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From the Cake Mix Doctor
by Anne Byrn
Workman Publishing Company, 2005

The popularity of single-serving cakes, better known as  cupcakes, has its origin in childhood. Most of us have fond memories of peeling back the paper liner and pressing the soft cake and creamy frosting into our mouths, wiping the excess off our cheeks and nostrils and licking our fingers in delight.

Anne Byrn -- aka "The Cake Mix Doctor" -- brings back the joy of childhood desserts with this guide to converting conventional cake mixes into unique and unusual homemade desserts like Tie-Dye Cupcakes with Psychedelic Buttercream or Key Lime Pie Cupcakes with Coconut Meringue.


Byrn shares her secrets for doctoring up mixes to produce memorable cupcakes using chocolate curls, shiny gold and silver dragees, toasted pecans, lemon and orange zest strips, edible flowers. Her methods are fast, easy, and the results are can be impressive.

Cupcakes have recently achieved panache among adult consumers. "Like home-baked meatloaf and real mashed potatoes, they are terribly chic," Byrn writes.


Cupcake Tips

Buy an oven thermometer and check to see if your oven is baking at the correct temperature.

Place the oven rack in the center position.

Preheat the oven for 10 to 15 minutes before baking.

Read the recipe before beginning. Make sure you have the right pan size. Regular cupcakes and muffins go in 2½- to 2¾-inch cups.

Find paper liners that fit your pan snugly. For muffins, mist the bottom of the cups with vegetable oil spray.

Blend the batter for the amount of time the recipe specifies. Use a hand or stand mixer for cupcakes and a wooden spoon for most muffins.

Spoon or scoop batter into the prepared cups, filling them two-thirds (one-fourth cup batter) or three quarters (one-third cup batter) full, depending on the recipe instructions.

Check the cupcakes for doneness, looking for browning in light-colored cupcakes or pressing the top to see if it springs back.

Allow up to five minutes for cupcakes to cool in the pan before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. Then frost or glaze as desired.

 "Walk into an upscale bakery in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles and you will see great gilded cupcakesliterally put up on pedestals. They are often coated in fudge or caramel and might have a candied violet or white chocolate shavings on top."

While some of Byrn's recipes like her Hot Fudge Spumoni Ice Cream Cake cater to the sophisticated crowd, most are just fun and celebratory homemade treats for kids of all ages. The recipes usually produce 24 cupcakes, just the right amount for a school function or a birthday bash.

Look to the front of the book for basic instructions and a list of more than four dozen items to keep on hand in the fully stocked cupcake baker's pantry.

The rest of Byrn's book is devoted to 135 recipes for cupcakes, frostings, a few muffins, and some special party presentations like a cupcake Christmas tree and a`cupcake wedding cake.

Cakes and Cupcakes
Cakes and Cupcakes

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Baked Goods

Cakes and Cupcakes
Cakes and Cupcakes

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