Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, friends!! This morning, I woke up with the urge to bake. The urge to create. The urge to spread some cupcakespiration! As you can see, I created a hodge-podge of some of the inspired designs that I have features in early October - the Owls, made of Oreo eyes and chocolate chip pupils; mummies with white bandages and yellow faces, orange pumpkins, green frankensteins, and some creepy crawlers!

*Hint: at your local target, you can find "sluggy gummies" to use instead of just drawing them like I did.

This is the first year that I don't have any particular plans, and have set up my cupcake tree in the hopes of getting some trick 'r treaters in my building. Or someone to come over and eat my cupcakes!

Have a spooktacular, cupcakefull night!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Spice and everything nice!

I found this recipe for Spiced Vanilla Icing in Fine Cooking Magazine and was immediately intrigued. They paired it with buttermilk cake - but I put it with a spice cake to give it a fall holiday flair. Here's the original recipe:

9 oz. (2 1/2 cups) confectioner's sugar
3 tbs. buttermilk, more as needed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp of table salt

Now, let me preface my critique by saying that I sold out of my dozen spiced cupcakes and received rave reviews about their flavor. That being said, I was skeptical about adding salt to icing - upon a highly scientific spoon test, I was not impressed. In fact, I almost scrapped the entire batch of cupcakes all together. However, no one commented on the salt, and if anything, it seemed to contrast the spice cake in an interesting way.

If I could make a couple of simple amendments to the recipe, I would say that instead of a 1/4 tsp. of salt, I would do a small pinch of salt. Additionally, I would say do the 3 tbs of buttermilk and use just regular milk to add more moisture if you need it. Otherwise, the buttermilk makes it too thick.

Whether it's a unique Halloween treat or a house warming Thanksgiving present, this spiced recipe really mixes up the typical autumn dessert into something people of all ages can enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

100+ Cupcakes Later...

125 minis, 24 standards, and 2 jumbo cupcakes later... I survived my first cupcake event!

Cupcakes, Cocktails, and Creations was a delicious success. The six hours of prep that went into making the five flavors of cake and the matching five flavors of icing was totally worth it:

1. Raspberry Lemonade with vanilla frosting
2. Lemon cake with lemon/lime icing
3. Red velvet with cream cheese frosting
4. Pumpkin spice cake with vanilla/nutmeg spiced icing
5. Yellow cake with homemade milk chocolate icing

I really learned a lot from this event - from my capacity to create hundred of cupcakes to my ability to package and sell my creations to willing customers. After two hours into the event, I sold out of my regular and jumbo sized cupcakes! Hurray! I priced them intentionally low - $1 for the standard size and $3 for the jumbo ones. I included packaging free of charge, which in the end, made me break even for revenue overall. But the point of this event was not to make a profit - it was to see if my cupcake creations were good enough to sell. It is with great pride and enthusiasm that I say, "YES! They were!"

In retrospect, I could have included the cost of the container into the overall charge. These cupcake containers were a HUGE draw for customers who would have been happy to pay extra for the box (bought at Michael's). For single servings that I sold, I used Ralph's-brand tupperware as well as circular plastic boxes from the $1 section of Michael's. In fact, I just bought the Ralph's tupperware on special again today for the price of 3 containers for $2. Also, I am currently searching for a vendor to buy the adorable cupcake window boxes from to reduce my costs in the future.

The jumbo cupcakes, which are as tall as a nutmeg shaker, were a big hit. I baked them using the left over batter from the mini cupcakes. The tough thing about cupcakes this size is making sure they are fully cooked without burning the edges. The other major problem (a sweet problem to have!) is that you can't taste-test your work... I know, I know, life is so hard! But seriously, not being able to guarentee the taste made me have major reservations on the jumbos. Though, they do LOOK very cool and intriguing. I think I could have easily sold more of these as well.

Finally, I'm all about presentation - hence the cute containers that every customer received! But nothing was a bigger hit than the cardboard-Halloween themed tree that I displayed the cupcakes on. With the giant spider on top, the cuteness of the tree - donated by my incredibly creative sister! - caught the buyer's eye and drew them in for the sugar fix.

