Food & Drink

Creating the Perfect Cupcake

By Penny Kidd
1st Oct 2013

When it comes to trendy sweet trends in Brisbane, we've had whoopee pies, cake pops and cronuts over the past few years, but none can come close to the enduring appeal of the timeless cupcake. 

Starting in New York City, the cupcake revolution has led to the opening of a number of cupcake-only shops in recent times and even whole TV shows devoted to upping the ante.

However, the risk inherent in every cupcake's creation is valuing style over substance, and there is nothing more disappointing than biting into a delicious-looking cupcake only to find a stale, dry cake base.

So how do you find the balance between looks and taste? And who does it best in Brisbane? We've done the leg work, and found out!


A traditional vanilla cupcake batter will start with the creaming method, where butter and sugar are beaten together until light. Flour, eggs, milk and vanilla will then be added to make a delicious batter.

You may wish to use buttermilk instead of milk for a slightly tangy flavour, or vegetable oil instead of butter for a lighter, lower-calorie option.

Poppy Cakes pride themselves on producing traditional New York cupcakes in the same vein as Magnolia Bakery (made famous by Sex and the City). Their simple, classic cupcakes are classy, elegant and ever so tasty. (They have even been generous enough to share their recipe with us below!)


So where do you even begin with cupcake flavours? Vanilla, chocolate and red velvet are the staples, but some bakers are taking flavourings to the extreme.

The Cupcake Parlour in West End and Bulimba have over 50 flavours on display every day, which can be overwhelming to say the least. Bananarama, Chai-licious, Fairy Floss, and Mango Tango are a few to choose from. 


For icing, there are a few options available. Flavoured or coloured buttercream is most popular, either spread on with a spatula or piped up high.

Royal icing can also be used and provides a bit of texture and crunch to the cupcake. It is made up of icing sugar, egg whites, and a bit of lemon for flavour.

Cream cheese icing is a perfect match for citrus or red velvet cupcakes, and chocolate fondant adds a bit of extravagance.

Cakestar in Albion use a range of icings on their delicious cupcakes including buttercream, whipped ganache, and cream cheese frosting. As an aside, Cakestar have expanded their premises and are now serving up gelato and cookies at Confectory by Cakestar.


Vanilla Pod Cafe and Deli Cafe in Ascot create custom-made toppers for their delicious cupcakes that can be themed to suit any occasion.  From sports and Valentine's Day to children's birthday cake and corporate logos – if there's an occasion you can think of, they can put it on a cupcake.

Vanilla Vanilla cupcake  (recipe courtesy of Poppy Cakes)

250 g cake flour

180 g bakers flour

400 g caster sugar

3 tsps baking powder

3/4 tsp fine salt

225 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)

4 extra large free range eggs 

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (madagascar bourbon if possible for a pure vanilla flavour)

240 ml whole milk (at room temperature)

Preheat oven to 160°C. Line cupcake pans with patty liners and put aside. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment or beaters combine both flours, caster sugar, baking powder, salt and mix until just combined.
Add butter and mix until mixture resembles sand and there are no large lumps of butter left. Approximately 1 minute.
In a jug or bowl mix together milk and vanilla.
Add all eggs to mixer and a dash of the milk mixture (about 30 ml).
Mix on medium speed for 1 minute 30 seconds.
Scrape down mixer and add 1/3 of remaining milk mixture.
Beat for 20 seconds on medium speed. Do not over beat.
Add 1/3 of milk mixture and mix for 20 seconds.
Scrape down, add remaining milk mixture and beat for a further 20 seconds.
Divide batter evenly between liners filling to about 2/3 full.

Rotate tray halfway through bake.
Cupcake are cooked when a cake tester comes out clean. About 17–20 minutes depending on your oven. Transfer to a wire cooling rack.
Once cooled use a small spatula to ice each cupcake with vanilla buttercream.

Basic Vanilla Buttercream icing

225 g unsalted butter (room temperature)

1120 g pure icing sugar—sifted to remove all lumps. (DO NOT use icing sugar mixture).

120 ml whole milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract (madagascar bourbon if possible for a pure vanilla flavour)

Using the paddle or beater attachment beat butter until white and fluffy. (This can take 7–8 minutes.)
Add all sifted pure icing sugar into mixer bowl. Starting slowly to avoid throwing icing sugar everywhere increase speed gradually until medium speed.
Continue mixing until mixture comes together. Approximately 2 minutes.

Add milk and vanilla and mix on medium speed until mixed through and smooth.
Use small spatula to ice cupcakes.

What's your favourite cupcake flavour? Do you like the new, modern versions or crave a good old butterfly-cake from your younger days? Share your secrets and tell us your best tips!

Image Credit: Lulu At Home

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