Moist, tasty, and expertly iced, the popular cupcake creations of sisters Katherine Kallinis and Sophie LaMontagne of Georgetown Cupcake in Washington, D.C., are baked works of art. Here are their secrets to success.
1. Good ingredients truly equal good taste. When your teeth sink into a cupcake, your taste buds should register nothing but bliss. To send them straight to cupcake heaven, consider splurging on top tier ingredients, say the sisters. Gourmet flavors are highlighted in something as small as a cupcake, so make those 3-4 bites count. "We use Plugra butter, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, and Valrhona cocoa, and they make a huge difference in taste," says LaMontagne.
2. Never, never over-bake a cupcake. "We always recommend erring on the side of under-baking," says Kallinis. "If you over-bake a cupcake, there's no way to save it. And it won't be moist on the inside." Georgetown Cupcake's team of bakers even set two timers to ensure the cakes make it out of the oven on time. For even better results, check your oven's heat with an oven thermometer, to determine it's true temperature. You're doing it right when your cupcakes look slightly sunken, rather than peaked, says LaMontagne. Test them with a toothpick if you're unsure -- if no batter clings to the pick, they're done.
3. Mix your batter with a light hand. If there's one thing we've learned as bakers, it's to simply be more gentle, says LaMontagne. "Baking fluffy, moist cupcakes is all about creating air bubbles in your batter that expand in the oven," she says. "If you over-mix your batter, you collapse those bubbles and end up with a brick-like cake." To avoid this, always mix on a low speed, stopping just as all ingredients blend.
4. Let all ingredients come to room temperature before baking. Take it from a pro: All ingredients incorporate into batter much more easily if they're at similar temperatures, says Kallinis. Sure, it requires a bit more planning to set out eggs, butter, and other refrigerated ingredients 15-20 minutes before you set to work, but for a perfect cupcake, it's worth it. (And as far as baking tips go, this one ranks among the easiest!)
5. Baking in advance? Freeze your creations. "If you've baked them to eat right away, we recommend storing cupcakes at room temperature," says LaMontagne. "But if they're for tomorrow, freezing them will retain their moisture much better than leaving them on a countertop overnight."