It also helped that the mini cupcakes were like samplers for the bigger ones that I sold. After all, people love to taste-test, especially when it's free!

From this event my main realizations were 1. I would absolutely cupcake cater again! 2. I don't think running 24/7 bake shop is for me 3. Always bring extra toppings so you can quickly personalize an order 4. Presentation really is everything - spending the extra dollar on cute containers is worth it! 5. Perhaps there is a side business in this hobby...

See you tomorrow - for the count down to Halloween! More details on these individual cupcakes to come...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I haven't been abducted by aliens, I've been planning party food!

I know I've been MIA for 10 days (yikes!) but I plan on making it up to you this coming week between Halloween and my first cupcake event!

On Saturday, I'm cupcake catering the BeadUp event in North Hollywood. It's called Cupcakes, Cocktails, and Creations. You can check out more details and RSVP on Facebook or by writing a comment below. It's a showcase of Christyn's jewelry (at very affordable prices!) and a plethora of cupcakes and cocktails to tickle your taste-buds.

Here's the pertinent info:

Saturday, October 24th @ 3:30-6pm
Marla L'Angelle's Home (12304 Miranda Street, Valley Village CA)

Why not get ahead on your holiday shopping and get your sugar buzz on? Sample some of my Halloween-themed delights that will make their way into next week's blogs. Tomorrow, stay tuned for the flavor discussion... right now, I'm thinking four flavors.... hmm.... yum!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fun Friday Find!

When people find out that I have a blog dedicated to cupcakes, they usually laugh and say "wow, you must really like them a lot." HECK YES, I do!! On many occasions when I divulge this obsession or "hobby" (for the faint of heart!) with others, they give me recommendations of things to check out or ask me if I've tried various techniques before. Well, I received a great recommendation from a co-worker to check out this site called by a cupcake author - Krystina Castella.

What a find! Krystina posts detailed baking tips for classics like Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes to a full themed spread of "Tiki Cupcakes" with flavors that range from banana coconut to pina colada to seabreeze. Wondering what it takes to make the Seabreeze cupcake? Check it out:

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 granulated sugar
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pink grapefruit juice
1/4 cup cranberry juice
Zest of 1 small grapefruit
3/4 cup chopped cranberries

How refreshing and creative!! Just thought I spread the cupcakespiration! Sprinkles off to you, Krystina!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Which Store Bought Vanilla Icing Is the Best?

I'm a fan of the vanilla icing - I love the way it tastes on chocolate brownies, smooshed in the middle of a cookie sandwich, and especially slathered thickly on a chocolate cupcake. I like it because it is quick and easy to make - requiring, at its core, four simple ingredients: confectioner's sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla. Not to mention you can dye it any color of the rainbow to dress up any holiday treat (like pink for every day of the year!).

What happens when you don't feel like standing on your feet for another 10 minutes to whip up the delicious topping? You reach for the back-up icing... oh, you know what I'm talking about - the icing that you keep at the back of your cabinet or fridge for a rainy day... the day when you have company but decide to pass off the easy alternative as your own!

Good thing you have me here to tell you that when it comes to store bought vanilla icing, you're better off sucking it up and making your own. I'm not talking about other flavored white icings like buttercream or cream cheese or funfetti - I'm talking about plain ol' vanilla.

Here to take up spoons in the name of science is my sister, Kristie, ever the scientist and scholar, who insisted that a blind taste test be conducted! Hardcore, I know. This is what we found:

Betty Crocker "Rich & Creamy" Vanilla:
Cupcakin' It Up's choice!
Appearance - yellow tinge to color, smooth, moist looking
Texture - powderiness that held fast in the after-taste
Taste - buttery, mild, powder-taste
Notes - Although Betty Crocker beat out the others for taste, the texture seemed off to me.

Duncan Hines "Home-style Classic" Vanilla:
Appearance - whitest, least shiny
Texture - stiffest, lack of creaminess
Taste - bitter after-taste, plasticy
Notes - Kristie thought this was the worst!

