Cupcakes, cupcakes everywhere! If you’ve spent any time at foodie events in the past couple of decades, the chances are that you’ll have seen more than your fair share of these attractive little cakes impressively topped with icing.
Fancy artisan cupcakes are beautiful to look at and fetch a high price for what they are – with Hummingbird Bakery’s cakes fetching up to £3 each. So, if you’ve ever baulked at the cost of a pretty little cake, or simply marvelled at how on earth they get the icing to look like that – a cupcake course can offer up some trade secrets.
Did you know? The World Record for the largest cupcake was achieved by Georgetown Cupcake in the USA on 2 November 2011. The cupcake weighed in at 1,176.6 kg!
A small history of small cakes
The idea of baking small cakes can be traced back to 1796, when Amelia Simmons wrote about cakes ‘to be baked in small cups’ in her cookbook, American Cookery. And, by 1828, the term ‘cupcake’ was used to describe these little cakes for the first time, taking the name from the cups they were baked in.
Did you know? Before special cake tins were widely available, cupcakes were often baked in individual pottery cups or ramekins.
Over the course of the 19th Century, cupcakes grew in popularity. But it’s only in the early 21st Century that cupcake shops have become such a massive phenomenon – trendy New York City cupcake shops popped up on our television screens in TV programmes like Sex and the City, and the little cakes quickly made their way across the Atlantic and onto British high streets. As a nation we’ve fallen in love with these twee cakes, they seem to fit perfectly with our love affair with all things floral, retro and chintzy.
Did you know? The Hummingbird Bakery sells an average of 22,000 cupcakes per week across its four London stores.
The cupcake industry today
In recent years, the cupcake industry has taken a turn away from big commercial enterprise and we have seen a massive rise in the numbers of small, local companies that make and sell cupcakes. These businesses often operate from small premises or even the owner’s home, and are an attractive business to get involved with, since they have such low start up costs and potentially relatively high mark ups. Indeed, these businesses have been successfully established up and down the country by savvy individuals who have simply wanted to turn a hobby into a career.
Did you know? British Baker magazine launched the National Cupcake Championships in 2008, alongside National Cupcake Week.
Baking your own cupcakes – the basics
Cupcakes use the same essential ingredients as standard-sized cakes: butter, sugar, eggs and flour. Indeed, most sponge or layer cake recipes can be used to bake cupcakes. The cake mixture is then divided up into cupcake cases inside muffin trays, and baked in the oven. It’s probably even simpler than baking a standard cake, since the size of cupcakes help them to rise easily. The cooking time is likely to be a bit less though, so be careful to keep an eye on them in the oven if you are adapting a standard recipe!
Did you know? The UK baking industry was valued at around £11 billion in 2012.
The magic with these cakes often seems to happen after the baking process though – it’s all about putting that crucial icing on top. And although there are beginner cupcake baking options available, it is decorating cakes that a lot of cupcake courses focus on – so do keep that in mind when you book your place. Ultimately, though, there’s a course for everyone. Whether you are a complete novice in the kitchen, or you want to learn how to make sugarcraft cake toppers, or how to dazzle with your icing, there’s a course out there to suit you. Indeed, there are seasonal specials, options for children’s cupcake making courses, mother/daughter cupcake making days, and courses geared more towards bakers who want to turn their interest in cupcakes into a business.
Did you know? The world’s most expensive cupcake is a red velvet cupcake available from a US bakery. It costs $55,000. That’ll be thanks to the 8-carat diamond ring that sits on top of the icing.
What happens next?
A cupcake making course tends to be a fun option for people to learn a new skill or further develop their baking hobby. If you’re inspired to try making turning your interest into a career as a cupcake baker, you may want to look into further courses more related to running a small business – things like PR, marketing, and basic bookkeeping.
By Fiona Hughes