What is it about cupcakes? They seem to be appearing everywhere you look, on TV, in books, magazines, and the bakery around the corner. Reminiscent of childhood, parties and picnics, everyone loves them to the point that it has nearly become a global obsession. Perhaps it is because cupcakes are the sort of dessert anyone can make, regardless of cooking expertise. Most require few ingredients, are easily prepared, and individually sized, meaning no guilt need creep up when eating one. Thanks to this ever increasing clamor for cupcakes, countless blogs, books and bakeries have all sprang up in honor of the humble dessert. Check out this article for a discussion about the meteoric rise of cupcakes to global popularity.
Along with muffins and brownies, cupcakes have somehow slowly and silently crept into the cultural food lexicon, becoming a ‘go to option’ for a quick dessert, as well as becoming an entirely untapped art form for many bakers and cake decorators. In February of last year, in honor of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, a giant mural made up entirely of cupcakes, made its debut at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. For more about this, click here.
However, for all their popularity, relatively little is known about the history of a food which has become such a national obsession.
Most food historians will say that it is nearly impossible to trace the actual creation of the cupcake with any certainty, listing late 18th, or early 19th Century America, as the most probable birthplace. The word “cupcake” itself seems to appear for the first time somewhere between 1826 and 1828, printed in the cooking “Receipts” book of Eliza Leslie. During her time, “cupcakes” would have just as easily referred to two very different desserts, neither exactly resembling the small iced confections we know today.
Before the creation of individual muffin, or cupcake tins, small bite size, or single serving cakes were often baked in sturdy mugs, or pottery ramekins. The system of cup measurements was also just being introduced in America and gaining prominence during the early 1800’s, meaning that cakes which could be measured by volume, where the main ingredients could all be measured by cups, and not individually weighed, were considered to be a huge improvement. These cakes were also often called “quarter cakes”, or sometimes, “number cakes”, or “1234 cakes”, because they generally used only four main ingredients. Many standard recipes called for 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs. Click on this interesting link to find out more.
Other variations, or cousins to the traditional cupcake, exist all over the world, the most common of these being the English “Queen’s Cakes”, made in honor of the Queen’s birthday,filled with dried fruit, and most closely resembling muffins.
“Butterfly cakes”, where the top of the cupcake is cut off, the inside is then scooped out and filled with cream, and the top replaced, forming the shape of butterfly wings.
“Fairy Cakes” are also another well known variety, so named for their tiny size, small enough to be eaten at a fairy’s tea party.
Most any recipe which creates a standard sponge or layer cake, can be successfully used to make cupcakes, although the baking time almost always needs to be altered slightly due to the smaller size of the cupcakes. As with many recipes, the sky is practically the only limit governing what sort of cupcakes you can make, from the very simple, to the extremely elaborate.
Although chocolate and vanilla seem to be the most popular varieties of cupcakes, after looking through our cupboards and discovering organic lemons and shredded coconut, the contrasting combination of the two, whipped up into a dessert, and served with iced coffee on a hot Summer afternoon sounded wonderful. A new spin on the old classic, these cupcakes are light, moist, indulgent, and just lightly sweet. Try them for yourself and watch everyone applaud.
- 1-1/4 cups Gluten Free Flour, consisting of:
- 1/2 cup brown rice flour
- 1/2 cup tapioca flour
- 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 2 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
- juice of 1 whole lemon
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1/2 tsp. lemon extract
- 1/4 cup unsulphured shredded coconut flakes
Ingredients for the lemon-coconut frosting:
- 1/2 (4 oz.) package of low fat cream cheese
- 1/4 tsp. of lemon extract
- 1 tsp. honey
- 3 tsp. of coconut milk
- 3 tsp. of shredded coconut, plus extra for topping
This recipe makes 10 medium cupcakes.
Step 1: In a mixing bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients, setting aside 1 Tbsp. of the evaporated cane juice.
Step 2: Whip the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar half way through. The egg whites should form glossy soft peaks. Set aside. Cream the egg yolks, milk, and lemon extract.
Step 3: Add the lemon zest and shredded coconut to the creamed egg yolks. Slowly add in the dry ingredients. Mix everything together well, whipping with either a hand held whisk, or an electric mixer, until an even, slightly frothy batter forms.
Step 4: Gently fold in the egg whites, until fully incorporated into the batter.
Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C
Step 6: Line muffin tins with paper liners. Using a small ladle or a large spoon, fill each cup almost to the top with the batter. Lacking the expansive quality of gluten, these cupcakes will only rise a small amount.
Step 7: Place the cupcake tin on a cookie sheet to avoid spills, and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely before icing.
Step 8: Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, mix the cream cheese, honey, lemon extract, and shredded coconut together, until a smooth icing is created. Place about 1-1/2 or 2 tsp. of the icing mixture on the top of each cupcake, spreading evenly. Sprinkle extra coconut on top.
Enjoy immediately. If you have any left over, they can also be stored in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days.
See how fast this recipe becomes part of your Summer repertoire for picnics, holidays, or just a lazy afternoon tea in the shade. Enjoy!