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Monday, July 27, 2009

Is it a Muffin or a Cupcake?

Last week was M's birthday and though I didn't do a big celebration, we celebrated in our own little way with lots of cupcakes. For some reason, I was doggedly determined to bake M his own cake from scratch. There's something very sweet and loving about the idea, especially since I skipped his first birthday celebration completely! I guess I am trying to make it up to him.

So, within a period of two weeks, I tried out a few recipes, having rarely baked anything from scratch. No, not even cookies! I've made candy-like toffee and truffles and cakes from a box, but nothing that really requires sifting. I remember asking our friend Keri, a sublime baker, from Forever Folding Laundry, about butter in her delicious chocolate pumpkin recipe. "When it indicates butter in a recipe, does it mean salted or unsalted?!" (Just in case you're a novice baker like myself, the answer is unsalted, unless indicated otherwise.)

My first batch of cupcakes ever, blueberry lemon cupcakes (doesn't that sound light and refreshing and summery?!) tasted good, but everyone kept asking me if I had made muffins or cupcakes. Aside from frosting, what's the difference, really?

For my first try, I have to say, the frosting was exceptional; though I did cut the recommended sugar used in the frosting by at least half. I don't like my cake and frosting too sweet and, honestly, I could simply eat the frosting all by itself!!

Here's the link these delicious Blueberry Lemon Muffcake (you like that?!) recipe:

Not wanting to ever confuse the cupcake and muffin again, I decided that chocolate cupcakes would be the best way to make the distinction. Forget the light and summery fresh cupcake - go for the decadent indulgence of chocolate.

For my recipe, I followed Ina Garten's wonderful Beatty's Chocolate Cake recipe. It is the best cupcake recipe and, best of all, it was a super easy recipe. It had everyone in our family asking for more, even though I made over 45 cupcakes for 20 people!

Beatty's Cake recipe courtesy of Ina Garten and the Food Network:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line with cupcake pans with cupcake paper.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes.

Thuy's notes: This recipe yielded about 24 cupcakes. For other beginner bakers out there, buttermilk is usually something I don't always have on hand so I simply add a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes. In many baking recipes, you can also just use plain yogurt or sour cream instead of buttermilk.

Also, the cupcake mix will seem incredibly thin and runny after adding the coffee, but it's absolutely normal. This is why the cupcake is so moist.

Ina's recipe called for a chocolate buttercream frosting. Because I didn't want too much chocolate on a chocolate cupcake, I used my first recipe's frosting to create a lighter tasting cupcake. The result was phenomenal! The combination of the light cream cheese frosting and the chocolate was perfect.

Thuy's Frosting:

1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted (add more to your taste)
squeeze of fresh lemon juice

As evidenced by M's happy face, this cupcake was a huge hit! As for me, I think I've got the cupcake bug now...Next cupcake recipe to try will be a red velvet cupcake. Yum!!

If you have any favorite cupcake recipes, please share because I've got to feed my new addiction for cupcakes!


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Anonymous said...

I love baking from scratch!

Anonymous said...

My cupcake muffin rule of thumb is if I feel like having coffee with it it is a muffin, if I feel like a glass of milk would be more appropriate, then it is a cupcake. ~Mary

Unless it contains bran, then no matter what, it is a muffin.
Hope this is helpful ;o.

Deb said...

I can't wait for the red velvet recipe. I am a terrible scratch cake-baker, but my scratch cookies and breads aren't bad. I'll have to try again.

Anonymous said...

I love Red Velvet!! Love muffcake. :) I like FrankandMary's explanation of coffee vs. milk!

forever folding laundry said...

Thuy...you're fantastic! Thanks for the nice compliment, but I'd say you are doing just fine for yourself there. (BTW, I love Ina Garten - good choice!) I'm going to give these a try. And from the look on M's face I'd say I won't be disappointed. :)


Erin said...

I'm so glad it's not no treat week for me anymore! These look heavenly.

Kathy B! said...

These look fabulous!! I love to bake :)

Kimberly said...

Now I'm just hungry for a muffin or a cupcake. Whichever, I won't be picky.

Those look absolutely delish!

Claremont First Ward said...

Ummmmmm.........sounds yummy. I"m always looking for a good "from scratch" cupcake recipe. I think that cupcakes, especially, really show the cake box quality when made from the box.

I made some lemon blueberry scones for International day at my girls school, and they were a huge hit......so, I'm thinking lemon blueberry muffins would be sublime, too.