Pillsbury "Whipped Supreme" Vanilla:
Appearance - smooth, slimy-looking
Texture - syrupy, sugar crunched in your mouth, and the texture seemed to stick in my throat
Taste - sweet, syrupy
Notes - I thought this one was the worst! As a side note, I also thought the Pillsbury chocolate was the weakest in the last taste test - this time it was a blind taste in which I didn't know the results to the end, so it's not the brand I'm repulsed by, it's the quality.

Overall, I was very disappointed. It's hard to believe that you could mess up vanilla icing. But that's the difference between making it with a machine and sitting on a shelf and making it with love and sitting in your tummy right away. Do yourself and your guests a favor next time you feel tempted to purchase "the backup icing" - make your own! It doesn't take long, and you'll knock the lids off of any commercial icing competitor.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy October!!

October is here! - which, granted, feels exactly like August in LA BUT it means that it is officially appropriate to start making Halloween themed treats! Muhaha!!

I kicked off the October celebration of Halloween treats at a Michael's cookie demonstration in Burbank. I confess myself disappointed. It all took place on one table with one confectioner who spent most of the time running around the store gathering supplies. The cookies didn't even look very appetizing. Maybe I'm just a cupcake girl at heart, but aren't cookies meant for dunking - not painting! The only thing that piqued my interest was a flyer for a cupcake decorating class that cost $15... but what the flyer neglected to mention (and I only learned from word-of-mouth) is that you have to bring your own cupcakes AND icing. wtf?! But one must turn flour into cookies in this scenerio - so I saw opportunity. Inspiration to take that $15, buy some sweet muffin cups and dye and decorate my own darn cupcakes at home! For free!

Bring on the cute cupcake designs and Halloween decorations!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Which Store Bought Milk Chocolate Icing Is the Best?

There comes a time in every baker's life in which dessert must be (gasp!) thrown together quickly. In these times of panic, it is sometimes necessary to reach for the comfort and ease of store bought icing. But which one to choose? No fear, Cupcakin' It Up is here!

It is a dirty job, but someone must finally answer the age-old question - Which Store Bought Chocolate Icing Is the Best?

This is the first in a series of sweet analysis of store-bought icings, in which texture, appearance, and taste are evaluated - look for the baby detective to identify the blog posts about cupcake science! I believe in the scientific method in my dessert rationalization, and thus three brands and three people are involved in the testing process. Each time, one non-sugar addicted person (usually a boy!) will be involved to level the sugar playing field and give more well-rounded results. Here is what I discovered...

Betty Crocker: two thumbs up, one thumb down
Appearance - most homemade-looking, light in color, powdery, dry cracked surface
Texture - powder-base tasting, grainy, rougher than the others
Taste - mild flavor, most milk chocolate tasting
Notes - The one sugar-adverse taste-tester loved this one so much that he licked the whole knife! My other taste tester, Christyn from Bead Up! loved this one because it tasted the most "milk chocolaty" to her and she dislikes dark chocolate.

Duncan Hines
: one thumb up, two thumbs down
*Cupcakin' It Up's choice!*
Appearance - smooth, medium color, thick to swirl
Texture - creamy, thick, easily spreadable
Taste - rich, sweet and creamy, great after taste that lingers on the palette
Notes - To me, the richness in flavor conjured the nostalgia for a simpler, yet vivid time - when my mom would make brownies with frosting during a thunder storm and we would watch old Disney movies... oh yes, I got all that from a knife lick. haha. To each their own!

Pillsbury (full sugar)
: one thumb up, one thumb down, one thumb in the middle
Appearance - syrupy looking, plastic-y
Texture - firm, choppy to swirl
Taste - cheap, very rich
Notes - Even though it was milk chocolate, it tasted rich - dark in chocolate but not in quality. It was like eating Hershey's over Cadbury or Ghirardelli. Although I am a fan of the white cake Pillsbury white cake and funfetti mixes and even their frozen biscuits, they just can't get the icing right or up to a high enough standard compared to competitors.

