These delicious creative desserts were mentioned for the first time in 1796, in “American Cookery” by Amelia Simmons, as “cakes to be baked in small cups”. In the early 19th century, the names of “cup cake” and “cupcake” were used and documentation of the term was found again in 1928, in Eliza Leslie’s cookbook “Seventy-five receipt for pastry, cakes and sweetmeats”. The cookery historian, Andrew F. Smith, says that the first known recipe using the term “cupcake” appeared in 1826, in a cookbook.
Perhaps we will never discover the name of the genius chef who made this amazing creation. It’s almost certain, that he lived on the American side of the Atlantic, because according to the cookery historian, Andrea Broomsfield, the first cupcake recipe from England dates from the 1850s, and the product’s popularity was a low one. The cupcake was much more appreciated in North America, where since the early years of the 19th century, there are indications regarding the way to bake a birthday cake in small cups instead of a large tray. There was also an increasing interest by writers of culinary literature about this product from the time of its first mentions.
The modern vision definitely differs from the term’s historical origin. Chefs in 19th century North America or England, not knowing how to read or to write, most likely knew their recipes, the secret of their culinary success, by heart, and kept them carefully for the next generation of chefs.
We can conclude that the easiest way of knowing the recipes by heart was measuring the quantity of the ingredients with a standard size cup. Thus, for a normal birthday cake the following quantities were used: 1 cup of butter, 2 of sugar, 3 of flour and 4 eggs. The same way of measuring was also used for bread. Baking could also be done in cups, but using round trays or rectangular ones was more common. The term “cup”, therefore, referred to the quantity of ingredients used, rather than the cakes’ shape.
Initially named “Fairy cakes”, by the British, and “Patty cakes”, by the Australians, a cupcake is for only one person, although they are prepared in larger numbers and are baked into a metal holder, sandstone, rubber silicone or other material holder, with or without a non-stick surface, composed of 6 to 12 cups.
The ingredients of a standard cupcake are the same as those used for a conventional birthday cake: butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Its composition can be flavoured or mixed with various ingredients as: raisins, berries, hazelnuts, almonds, chocolate chips, etc.
The perfect solution for a delicious dessert, baked quickly and with a minimum expenditure of energy, the cupcakes can be simple, unglazed or undecorated, but they become truly irresistible when decorated, too. Their charm consists of an artistic mode of presentation. Through the fine glaze, sprinkled with candies in many shapes and colours, and through the flavoured creams which make up different animals’ faces, landscapes and amazing textures, cupcakes – cream filled or not, turn into real artistic creations, becoming this way perfect presents for all lovers of sweets.
“Cake in a Mug” – is a method that gained popularity among the cooking forums on the internet. The technique proposes the use of a mug as a cooking pot, that the composition could be baked into the microwave oven in less than 5 minutes. And … the dessert is readyyyy !
“Butterfly Cake” – The upper part of the cupcake is hollowed out with a spoon and “the butterfly wings” result from cutting it in half. After that, the wings are applied over a large “topknot” of cream or whipped cream. The wings can be decorated with icing, and the sky is the limit of the decorator’s imagination.
“Cake ball” – spherical cake, usually made of birthday cake crumbs mixed with glaze and covered in chocolate.
“Gourmet Cupcake” – a somehow recent variant, bigger and filled with cream, having a considerable variety of flavours (for example: Tiramisu, Cappuccino etc.) and different textures, the decorating being an artistic mastery act.
Shops’ fashion specializing in producing and marketing cupcakes had a great success in the United States of America from the start of the 21st century, when awareness of the value of this wonderful creation, among bakers, specialized writers and more recently, among bloggers, turned the cupcake into a real industry.
There are many books, magazines and webs dedicated to cupcakes. Chefs and bakers publish lots of books with tips and luxury ideas about decorating, and combining the ingredients to make cupcakes. The specialist magazines publish subjects dedicated to this product with professional colour photos and cupcake recipes gathered from all around the world. The blogs are updated daily with news and cupcakes’ recipes.
So, next time you’re wondering what dessert you could enjoy after the next meal, or what snack, you could take with you to the office/work, think about a cupcake. It’s an ingenious miracle, and not so modern. Baked and wrapped in small decorative papers, covered with glaze and coconut or chocolate flakes, the cupcake is as delicious as adorable!
Author: Anca Rashid