What’s In a Cupcake

By now, I’ve established myself as a cupcake connoisseur, and if you aren’t aware of this, you probably haven’t had my cupcakes, and for that, I’m sorry. Besides perfecting my own cupcake recipes — and I’ve got some really great ones — I still eat cupcakes and I know what makes the best cupcake. So what are we looking for in this cupcake hunt? We need a cake that is moist, has a nice, fine crumb, and not dry, especially chocolate. That is key. It also has to taste like it is described. A vanilla cupcake should taste like vanilla. It’s kind of off putting to eat a cupcake that’s tasty but doesn’t have a hint of vanilla. Frosting needs to be creamy with just the right amount of sweetness, too much and you have grocery-store, canned frosting. You don’t want to be eating a cupcake with a side of butter, either. We’re looking for balance here. Perfect buttery-sugary balance.

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There are a few factors that I feel are essential to evaluating the perfect cupcake and I’ve developed a grading scale based on these 5 essential elements and am grading cupcakes accordingly. All cupcakes are provided equal opportunity to not suck. But I’m going all in for this cupcake challenge and only the best make the cut. So let’s get serious with these judgments. Cupcakes are small, multi-bite wonders that do not require a plate (or even a napkin). They are cute, they just are. It’s kind what they are all about. So presentation is key. Frosting that is slapped on with a spatula does not make me feel things. The magic of piping a perfect cupcake with creamy frosting is the stuff dreams are made of. We want symmetry, something that takes you away for a moment and decide to go all in for cupcake heaven.
The first bite is a telling sign on how the remainder of cupcake bliss will end up. Am I in for an awesome mini break from life, or does it end as abruptly as it started. While we are looking at a cupcake as one, awesome entity, the cake and frosting, on its own, can ruin the foodgasmic effect we are searching for. If you can eat these separate parts alone, you have the beginning of an epic cupcake finale. Another aspect, which brings us closer to cupcake heaven is the cake:frosting ratio. A perfect cupcake presents balance that gives you everything you need. No more, no less. So now that we know what’s at stake and what we’re looking for on this cupcake quest, let’s get to the fun part.

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