Pillsbury Reduced Sugar: three thumbs down! ick!
Appearance - plastic looking and terrible smelling
Texture - not as firm as its sugar counterpart but almost too fluffy airy, fake icing
Taste - tasted like rancid plastic, horrible after taste
Notes - Don't do this to your cake or your guests! I mean if you're eating cake/brownies/etc, go for the real thing!

What brand of chocolate are you a fan of? Stay tuned for the vanillas, buttercreams, and alternative flavors analysis in weeks to come!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Cupcake Code Word

I'm happy to report that the mythical free cupcake is alive and well! Yesterday, a couple of girls from my office made a lunch-run to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills - a move that I both appreciate and admire. In their adventure, I saw scientific opportunity. I'm all about cupcakes in the name of science, after all!

"Waiiiit!" I bellowed enthusiastically on their way out. I proceeded to tell them about the Sprinkles Twitter account - and how they Tweet secret words every day in which the first 50 people who whisper them at the store can receive free cupcakes, flavors varying by day. I wanted to try it to see if the most popular store in Los Angeles would have any free cupcakes left by 1pm in the afternoon.

When they arrived at the Beverly Hills location - which sports lines around the block on Saturday afternoons - they were pleasantly surprised. They were literally asked to whisper the secret code word and BOTH received free red velvet cupcakes!

This is a great idea for any of you cupcakery owners! It's fun and it brings traffic to the Twitter account consistently. Because I spread the tweet (mainly since I thought it was so cool!), two more people could join Twitter, follow Sprinkles, and tell their friends about their free cupcake positive experience. I'm a big fan :-) Especially since the cost of offering free cupcakes is low - these girls each bought 5 more each to share on their cupcake sugar high! Brilliant marketing, Sprinkles!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Psychology of Cupcakes

Cupcakes are in the news again!

If it's in Times Online, then it must be true! The Psychology of Cupcakes - an article that details the social science behind our love of the sweet goodness that is the cupcake during the economically depressing time - is a wealth of rationalization. The cupcake is said to have been "the affordable treat that you don't have to share" and reminds us of a more prosperous time as in the 1950s. However, they go on to ruin the article with the nutrition facts - if you're eating a delicious dark chocolate cupcake with white, fluffy frosting, then you're not thinking about the calories. DUH UK press!

They also attribute the rise of cupcake popularity to the Sex and the City series... I beg to differ! I love Sex and the City as much as any city girl, but cupcakes have been hot since I was five! They are fun, festive, and classic. In a society so focused on weight control, cupcakes provide the perfect indulgence and portion control. Not to mention they are freakin adorable!

What I found fascinating however, was the list of popular British cupcake bakeries as well as the explanation of "fairy cake" a popular dessert in the UK (pictures to the right), which is similar to a cupcake but the icing is thinner and flatter... any UK Cupcaketeers out there who care to elaborate? All I know is that I need to try British cupcakes and these mythical fairy cakes - for research!


Here are some of the hot shops in the UK listed in the article:

*includes "cocktail cupcakes" with vodka and rum

Hummingbird Bakery
*sells the iconic Magnolia Bakery ‘Red Velvet’ cupcake

Indulgence Cupcake Company
*famous for its ‘Or-Eh-Oh!’ cupcake - count me in!!

*serves light cupcakes and, of course, macaroons

Primrose Bakery
*popular with local celebrities, uses rose and ginger in some cupcakes

Sweet Tooth Cupcakery
*showcases the ‘Kylie’ raspberry-dotted vanilla sponge with real raspberry buttercream

Well, that's settled. I'm booking my trip to London ASAP :-D

Friday, September 18, 2009


I was thinking today that I haven't made cupcakes in a month now - SHOCKING, I know! Though I eat other people's cupcakes regularly ;-) But no cupcake design ideas come to mind, so this Friday, for those who are in the same boat as me, I thought I'd provide some cupcakespiration from other blogs and random images found on google that make me want to pick up my spatula and throw cookies to the wind!

