Is there anything more comforting than a fresh baked cupcake? I’ve certainly been relishing my pregnancy card, happily (and semi-guilt-free) baking myself and my family a batch of classic yellow cupcakes with chocolate butter-cream frosting–ALL FROM A STORE-BOUGHT MIX! Seriously easy, seriously tasty and simply decorated with fresh fruits–seriously chic! These fresh baked cupcakes are pretty enough to showcase at your next dinner party, give as a gift for Valentine’s day or to grace your tween’s next birthday party!
The kind of boxed mix you use matters. Have you ever read the ingredients in a Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker cake mix? Quite a few ingredients int here that are unneeded and unhealthy. Go simple instead by buying a natural or organic cake mix and be sure to read the ingredients (it’s not hard, we all know what’s supposed to be in a cake mix). I use the cake mixes from Trader Joe’s that are delicious made according to their instructions or doctored up, like this moist chocolate cake recipe. With classic yellow or chocolate mixes available, you can’t go wrong!
To make any store-bought cake mix more fabulous, follow these tips:
- Never used canned frosting! Not only are they loaded with preservatives and more difficult to pipe with, you can make your cupcake taste scratch-made by simple using better frosting. I use a boxed frosting mix from Trader Joe’s (comes in vanilla or chocolate) and all you need to add is softened butter or cream cheese.
- Keep the cupcakes moist! Cupcakes dry out faster than their full-cake cousins. Keep in as much moisture as you can by wrapping each cupcake in plastic wrap 2 minutes after coming out of the oven. Don’t want to do that much work? Then store multiple cupcakes, right after coming out of the oven, in plastic Tupperware containers. By trapping the moisture that typically escapes while “cooling” the cupcakes, you retain that moisture that makes all the difference when biting into your cupcake.
- You can bake the cupcakes DAYS before you eat them! When you wrap or store the cupcakes as mentioned above, your cupcakes actually taste better when they have been stored in a cool, dark place for 1 to 2 days before you frost them. Again, it is about retaining all that moisture! In my experience, I get the best results when baking my cupcakes 2 days before I plan to eat them and frosting them the morning of or a few hours before.
- Using a classic star-tip and a piping bag make your cupcakes look and TASTE more delicious! We eat with our eyes first and people will think a professionally iced cupcake tastes better than its frosted-with-a-kitchen-knife counterpart. I’m not saying you have to take a 3-course Wilton cake decorating class! I’m just advocating for some basic, star-tip decorating techniques that I’ll explain below.
Basic Star-Tip Cupcake Decorating:
You don’t need to have the special 1M Wilton cupcake swirl-tip to make a beautiful cupcake! All you need is a generic star-tip, even a plastic one from the grocery store will do the trick to kick your cupcakes up a notch! Get a disposable piping bag or even a large plastic Ziploc bag with one end cut off to fit the tip, and you’re ready to dazzle!
For the cupcake on the far right, I used a classic “star” technique, that you can learn to do here, and peppered them with red sprinkles. For the cupcake ont he far left, I used a “shell boarder” technique, that you can learn here, and I alternated directions for more interest. On the cupcake on top, I just elongated the stroke of the shell boarder for a fanning out effect, similar to the “reverse shell,” here. For the bottom cupcake, I did a classic cupcake swirl, starting with a large star dollop in the center (to build height) and spiraling from the outside edge in and ending on the top of the initial dollop.