I've run out of vanilla extract, or sometimes my brown sugar will be as hard as a rock because I haven't baked in a while."
2. Using warm butter. Cupcake recipes often call for room-temperature butter, but what is room temperature? "For all intents and purposes, it should be 70 degrees," says Lloyd, "but most people's home kitchens are too warm." This is a problem if you want to make cupcakes from scratch, since butter is the leavening in those recipes. "When the butter is warmer than it needs to be," she says, "you can't whip it into the ingredients long enough, meaning the end result doesn't come out as it should." Her quick tip: If you take butter straight out of the fridge, then put it in the microwave on defrost for 10 seconds, it should reach the correct texture.
3. Forgetting to check the oven temperature. "Most home cooks never think to check this," says Lloyd. It's especially important when you're working in a new or unfamiliar kitchen. "The first time I tried baking something in my new apartment, I burned a cupcake recipe I've been making for years. I went out and bought a thermometer, and guess what? The oven temperature was actually 75 degrees hotter than what I'd set it to!"
4. Substituting ingredients. Be careful how you alter a recipe. "A friend of mine once added cake mix instead of cake flour to a mixture of flour and baking soda, and her cupcakes ended up exploding in the oven!" says Lloyd.
5. Watching TV instead of your cupcakes. It's extremely easy to overbake cupcakes, so don't lose track of the time. "If the recipe says 25 minutes," says Lloyd, "go and test them in 20." If the tester comes out clean at that point, go ahead and take them out to cool, since they'll continue to bake for a few minutes outside of the oven.
6. Letting your cupcakes cool completely in the pan. After taking your cupcakes out of the oven, Lloyd suggests removing them from the pan after about 10 or 15 minutes. "The cupcakes will absorb too much moisture if you leave them in any longer," she says. And soggy cupcake paper is never pretty.