(This one to the left is from Hello Cupcake - the authors of one of my favorite cupcake books to thumb through at Barnes and Noble!)

Enjoy some of these lovely, pretty cupcake designs:

Courtesy of Cupcakes Take the Cake

Courtesy of Cupcake Journal

Courtesy of Hello Cupcake

Courtesy of MyKite

Courtesy of a random Flickr account

Got a piece of culinary art of your own that you would like to share? Hit me up at

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cupcakes + Cosemetics = Happy Lips!

Lip balm is a necessity in life. Doesn't it deserve to look cute too?! Well Aunt Franni on Etsy has the answer! You know how I feel about cute cupcake accessories, and when Christyn from Bead Up! showed me this one, I could hardly resist. In the name of chapped lips, after all! It's a cupcake themed, chapstick holder - your chapstick will never be lost again!

And naturally, I found matching cupcake-flavored lip balm to go with it from Givin Me Lip. Might as well Cupcake It Up!

There is another seller whose lip balm I enjoyed immensely, and that was from Kupcake Naturals. I wanted to give them a personal shout out since I tried their natural lip balm product myself recently, which they personalized the name "Vanilla Cupcake." Adorable and yummy! In fact, it's hard not to eat it... I'll try to hold back.

Anyways! I'll be back with a new one tomorrow - maybe with and actual cupcake feature this time. I guess I've got a real shopping itch this week! But one can never have too many cupcake accessories!

Have a sweeeeet day!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Real Estate for the Dessert-Lover!

Talk about a room with a BOO! t-hehe! Who says that gingerbread houses are only for Christmas?! With all the cute sugar candies they have these days, the options for sweet Halloween fun are endless. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed a pack of candied spiders and ghosts on my cupcakes - why not use them on a house? Ghosts deserve, a home too! I felt really inspired by the options I found online recently. Can you image how cute a candy-corn picket fence would be?! Adorable.

Check out some of the sweetest real estate around!

I'm loving the candy corn roof top.
Courtesy of Baking Bites

I think Kit Kat shingles could be equally as delicious...
Courtesy of Savvy Halloween

How about Kit Kat paneling and oreo shingles! YUM!!
Courtesy of

Although I don't see how realistically, one could make the cookie this perfect, I did like that the roof is off-kilter a little bit. You could do that with graham crackers easily!
Courtesy of Solvang Bakery

A Halloween candy house will make an excellent centerpiece at any party table and plus, you must eat the construction scraps after all! It's the green thing to do... ;-)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cupcake Couture

So you really love cupcakes. Like a lot. Ok, and you also have an incredibly successful business in which you fan yourself with $100 bills at night... and don't freak out when you find a quarter on the street (like me! quarters so useful!). Well, I've figured out what you can spend your money on - feel free to thank me for my awesome idea by either a.) throwin' some cupcake tasting money my way b.) buying me a matching one (haha!!).

Some of the more cutesy high end brands like Juicy Couture sell the love of cupcakes for $42 a pop (pink and silver one, above to the left) at Nordstrom's or Sak's Fifth Avenue. Sears can also provide diamond-encrusted, 10K gold (white and yellow, left) for a mere $130 or a 14K gold for $250 (multicolored, left) - WOA money bags!! That's a lot of money to be throwing around for a pricey charm that looks a lot like a clowns head. But to each her own!

What?! You don't have money just lying around, begging to be spent?? Shocking ;-) Don't dispair! I found some even BETTER alternatives from etsy sellers! That are more up my alley, as if I fan myself with anything, it's monopoly money!!

Check them out the designs that rival the brand names!
(Click on the seller name to link to the product!)

Sold by A Fine Distraction

Sold by Monica E. Jewelry

Sold by Chic Baby Rose

Sold by Denise Annette

Sold by E. Ria Design

Sold by EsseM Design

Sold by Pinups and Pastries

There are 75+ pages on Etsy for cupcake necklaces - it is AWESOME! I made it through 30 of them - so if I missed a necklace you think is particularly adorable, just post the link in the comments, and I'll do a part duo of Etsy cupcake necklaces!