An intriguing debate in baking is difference between Cupcakes and Muffins. Whilst the two yummy baked goods look similar, they are differentiated by the method of baking, texture and perhaps also the way they are eaten.
A cupcake is essentially a small cake. Therefore, to gain the moniker of a cake, the method usually involves creaming the butter with sugar to get a light, fluffy texture for the cake. Additionally, the ingredients are mixed into a smooth texture. Muffins, on the other hand, involves mixing the dry and wet ingredients, to get a lumpy batter; too smooth, and the muffin doesn't taste as good.
For me, muffins are usually unfrosted and eaten warm. Cupcakes, like cakes in general, are usually frosted and eaten cold.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (171g)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (96g)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened (43g)
1 1/3 cups white sugar (268g)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1. Preheat oven to 175 deg C. Line a muffin pan with paper or foil liners.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk; beat well.
4. Fill the muffin cups slightly more than 1/2 full.
5. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
6. Frost with your favourite frosting when cool.
This recipe works well with both minicupcake liners and larger cupcake liners. Also, it tastes great a day after baking, retaining its moisture.
A simple frosting for the kids to use is to whip up some whipping cream with icing sugar to taste. Let the kids have fun decorating the cups with piping swirls and sugared bits available from baking shops. Chocolate rice and Hundreds & Thousands (or Fairy sugar) make great decorations too.
Or just bake the cupcakes and have a birthday cake with a difference - let the kids have the fun decorating their own birthday cakes with a candle in honour of the birthday kid!
ETA (20/11/07): You can also decorate your cupcakes with fondant (sugarpaste/gumpaste) figurines. Joyce has an entry in her blog about a sharing session we had at my place with this cupcake recipe.