Sunday, March 24, 2013

Making Box Cupcakes Extraordinary!

Everyone loves a good cupcake. Add in fluffy, pink buttercream frosting and rainbow sprinkles and we've got a recipe for success.

But sometimes, the recipe for success may be a bit more time consuming than I can manage. In comes the savior, that is, box mixes. I know there is a lot of controversy in the baking world over whether mixes should be used. I used to mainly use mixes until I discovered how much I enjoy baking from scratch. However, sometimes I'm in a time crunch and need to use a mix. Others simply prefer to use mixes. I say, do as you please. :) 

So here's what I do to make extraordinary cupcakes when I use a mix. 

1. I make homemade buttercream frosting to top them. The frosting is so easy and fast to whip up and makes all the difference. It's also fun to pipe the frosting on for a fancier cupcake!
2. I fill the cups up 3/4 of the way with batter rather than 2/3 as the box instructs. 
(I've read about setting the temperature lower for the first few minutes and then bumping it up, but I saw no benefit from this.)
3. Add sprinkles, they make everything better. 

That's it! Three simple tips and those who eat your cupcakes won't have any clue they weren't made from scratch!

One of my reviewers said she is picky about cupcakes but this was really good! Others said the frosting was delicious. They didn't stop after just one. ;)

The above cupcake went sans rainbow sprinkles but I did pipe a cute rose onto it. Piping frosting is seriously easier than I thought. Here's how:

Decorating Cupcakes: 2 Ways

  1. Using a spatula, transfer your frosting to a prepared piping bag with the desired tip. (I used a Wilton 1M open star tip. It came in a very inexpensive kit from A.C. Moore.)
  2. Twist the top of the bag so no frosting squeezes out the top. Make sure the frosting is all the way to the bottom of the bag, ready to come out. 
  3. For the spiral: Start at the outside edge and spiral in and up, applying pressure the whole time. When you get to the end, lift up and stop applying pressure. For the rose: Start in the middle of the cupcake and spiral out, applying pressure the whole time. 
If you're a visual learner, definitely check out some youtube videos. They're really helpful for beginner cupcake decorators like myself. 

And, here's the frosting recipe I used:

Traditional Buttercream Frosting


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional, used to cut sweetness, can also use salted butter and leave out)


  1. Beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. 
  2. Gradually, add in 3 cups of powdered sugar with your mixer on low speed. 
  3. Add in vanilla, salt, and 1 tbsp milk. Beat on medium speed. 
  4. Depending on desired consistency, add in sugar (to stiffen) or milk (to thin). Note that adding more sugar will make it sweeter as well. 
  5. If desired, add in several drops of food coloring and beat well on medium speed. 
 This recipe made enough for me to frost 11 cupcakes. Piping frosting on uses much more frosting than spreading with a knife.

Recipe adapted from Savory Sweet Life

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