What makes a perfect cupcake? Is it all in the taste? Or maybe it’s all in the texture? To me, a perfect quality must exhibit 3 of the following criteria: Texture, Consistency, and Taste. If you can achieve all 3 of those in one cute little cupcake, then you may just consider yourself a cupcake master. You see, in my opinion, it’s very difficult to obtain a perfect cupcake. Nearly impossible in fact. Even famous bakeries like Sprinkles Cupcakes, Magnolia’s Bakery, or Georgetown Cupcakes does not have it down. (Believe me, I’ve tried the recipes for all of them and I’ve tasted Sprinkles on numerous occasions) I’ve never made a perfect cupcake in my life! Something always goes wrong, either in the frosting or the cake itself. But from countless experiments and taste testings, I’ve narrowed down the criteria for a perfect cupcake.
I feel like this is the most important part of a cupcake, regardless of shape. If a cupcake is dry, crumbly, sticky, it’s just plain wrong. It doesn’t even matter if it’s chocolate with a gooey caramel frosting on top. I always, always, always go for texture over taste. The first thing my mouth senses is the texture! If it’s cornbread-like, automatic bleh. To dry? I’m covering the urge to spit it out. A cupcake must be moist, fluffy, but also decadent and a little dense at the same time. Too much air can yield in an overly-sponge-like texture. I don’t like having to rely on the frosting to moisten the cake. However, the cupcake can’t be too oily itself. As much as I am a lover of healthy food, vegan cupcakes? Too oily. You can tell if a cupcake is too dry if it’s extremely crumbly and the crumbs don’t even stick to the paper lining. A too oily cupcake has a very opaque liner that comes out when peeled off. In the picture below, I tried to capture the moistness and the the fluffiness of the cupcake. As you can see, not too much or too little is coming off that liner, and there is certainly some height an air in the cake. Also, it’s also dense enough because the air bubbles are not too enlarged and evident.
What is consistency perhaps? In my opinion, it’s the evenness of the crumb, and the even layer and ratio of cake to frosting. I hate, hate, hate cupcakes that have a mountain of frosting on them. It just takes the attention away from the star of the show, the cake! If you want them to notice your frosting, it’s better to have less than more. That way, they can notice the hints and notes of that sweet and creaminess of the topping. Also, if you really want to notice your frosting, just give them a bowl of frosting! Don’t waste a perfectly good cupcake by hiding it in frosting. Frosting can be so sweet and overpowering sometimes. An even crumb on a cupcake is important because it reflects how you mixed your batter. You want to eliminate as many chunks as possible and create the most even cake as you can. The consistency of the frosting is also key. Your frosting should match your cake. Don’t pair a light cake with a dense frosting. (However a light frosting on a dense cake evens things out) Plus, your frosting should not have a crust on top that results from the use of shortening or too much powdered sugar. (Use butter!) I’m afraid sprinkles does this way too often whenever I buy their cupcakes. Their frosting has a gritty texture that’s not as smooth and creamy as I would like it to be. Generally, American buttercreams may appeal to the sweet tooth, but are not as silky and smooth as a Italian Meringue or French Buttercream.
Taste is important as ever! One of my biggest pet peeves is when a chocolate cake tastes does not taste chocolate at all! Or if a “vanilla” cake turns out to be a plain yellow cake. Or, if a red velvet cake tastes waaay too chocolately. Taste is key, my friends. A cupcake cannot be too sweet, nor too bland. This goes in the frosting. An overly sweet frosting just kills whatever beauty of the cupcake that lies underneath it.
What is your criteria for a perfect cupcake? Comment below!