I've baked a lot of cupcakes over the years and while they usually turn out well, they're often inconsistent; so when Jennifer, from the award-winning Trophy Cupcakes, reached out to let me know she'd be in L.A., I jumped at the opportunity to spend a morning in the kitchen baking with her (or simply taste testing everything she made). We decided to make the Margarita Cupcakes from her new book: a lime cake with a lime tequila buttercream, just in time for Cinco de Mayo. They were...insane. But besides baking up some of the best treats that have come out of my kitchen, I also learned some valuable tips that I've shared below:
Room temperature ingredients: All ingredients should be room temperature. Not just the butter, but the eggs, sour cream and buttermilk. This ensures that everything will incorporate smoothly.
High quality ingredients: The difference between a cupcake that's good and one that's great has a lot to do with the ingredients. Farmers' market eggs, real vanilla (like Nielsen-Massey) and high quality chocolate (like Valrhona) help take it to the next level.
Scraping the bottom of the bowl: I've always made sure to scrape the sides of the bowl when mixing the cupcake batter, but was never careful about the bottom of the bowl. There's usually unmixed dough at the bottom, which leads to inconsistencies in the cupcakes when they bake, so make sure to use a spatula to incorporate that part as well.
Keep things even: Using a 1.5 ounce ice cream scoop ensures that all of the cupcakes are the same size and will bake evenly.
Bake time: The trick is to take the cupcakes out about 1-2 minutes before they're done (there should be a couple of crumbs left on a toothpick when inserted into the middle). They should be springy to the touch, but not wobbly or shiny. They'll continue to bake even after they're out of the oven and since they're so small, it doesn't take long for them to bake through. This will ensure they're moist and not dry.
Buttercream: Jennifer's buttercream is equal parts powdered sugar and butter, which results in a creamy frosting that's not cloyingly sweet. The key is to whip it long enough to incorporate air until it expands 1.5x in volume and lightens in color.
Icing Tips: The two most commonly used tips are a large round tip (Ateco #809) and a large star tip (Ateco #187).