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How Not to Make Cupcakes.

January 24, 2011

I’m alive! I’m so sorry for the complete lack of posts lately, and the lack of replying to comments. I appreciate each and every one I get and I apologize for not responding more. Lately though, I haven’t done much of anything other than… dun dun dun dun… WEDDING PLANNING! The last month I have eaten, slept and breathed wedding planning. And seriously, if we were keeping score, it would be Wedding Planning – 100, Ashley – 0. Can I skip all this planning, making decision and stress and just be married already?

Part of the planning that I was working on this weekend, and likely for many weekends to come, is the desserts. We’re having a BBQ reception dinner and in lieu of a wedding cake we’re having a dessert table with pies, cookies, cupcakes, and the like. Most of this is being made my myself, family and friends. Because I’m cheap and don’t want to pay for someone to make cupcakes when I am fully capable of reading a recipe myself. So this past Saturday I decided to start testing out some recipes to find ones we like.

And perhaps I will think twice about paying someone to make cupcakes, but what I learned this weekend was:

How NOT to make cupcakes.

On Saturday afternoon, I posted a facebook status and twitter message to the effect of “Wedding Cupcake test #1 – Fail.” This lead a few people to comment with things like – “Cupcakes can fail?!”

Yes people, cupcakes can fail. They can fail hardcore.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, that I can fail at reading a recipe and making cupcakes.

Mistake #1 – Try to cream butter that is hard as a rock.

There I am, making my cupcakes, getting my ingredients all lined up in my kitchen. The recipe says “cream together butter, sugar and eggs.” Easy enough. I grab the butter out of the fridge. Plop – into the bowl (though since it was straight out of the fridge, it was more like Thud!). Then the eggs. Crack! Plop! Crack! Plop! Next the sugar. Swish! Then I grab my spoon and start to cream. Or, I start to try. Because by now I’ve realized the butter is quite hard and since I don’t have an electrical mixer, I am doing this all by hand. My first thought is to pop it in the microwave, but since I’ve already put the eggs in I figured that wouldn’t work ’cause it would just cook the eggs. So I start to stab at the butter, trying to break it up. After a while I grab the potato masher (I kid you not) and start using that to try to break up the butter.

Now, I’m sure that if I waited for the butter to melt a bit, everything would have been just fine. But I am nowhere near that patient.

I keep plugging away switching between potato masher and spoon. Eventually my arms give out and I figure that it’s probably fine now anyways, it was sort of creamed… as in the butter was now in lots and lots of tiny bits each coated with egg and sugar. What’s the worst that could happen?

Mistake #2 – Ignore the Recipe.

After mistake #1 you would think that I would think very carefully about everything the recipe said and follow it to the letter. Well, you would be wrong. The recipe had a footnote that said “If baking this at altitudes of less than 5,000 feet, double the baking soda.” Obviously the person I got the recipe from online lived at a very high altitude. I live near sea level.

I haven’t done tons of baking in my life, but I can honestly say that this is the first recipe I’ve seen that mentioned anything like this. I did a google search about it BEFORE I started baking and saw that yes, if you live in a high altitude, you normally lessen the amount of baking soda when baking. There is science behind it.

But I didn’t listen. I had on my cute apron, I had my ingredients all lined up, what could go wrong? So I added the amount of baking soda the recipe called for, but did not take into account the footnote.

Mistake #3 – Try and feed the resulting cupcakes to your fiance.

The batter looked a bit weird when I put it in the cupcake tin, really lumpy and mealy. And when I took the cupcakes out of the oven I saw that they didn’t rise. And what’s worse, the millions of little bits of butter that didn’t get creamed well melted and pooled in the bottom of the tin, basically frying the cupcakes while they baked. The cupcakes looked like little gooey, mushy messes, but really, they couldn’t taste THAT bad.

So I iced them, I put them on a plate and gave one to M. with the warning that I think I might have made a couple of mistakes, but don’t worry, they should be fine.

He bit into one and immediately his eyes bulged and he ran to the garbage to spit out the thing that I can’t even call a cupcake. My pride broke, died and was chopped into a million pieces at the look on his face when he tried to eat the cupcake. It was awful. He felt so bad about spitting out the cupcake, I felt so bad about trying to feed it to him in the first place. It was a nightmare.

After that I promptly threw the rest of the cupcakes out (thankfully I only made half a batch).


I tried again today. Same recipe, taking extra time and slowing down more so as not to make the same mistakes again, or any new ones either. The difference is incredible. They look like real cupcakes, as you can see from the photo above. My self-respect is slightly restored.

So, are these the wedding cupcakes?

Nope, they aren’t. Even though I followed the recipe and did everything right, they are WAY to buttery. The recipe calls for a whole pound of butter! And while I love me some butter, I would prefer if it wasn’t the main item in a dish. Also, the cupcakes are very crumbly, and that would make it hard to eat in a mingle type setting.  And the cream cheese icing, while it is so delicious it had me diving into the bowl to lick it clean, it’s pretty runny and would get all over everything.

So while these aren’t the perfect wedding cupcakes, I’m glad I went back and tried the recipe again and learned from my mistakes.  Next time, hopefully I won’t have to bake the recipe twice.

(The recipe I used can be found here. I found it by searching for lemon cupcakes on Google.)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Hannah permalink
    January 24, 2011 7:06 pm

    Oh, sweety. Well, the second try is very pretty 🙂 Nice icing whirl things. Also, it’s good to hear your bbq reception is a god, I was so stoked XD

  2. January 25, 2011 10:47 am

    Oh dear. I have to give you serious credit for effort. I remember the days of wedding planning well and my husband still bemoans the horror that was being engaged. He found it a very specific sort of hell, while I did manage to enjoy some aspects of it. What I can tell you is that the planning will be worth it, your wedding will be beautiful, and being married will feel like a breeze after a hectic engagement! Best of luck.

  3. January 25, 2011 4:28 pm

    I bet your wedding is going to be absolutely amazing! I can’t imagine doing what you are doing. (I think I told you that we got married at City Hall!)

    And your second try cupcakes look amazing even if they aren’t “the ones.”


  4. January 26, 2011 4:51 pm

    I so enjoyed reading this Ashley, as I have “been there, done that!”
    I am glad they turned out good for you!

  5. January 28, 2011 11:32 am

    You are a smart lady for doing a trial on the cupcakes before the big day. I hope you find just the recipe you wish for and it turns out beautifully.

  6. February 4, 2011 6:36 pm

    oy, i’m right with you about blogging and wedding planning. i finally started planning this week and it is so consuming! anyway, glad to read that the second batch turned out fab. 🙂

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