We’re pretty sure we once heard this line in a movie: “If you bake it, they will come.”
Or something like that. Come to think of it, we might just be heeding the sirenlike song of the cupcake, one of the world’s most-loved sweet treats. In order to dig in to the topic, we called on Michael Taylor, owner of special-order baked-goods company Mikey T’s and a certified cupcake genius. (We’re certain there’s a degree for that. You’ll agree with us once you try out Michael’s recipe at the end of the post.)
Explaining the cupcake’s near-universal appeal, Michael says, “They’re so versatile. You can be as creative as you want. It’s really easy to please everyone because you can have so many flavors between the cake and the frosting.” He also notes that cupcakes aren’t just for birthdays anymore, and now make center-stage appearances at everything from weddings to retirement parties and backyard barbecues. Michael adds, “I think there’s a nostalgic, sentimental feel to them. I always remember going with my grandmother or my mother to the bakery, and I would get a vanilla cupcake. It’s a strong memory.” It’s also, for some, a way to indulge without feeling indulgent, since the cupcake’s petite size keeps it from being too much of a guilty pleasure.
Over the years, Michael has perfected some pretty funky flavors. His most popular are the Sweet & Salty, a chocolate cake with a salted caramel filling, dipped in hazelnut ganache, and topped with peanut butter frosting, chopped pretzels, and white chocolate; and the Tropical Dream, a vanilla and coconut cake filled with pineapple and topped with a Malibu rum–infused buttercream rolled in sweetened coconut flakes. He also says that citrus and berry blends, like a lemon cake with mixed-berry frosting, are big crowd-pleasers. And don’t forget the presentation! Style your concoctions with coordinating placemats, napkins, and other table linens for maximum wow factor.
So if you’re ready to roll with a batch of cupcakes for your next party, work social, or just because, Michael’s sharing the special Fresh American flavor—featuring a combination of fresh, fruity, and slightly boozy flavors—that he concocted just for us. But first, check out his tips for cupcake-making success, every time:
- Stick to quality ingredients. According to Michael, this makes the biggest difference in cupcake quality. So source the best you can afford, even if this means splurging on the name brands instead of the store brands.
- Bring all of your ingredients to room temperature before you begin. They’ll incorporate into the batter easier—which helps prevent you from overmixing and creating a dense, chewy cupcake—if you take your eggs, butter, milk, and other refrigerated items out 20 minutes before you begin baking.
- Don’t overmix. Cupcakes should be light and fluffy! To avoid heaviness, whisk ingredients by hand or on low speed with an electric mixer, just until the ingredients are combined. If needed, use a spatula to push any chunky batter up the sides of the bowl to help break up and incorporate.
- Be patient. “Baking isn’t a rush project,” Michael cautions. Take the time to measure carefully and follow the other steps above, and you’ll be much happier with the results.
Mikey T’s Fresh American Cupcake
For the cake:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup white wine (preferably a sweet white wine, such as Riesling)
- 6 egg whites
- Lemon or orange zest (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer or large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; add the lemon or orange zest, if using. Mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the wine, until just combined—don’t overmix!
3. In a separate small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold into flour mixture until just combined.
4. Fill cupcake tins or cups about ¾ full. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Immediately remove the cupcakes from the pan and onto a baking rack to cool completely.
For the pear filling:
- 2 fresh pears, ripe but not overly ripe, or one 15-ounce can pears in heavy syrup, diced
- White wine (optional)
1. Place the diced pears in a bowl and cover with the wine. Allow to soak for 30 minutes; if pressed for time, stir the pears and wine continuously for a few minutes.
2. Core a small section from the cooled cupcakes by cutting through the top of the cupcake with a cupcake corer or paring knife. Cut the tops from the core and reserve the tops. Fill the cored area with the wine-soaked pears, plus a bit of liquid, if desired for extra flavor, and replace the tops.
For the honey-mascarpone frosting
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 1 stick salted butter, at room temperature
- ½ cup honey
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
- Chopped walnuts and sliced star fruit, if desired
1. Place the cheese and butter in a stand mixer or bowl. Add the sugar and begin to beat on medium until just combined.
2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the honey; adjust the amount depending on flavor preference. Beat until the ingredients are thoroughly combined, with no lumps of sugar, and the frosting is a spreadable consistency (not runny).
3. Frost each cupcake evenly; for best results, use an offset spatula. Garnish with chopped walnuts and sliced star fruit, if desired.
If you’re in the Pittsfield, Massachusetts, area, order your cupcakes from Mikey T’s today!