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!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Leaves change, Cupcakes bloom!

By popular demand from comments on Monday's post... I give you a sneak peak of fall cupcake ideas! Now, I'm not going to do the big super awesome Halloween blitz of the ones that I've discovered quite yet - I mean, it is still September ;-) But, I will give you some cupcake design ideas that will inspire your creativity and tickle your taste buds!

Whooooo is ready for Fall?! These are adorable and so doable with the cashew nose, sliced almond feathers, and chocolate chip eyes! This is truly GENIUS!
Courtesy of Catching Fireflies

What I like about these is the simple, very Fall-neutral pumpkin made with orange sprinkles (conveniently reusable for Halloween with some glitter gel!) as well as the earth-tone flowers. It would be a fun way to play with my new icing tips...

These little pumpkin candies, sold seasonally in grocery stores as well as at Michael's Crafts now, are adorable and can be used in both Thanksgiving and Halloween cupcake designs.
Courtesy of Bee's Treats

Ok, ok, I have little self-restraint when it comes to sharing cute cupcakes... here's a couple of the particularly awesome ones I found!

Talk about arachnophobia! Some black licorice for legs, red M&M minis for eyes, and chocolate sprinkles can make this fear come to life. Yet oddly, it makes me hungry...
Courtesy of Bakerella

I LOVE these mummies!! It looks like they executed the bandages with a thin, long icing tip. Maybe I would do candies for eyes. So cute!!
Courtesy of Le'Gateaux

On to other edible options in the next post! More fun Halloween designs to come! Isn't the holiday season fun?!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bubble, bubble, project and trouble!

When I woke up on Monday morning, I could feel a project brewing - with the summer season coming to a rapid close and fall just around the corner. So, naturally, I decided to skip my weekend chores and go to Michael's to ponder the possibilities. The moment I walked in the door, I saw a plastic pumpkin patch littered with tastefully placed fall leaves and smelled the crisp scent of pumpkin spice candles on sale for $4... sigh... sale... oh the sweet smell of sale!

Now, just to give you a frame of reference, I'm the kind of girl who puts up her Christmas decorations the day after Halloween and celebrates every holiday with a uniquely decorated muffin cup. So, I was not at all put off by the prospect of a Halloween project - though seeing the wall of holiday wreathes and the isle of sparkly winter bangles did make me do a double take! Wasn't it just last week that I was sweltering in my apartment and sitting by a pool, ready to celebrate the summer?!

I turned to the baking isle for guidance. There, I was greeted by assorted cookie cutters for Thanksgiving and Halloween - the creepy (skulls!) and the cute! - plus cooking pans that held endless options of accompanying Halloween muffin cups. I had a brief lapse of self-restraint as I threw a sparkly black icing tube into the cart, rationalizing that it could be used for more than just adorable spiderweb cupcakes. I still don't know how I feel about a haunted gingerbread house... I think it might be a fun use of candy...

But the question remains: what could I rationalize making that would be fun and potentially useful? Perhaps a Halloween wreath or trying my hand at pumpkin spice bread... the possibilities are endless. This week, I will explore some edible options! Let me know if you have any inspired ideas to welcome the Fall!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mini Me, You Complete Me!

Who doesn't love teenie tiny bundles of joy?... I am of course, referring to mini cupcakes! They have the unique ability to quench a cupcake craving for we cupcakeaholics in one bite. Besides, 5 of them equal one large cupcake = more variety and more icing! Not to mention they are completely adorable. Check out some particularly cute ones I found:

Look at the penguin and the fishy!! So cute!!
Courtesy of Sparklette

OREOS!! My favorite thing in life... now in bite-sized portions! Love it!
Courtesy of

Spring has sprung - YUM!
Courtesy of Cupcakerie

AW! Pink + Monkeys = Love!
Courtesy of Blue Cupcake

Now this is my kind of Valentine!!
Courtesy of Hello, Cupcake

Courtesy of Cupcakes Take the Cake

And of course, some that I've discovered on my travels...

Make your own artful mini!
Cupcakes, Cupcakes of Glendale

Pink and chocolate - does it get any better?
Buttercake cupcakes at the Yelp! event

I can't tell you how many awesome cupcake / baking blogs I've come across from googling these images. Check out their links under the pictures for more cupcakespiration!

If you have any creations that you would like to share, hit me up at