Cupcake Coup

Cookbook author Elinor Klivans loves cupcakes. So much, in fact, that she wrote an entire book on the subject. "I fell in love with cupcakes," says Klivans excitedly. "They're like my little friends." Cupcakes (Chronicle Books, 2005) reacquaints us with a cherished favorite. Classic yellow or chocolate cupcakes with thick, gooey fudge frosting bring back memories of cupcakes past, while modern variations like Butterfly and Harvest cupcakes give us a glimpse of new tastes to treasure.

Klivans' earliest memory of cupcakes was bringing a birthday batch to her kindergarten class. They've been an important part of her life ever since. "I've always loved making cupcakes. They're easy and fast ... and it's not like decorating a layer cake where you worry about keeping layers flat and even."

 For a unique and unexpected indulgence, Klivans likes to miniaturize many of her favorite indulgences, claiming that "almost any dessert can be turned into a cupcake."  Her book backs this up, featuring Boston Cream, Pineapple Upside-Down and Lemon Meringue cupcakes that capitalize on one of the best features of these little cakes: individual portion sizes that don't require sharing.

Perhaps the cupcake's greatest asset, though, is its versatility. "Cupcakes can be sliced and filled," Klivans enthuses. "You can swirl different batters together, use different kinds of icing, bake in different size pans and different-shaped containers." Mini muffin tins allow for the making of bite-size teacakes, and Texas-sized muffin tins for giant, over-the-top cupcakes. Of course, traditional cupcakes are equally alluring, but Klivans and her special cakes show that there's more than one way a cupcake can and should be enjoyed.

But what really sets a cupcake apart is its decoration. One of Klivans' favorite cupcake toppers, for instance, is made from a gumdrop rolled out flat, and pinched to resemble a flower. She also expertly employs different icings, curds, and buttercreams to give each little cake a personality all its own. Those less coordinated can either cover decorating mistakes with toasted coconut or, if necessary, simply eat the evidence. After all, there are few pleasures in life greater than licking off a cupcake's buttercream crown.

It's in this spirit that Klivans has whipped up five new cupcake recipes that are sure to be a hit, exclusively for Chocolatier readers. So in celebration of the cupcake, and Elinor Klivans' Cupcakes, heap on as much frosting as you like and go create some outside-the-box treats of your own.

Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Pure Chocolate Cupcakes

Strawberry Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

White Mountain Coconut Cupcakes