Randi Troxell said...

oooh! i love muffins... and cupcakes... how about that!!

tiburon said...

Muffcake is officially my new favorite word.

Liz Mays said...

Now for the rest of my life, I'm going to have to think about it. Muffin or cupcake and why?

Fiauna said...

Ooh. Those cupcakes look delicious. Now I'm hungry!

Carrie said...

There is also something called dry buttermilk found in the baking aisle. You keep it in the fridge and add water to it. I love this alternative!

that chocolate cupcake looks divine. MUST. TRY.

oh--and goodness, thanks so much for the sweet comment on my blog!

Rita Templeton said...

*drool* I could TOTALLY go for a cupcake right now. Or three. Or a muffin ....

theUngourmet said...

Oh no! Not the cupcake bug! I've got that too and it's impossible to get rid of! ;0)

Hit 40 said...

Great recipes!!! YUMMY! Thank you.

We have been using up a ton of milk this summer since I am home from work and baking.

Nancy@ifevolutionworks.com said...

To me...if it has frosting, it's a cupcake.

They do sounds great though!! Chocolate cheesecake ones are awesome! (though I'm not much of a baker)

E @ Scottsville said...

Well, Happy Belated Birthday - and those do look MMMMMMMMMMMMMMm good!


Lisa Anne said...

I love baking cupcakes and cakes. I'm making my neighbors son's spongebob cake next month for his Bday party and can't wait.

Props to repin the Bay Area!!

The Blonde Duck said...

Muffins, cupcakes...as long as there's icing and sprinkles, it's all good.

miranda said...

I like how you don't go "ALL OUT" for you kids birthdays. I am all about celebrating as a family with MAYBE the grandparents for cake and ice cream.
Every year birthday parties seem so selfish. I am still trying to figure out why some of our "Every year birthday party" friends invite us to their kids party despite the fact that we never have parties.
I am currently in the middle of trying to decide how to handle this dilemma.
My daughter is about to turn 5 and I am thinking about having a party, but it will be the only one for a long time.
Sorry to ramble, just had to say it I guess! :)

Jen said...

both those recipes look fabulous. I am so going to have to try them. Oh and I LOVE Ina. How do you think one gets invited to one of her dinner parties, anyway?

tiarastantrums said...

oh they do look absolutely delicious!!

PictureGirl said...

Yummmy. I don't care if they are a cupcake or muffin! I want one!

Christa Bledsoe said...

I love cooking stuff from scratch I don't know what it is about it but its great. Your creation looks delicious.

Stacy Uncorked said...

YUMMY! Princess Nagger asked me what the difference between a muffin and a cupcake was...I told her that cupcakes were more light and fluffy, where muffins were more 'dense'. But then I thought comparatively 'dense' like a coffee cake...so that would kind of rule out that reasoning. ;)

I like FrankandMary's rule of thumb, though, I think I'll adopt that reasoning.

Thanks for the recipes - I'm definitely going to make some here! :)

Dawn Parsons Smith said...

We are huge cupcake bakers at our house! We are currently loving red velvet cupcakes!

Banteringblonde said...

wow I never knew that buttermilk tip! I'm impressed and totally inspired!

Alexis AKA MOM said...

Ohhh they both sound delish I think I would have to go with Chocolate but those lemon blueberry do sound super yummy!

thanks for the new recipes :)

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

Pretty much can't get past the word muffcake. Ah ha ha ha

mrs.notouching said...

I'm totally going to make them...I think I have the oven... just need to find a new place for my photo albums and old candles.

Counselormama said...

Those all looked fabulous and I want some now, dang.

Anonymous said...

Thuy you did a fabulous job! I will def try it!!

Danyele Easterhaus said...

seriously yummo! and well, i use store bought icing...sad, but true. yours sounds way better! and M, well, too cute!

Sarah said...

mmmmm....those look yummy!

Lindy said...

Wow - those look incredible!

I love to bake but hate to cook. It's why I invested in a manly grill. My husband feels all cavemanish but really? He's just cooking.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Baking from scratch is fun, isn't it? At the moment I'm on a bread baking kick but your chocolate cupcakes are so fabulous I think I'm switching!
M looks like a very happy birthday boy!

scrappysue said...

muffcake - love it! what a cutie - he looks like he enjoyed it and the muffcakes look DELISH!!!

Julie said...

Yummo! Looks delicious :)

Holly said...

I love cupcakes or muffins or whatever you call them. Must make these!