White cupcakes on wooden table

Beautifully frosted cupcakes make a delicious sweet treat.

By Angela Shelf Medearis

While Betty Crocker is often associated with 1950s happy homemaking, she originally belonged to a different generation. Created in 1921 as a “friend to homemakers” for the Washburn Crosby Company (a forerunner to General Mills) in Minneapolis, her purpose was to answer consumer mail. “She” was actually the women of the Home Service Department who signed Betty’s name.

Eventually, Betty Crocker’s local radio show on WCCO expanded, and audiences around the nation tuned her in, tried her money-saving recipes and wrote Betty nearly 5,000 fan letters per day. “Your talks ... have given me hope,” wrote one listener to the Betty Crocker radio program during the Depression.

A fascinating book, “Finding Betty Crocker” (Minnesota Heritage, 2007), by author and documentary producer Susan Marks, offers a unique look at the culinary and marketing history of America’s First Lady of Food. According to Marks’ largely chronological “biography” (there was no real Betty Crocker), it was human connections like this one that made Crocker one of the most successful marketing tools ever. Filled with treasures from the General Mills archive — including letters sent to Crocker during World War II, reprints of famous recipes and advertisements, and portraits updated through the years — Marks’ book introduces readers to the people who breathed life into Crocker’s image as the happiest of homemakers.

With these basic items and tips courtesy of the Betty Crocker website (www.bettycrocker.com), you can bake and decorate a batch of beautiful cupcakes in a snap.

CUPCAKE MAKING TIPS

Staples:

  • Betty Crocker boxed cake mixes in a variety of flavors
  • Ready-to-spread frostings
  • Decorating icing, assorted colors
  • Decorating gels, assorted colors
  • Food colors (liquid, gel or paste). Try paste food color for more vivid color frosting
  • Assorted colored sugars and edible glitters
  • Assorted candy sprinkles

Equipment:

  • Cupcake pans (mini and regular)
  • Paper baking cups, available in a variety of colors and prints. Find them in supermarkets, party, craft or specialty cake decorating stores.
  • Resealable food-storage plastic bags for piping icings and glazes.

Tip: Baking Pans

A box of cake mix makes 24 to 30 cupcakes in regular-size cupcake pan. There also are pans that have mini, large and jumbo cups. If you have only one pan and a recipe calls for more cupcakes than your pan will make, just cover and refrigerate the rest of the batter while baking the first batch. Cool the pan about 15 minutes, then bake the rest of the batter, adding 1 to 2 minutes to the bake time.

An easy way to fill baking cups is to use an ice cream scoop. Use one that measures out 1/3 cup batter when filling regular-size cups. Use one that measures out 2 tablespoons batter when filling mini cups.

Frosting Tips:

  • Carefully dip tops of cupcake into the frosting, give a slight twist and remove. Finish off with a swirl of a knife if needed.
  • Dip frosted cupcakes into bowls of nuts, colored sugar, sprinkles or other decors for easy decorating.

Storing Cupcakes:

1. Cool cupcakes completely before covering to keep tops from becoming sticky (about 30 minutes).

2. Loosely cover cupcakes that will be frosted later so the tops stay dry. If covered tightly, they become sticky and difficult to frost.

3. Store cupcakes with a creamy-type frosting loosely covered with foil, plastic wrap or waxed paper, or under a cake safe or inverted bowl

4. Refrigerate cupcakes with whipped-cream toppings or cream fillings.

5. Frost cupcakes with fluffy frosting on the day they are to be served.

6. Freeze cupcakes two to three months, tightly wrapped.

7. To keep frosting on frosted cupcakes from sticking, freeze cupcakes uncovered 1 hour, then insert a toothpick in the top of the cupcake, and tightly wrap.

8. Thaw cupcakes in the refrigerator or on the countertop.

9. When thawing on the countertop, loosen or remove wrapping to prevent condensation.

10. Decorating gel, hard candies and colored sugars do not freeze well because they tend to run during thawing.

Angela Shelf Medearis is an award-winning children’s author, culinary historian and the author of seven cookbooks. Her new cookbook is “The Kitchen Diva’s Diabetic Cookbook.” Her website is www.divapro.com. To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook. Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

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