How To

By Lauren Flaum

Sweeter than your first date, more decadent than a visit to the spa, and yet, so conveniently packaged that you can take it almost anywhere: The Cupcake.

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The cupcake craze has been raging ever since Carrie and Miranda sat on a bench devouring pink-iced cupcakes from Magnolia bakery, talking about their relationship woes. The message was loud and clear: even in times of romantic turmoil, a girl can keep a smile on her face with one of these gorgeous little confectionary delights. Never had one of their famed creations? Well, here’s their address: 401 Bleecker St. And be prepared, on weekends you’re likely to have to stand in line. Yes, you’ll cue for cupcakes (and you’ll enjoy every moment-Buttercream frosting air has shown to trigger endorphins when inhaled in large quantities).

Think the cute and cuddly world of cupcakes seems anything but dramatic? Well, check out the history of the Sex in the City cupcake. Magnolia co-founder, Jenniifer Appel, left the Greenwich Village cup-cakery and headed uptown to midtown- to recreate her signature cupcakes. The aptly named Buttercup Bake Shop, located on Second Avenue, churns out thousands of cupcakes each week. It is the place that out-of-towners who take the “Sex In The City Bus Tour” (that’s a whole other topic) actually get to indulge (they pass by the Magnolia location with a verbal notation and photo op). For more sticky details: nymag.com/nymetro/food/features/14289/index1.html

There have been books written from both camps (Appel co-wrote the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook). In fact, there are a vast multitude of books, websites and even blogs – devoted simply to the existence of the glorious cupcake. (52cupcakes.blogspot.com is a personal fave). And if, like my mother, the only thing you know how to make is reservations, you’re in luck. We live in a city that caters to your every cupcake craving (check out http://www.cupcakestakethecake.blogspot.com).

Now, if you’re ready to get down to baking business, you’ll need a recipe. I recommend visiting cupcakeblog.com.

Next, you’ll need the right tools, including a muffin/cupcake pan and paper or foil liners, mixing bowls, a working oven and plenty of counter space. Yes, we realize that this is Manhattan, which is why there are so many great cupcake hot-spots in town where you can buy your heart’s desire…but somewhere out there is a girl in the city with a few feet of counter space. We just know it!

You’ll need some, ummm, groceries, too. Stuff you hardly ever have on your shopping list when you head to D’Agastinos. Eggs, flour, sugar, milk, vanilla, and uh – real butter. Ingredients will vary recipe to recipe. Just make your list before braving the isles.

If you’re no Julia Child, there’s no shame in going Betty Crocker box style rather than making your batter from scratch. Then you can conserve your time and energy for later; the Frosting phase. Frosting is key and can make or break your little cakes. Everyone has a favorite, but Buttercream seems to stand out as the ultimate topping, regardless of what you’ve cooked up. Personally, I recommend going with store-bought frosting and maybe adding your own finishing touches. A drop of almond extract, some food coloring, or maybe some sprinkles. You can really go girly on these little gems.

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Dietary concerns? Well, if you’re a vegan, check out Brooklynite Isa Moskowitz’s new book, “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule.” And mad props to Isa: VegNews named her celebration to all things cupcake Cookbook of the Year. You’ll see why after you try the Tiramisu cupcake.

Babycakes (located on Broome St.) will cater to your every dietary cupcake concern. They offer baked goods that are vegan, sugar free, gluten free, wheat free – but definitely not taste free! Visit them at 248 Broome St. or online at http://www.babycakesnyc.com.

At Beauty News, we’re all about sharing our sweet little insider secrets, so here’s mine. Trader Joe’s (http://www.traderjoes.com) makes a Decadent Chocolate Frosting that’s so delectably scrumptious. Visit their Manhattan location, Union Square Grocery, at 142 E. 14th St. and you’ll be hooked.

Now that I’ve got your mouth watering and your cupcake craving gland working overtime, go forth and cupcake!

Originally published March 2007
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