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What is a Cupcake?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A cupcake is a small cake which is generally designed as a single serving. Many people enjoy making and eating cupcakes along with other miniaturized foods, and most bakeries offer a line of these cakes in addition to their other desserts. In some parts of the world, a cupcake may be known as a fairy cake, which is probably a reference to the small and dainty size.

Almost any cake can be turned into cupcakes. Some sponge cakes and tortes may not always translate as well, but in general these recipes can be converted with a few small changes. Most cupcakes are usually made in specialized pans or molds which consist of a series of interconnected cups for batter. These cups may be lined with wax paper or foil to make removal much easier, and to allow people to handle the cupcakes without getting their hands dirty.

If you are making cupcakes, you may want to read the recipe carefully to ensure that the cake batter will perform well in smaller cakes. You might also want to consider making a smaller batch so that you can experiment with different varieties, like chocolate and vanilla. Be aware that cupcakes have a much shorter cooking time than regular cake, since their volume is significantly smaller. You might also want to try playing with fillings such as jam, pastry cream, or cream cheese.

Many children's parties feature cupcakes instead of cake because the individual servings eliminate arguments about the sizing of slices of cake. They may also add a personal element to the party, making each attendant feel especially valued. When allergies are a concern, individual cupcakes can also be made without ingredients like nuts, which some people may be allergic to. Adults may also enjoy these treats at parties, with cupcake wedding cakes being a popular item in some parts of the world.

Some bakers greatly enjoy making and decorating cupcakes, since the small size adds a unique challenge. The frosting must be carefully applied so that the sweets are not overloaded, and decorations need to be added in moderation so that the end product doesn't look too busy with design elements. Some bakers like to pipe on flowers, leaves, writing, and other elements, while others may add sprinkles, plastic models, and other fun decorations.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By ZsaZsa56 — On Nov 07, 2012

Don't they have cupcake vending machines in a few places now? It seems like a silly idea but honestly at the right time I would be all over that thing.

By chivebasil — On Nov 06, 2012

A friend of mine recently made what she called breakfast cupcakes. The cake was similar to a pancake, in flavor but not so much in texture, and then it was topped with a syrup flavored frosting and a sprinkle of bacon bits. It was surprisingly tasty. Not something I would want to eat at 8AM necessarily, but definitely one of the more creative cupcakes I have ever had.

By JessicaLynn — On Oct 19, 2012

@LoriCharlie - The last wedding I went to that had wedding cupcakes also had a small wedding cake for the couple to cut. I thought it was a good solution to that problem!

By LoriCharlie — On Oct 18, 2012

Wedding cupcakes are definitely popular these days. In fact, the last few weddings I went to had wedding cupcakes instead of a wedding cake.

I thought it was cute, and it was a lot easier than having someone cute a bunch of pieces of cake. However, that's a double edged sword, because then the couple doesn't get to do the cake cutting thing either. But I guess to each their own!

By ceilingcat — On Oct 18, 2012

@Monika - I've noticed that too, but I just don't get it. I mean, cupcakes are okay and everything, but I don't know why people go so crazy over them. I'd rather have a cookie than some fancy cupcake.

By Monika — On Oct 17, 2012

I'm not sure why, but it seems like people have been obsessed with cupcakes for the last few years. There are several little shops in my area that specialize in expensive gourmet cupcakes.

Also, a lot of coffee shops now sell different kinds of cupcakes too. I'm not sure why this happened, but I like it. I love cupcakes!

By vogueknit17 — On Jul 26, 2011

@BambooForest- There are certainly "cup pie" recipes on the internet, and I think some are indeed inspired by Pushing Daisies. I haven't tried them myself, because I don't really have any cupcake baking supplies or much time to bake, but I know someone who does a lot of baking and has talked about cupcake and cup pies recently too. I hope you find a good one.

By BambooForest — On Jul 25, 2011

One of my favorite shows is Pushing Daisies, where the main character owns a pie restaurant called the Pie Hole. In one episode, he starts selling something called "cup pies"- basically cupcakes that are made using pie recipes. What I'm wondering is, does anyone know if this really exists? I would like some cupcake recipes that were reminiscent of "cup pies" and I knew worked.

By anon183139 — On Jun 04, 2011

Really appreciate this post. It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it!

By catapult43 — On Feb 09, 2009

Cupcakes are fun treats for any occasion, children or adult. They are easy and quick to make. I also like them because in a way they serve as portion control.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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