If there’s even been a dessert storm, it had to be the one about cupcakes. The last couple of years saw these bite-sized pieces of decadence take centre stage in the culinary word. If Martha Stewart wrote a whole book on it and The New York Times devoted precious column space to the cause of the cupcake, then back home in Bangalore, they edged out the good old cake to be a permanent fixture on almost every table laid out for guests.
Big names, designer themes, giant retail outlets — they all cashed in on it. But like all soul food, the best recipes for cupcakes still come out of home kitchens. In Bangalore, some women are being generous enough to bring those recipes out to you. Homemade cupcakes are the way to go, it seems. Fresh, made to order and with customised themes, fillings and toppings, there’s now way you could go wrong with these.
If Reethika Singh and Shweta Nagpal started about a year ago, turning their kitchens larger to cater to orders, then Karishma Chandani has been in the business for about 14 years working out of her basement workshop, though she has been making cupcakes for about a year or two now. Jayashree Mudaliar has been baking them since 2008.
Singh works only on cupcakes, though she does smaller cakes on request. She bakes them in three sizes — small bite-sized pieces, the regular size and a jumbo, supersized version meant for theme parties. She has already done about 30 different flavours and constantly experiments with more. “It is amazing what you can try with cupcakes. From themes to toppings or fillings, you just let your imagination run wild," she says.
Singh has been doing cupcakes (apart from regular flavours like chocolate or vanilla) with marshmallows and Oreo cookies, seasonal fresh fruit and liquor. “Strawberries are in season now, so I do a filling with fresh strawberries and a strawberry-and-cream topping. I am planning a mango cupcake for summer and for fall I did pumpkin spiced cupcakes with cream cheese toppings,” she says. Her liquor cupcakes come in flavours of Kahlua, Grand Marnier, Bailey’s and even bourbon! “I did it at my husband’s suggestion. He wanted whiskey flavoured ones,” she laughs. There are options for pina colada, margarita, Cosmopolitan and other cocktail cupcakes too. However, she needs three days to prepare these.
Nagpal, who caters out of home, started the cupcake venture for kids’ birthday parties and almost all her themes are centred on children. She loves using toppings and decorations that kids like. “From jujubes to chocolate flakes, I love using stuff for decorating the cupcakes for children, she says. From a tiger face to a little ducky or a ladybug, her cupcakes come in different ingenious forms that kids simply love.
Chandani, who prefers to call these muffins, emphasises that there is no difference between a cupcake and a muffin. She works on chocolate, blueberry or roasted almond muffins and more. Her favourite, though, is the red velvet muffin with cream cheese frosting, made with buttermilk and coloured red with beetroot juice. Mudaliar finds that the most popular ones for her clients are chocolate cupcakes with mocha or cinnamon frosting and plain vanilla cupcakes with lemon or orange or chocolate frosting,
So what explains this sudden rage? “Nowadays, people prefer cutting a cupcake instead of a normal cake,” says Chandani. They are easier to eat, less messy and the bite-sized portions help one control quantity, she adds. Nagpal agrees on this point. “There is not much cream in cupcakes and people don’t feel guilty about eating one,” she says. She goes on to add: “The visual appeal is also a big factor; they look really cute.” Singh also points this out.
“They are much more attractive than regular cakes and the display pieces look really more delicious than large cakes,” she says. “And of course, it is very popular with kids because they are not messy, they are colourful and each cupcake is special so there is no fighting like there is over the prized piece of cake with a portion of icing,” she laughs. “I find the bite-sized cupcakes very popular with women who are health conscious and also for preschoolers less than four years of age, as they can only eat so much,” she adds. Mudaliar sums it up neatly: “Cupcakes have become quite popular due to their size. People have become quite health and calorie-conscious. They prefer to indulge in lesser quantities. Secondly, they are easy to carry and are low on maintenance (they don’t need to be stored in refrigeration). Also, an assortment of different flavours is possible.”
As for home-made ones, they chalk up even more brownie points. “Homemade cupcakes are healthy as they are made in very hygienic conditions and the ingredients used are of the highest quality. Since they are made in smaller quantities, (not mass-produced) they are handled with utmost care. And unlike packaged one, these do not have preservatives to improve shelf life,” explains Mudaliar. Chandani too emphasises the point, saying “these are fresher and are made to order. They are not made and kept in storage. Also, homemade ones tend to be made with the best ingredients”.