Cupcake Friday: Better-Than-Box-Mix Cupcakes
Happy Cupcake Friday!
I made these cupcakes ages ago, and somehow managed to save them until I had started a Cupcake Friday feature on my blog. How appropriate! Don’t they look delicious? Now I want to make more this weekend…
It all starts innocently enough with a box of cake mix and the KitchenAid. Things get a little friskier when you swap milk for water and butter for oil. Then, all hell breaks loose when you add one beautiful box of instant pudding mix.
I’ve read in various places that if the cake mix is already “pudding in the mix” you shouldn’t add more pudding. I think that’s ridiculous. How can you have too much pudding? They say that if there’s too much, the cupcakes collapse on themselves. Maybe, but isn’t it worth it? Also, it didn’t happen to mine, and there was definitely “pudding in the mix”. If anything, the chocolate cupcakes kind of exploded.
For the frosting on both sets of cupcakes, I used recipes from Hello, Cupcake! I really love that book, mostly for the design and decorating ideas, but I have to say I was disappointed with the cream cheese frosting – it was too sweet and runny (although they warned me of the softness in the recipe). The chocolate ganache was awesome, though, and so easy!
I’d never made ganache before, so I fully expected this to not work at all. You heat the cream and then pour it onto the chocolate, and it does its magic. Five minutes later, you stir and it just comes together. I gave it a shot, and while we were waiting, my mom sat there at my kitchen table shaking her head and saying “there’s no way.” But five minutes later, miraculously, delicious chocolate ganache came into being!
Look at those lines! It’s so thick and creamy and chocolatey. Perfect. I would make it every day.
The cream cheese icing, however… Not so hot. First of all, I really don’t like using confectioner’s sugar. (Except on french toast. Powdered sugar on french toast is amazing, just don’t breathe.) Second, even more so than with my cinnamon cream cheese icing, this icing is heavy on the sugar and light on the cream cheese. It needs work. Third, even warning me that it would be soft didn’t prepare me for just how soft. The pumpkin-cinnamon icing worked much better (but still needed more cream cheese).
Oh – this is pink because I added Chambord, not because there was something terribly wrong with my cream cheese. I didn’t want to add too much and make it runnier, but I ended up not adding enough, because you couldn’t really taste it. Also, this picture illustrates part of what I don’t like about confectioner’s sugar – too lumpy!
Ultimately, it creamed up nicely, but it was all an act. It was on good behavior until I tried to put it in piping bags. (I know, I know. The recipe said not to. I did it anyway.)
Here are my pretty piping bags, all ready for their inaugural piping mission. (Yes, these were a Christmas present. And yes, I was making these cupcakes for Alice’s baby shower, in January. I told you I’ve been hoarding this post for a while.)
The cupcake line-up. I made so many! They smelled so good! But here’s one of my flaws – I didn’t leave myself enough time. The cupcakes were still a little warm when I started frosting. Always a dangerous start…
Between the slightly warm cupcakes and the not-firm-enough, slightly-warm cream cheese icing, the pink-frosted cupcakes were a mess. I switched part way through from piping a big blog to piping in spirals, because that seemed to hold the shape a little better. Since the frosting didn’t stand up, it just looked like they were oozing.
The ganache worked much better – but my piping skills need work. These were the prettiest ones, which should tell you something. But at least with these, the icing held its shape.
The final product, on their merry way to a baby shower/party!
Here are some more chocolate cupcakes I made a few days later, since I still had box mix and pudding around the house. These cracked me up – don’t they look like they’re raspberrying each other?
Look at that chocolate tongue!
And these are some I made a few weeks later for our Super Bowl party. I’m not a talented decorator (obviously), so my patriotism (har har har – get it?) only extended to writing letters with tube-food coloring. I thought they were cute… Maybe if they’d been prettier, we’d have won?
Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcakes
Adapted from Hello, Cupcake! and a multitude of well meaning cooking blogs that I cannot remember right now to save my life
- Start with 1 box cake mix, any basic flavor
Using the quantities in the recipe on the box:
- Replace water with buttermilk
- Replace oil with butter
- Add 1 extra egg (usually 4 total)
- Add 1 box instant pudding mix (The pudding flavor depends on the flavor of your cake mix – I made funfetti cupcakes with vanilla pudding, and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate pudding)
Mix all ingredients, and bake cupcakes as directed on the box!
Adaped from Hello, Cupcake!
- 1 cup whipping cream or whole milk
- 12 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
- Coarsely chop the chocolate into chunks and set aside in a large heat-safe bowl.
- In a thick-bottom saucepan over medium heat, bring the whipping cream to a simmer, stirring constantly to keep the cream from burning
- Remove the cream from the heat and pour into the chopped chocolate and let sit for five minutes.
- Stir to combine completely – the chocolate should be completely melted by this point.
- Allow the ganache to cool for at least 15 minutes, then stick it in the fridge until it is firm enough to pipe.
Cream Cheese Frosting
From Hello, Cupcake!
Makes 3 1/4 cups
Don’t use this frosting for projects involving piping, because it’s too soft.
- 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
- 1 stick (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 box (16 oz) confectioners sugar
- 2-3 Tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl.
- Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Gradually add confectioners sugar and 2 Tbsp milk and beat until smooth.
- Add vanilla extract.
- Add remaining 1 Tbsp milk if frosting is too thick.
- Refrigerate frosting until it is firm enough to spread. (You can try to pipe it, but it will probably run.)