Cupcakes 101: Fun for all Ages


What’s the best thing about children’s birthdays? A good excuse to have fun! And the new and tasty way to have fun is to get creative with the age-old cupcake.

While planning my daughter’s second birthday, my grandmother told a cute story of a birthday party where she served cupcakes. After the kids ate and enjoyed the cupcakes, they asked, “OK now, where’s the cake?” Now, cupcakes are used not only for birthday parties, but all kinds of celebrations and include flavors far beyond just plain vanilla and chocolate.

“We receive cupcake orders for bridal and baby showers, weddings and even many holidays, including Halloween and Thanksgiving,” said Jennifer Chapman, who, along with Michelle Miller, owns the Polka Dot Bake Shop, a specialty cupcake bakery located on Park Road in South Charlotte. South Charlotte. “We also receive cupcake orders for corporate events.”

Cupcakes For Every Occasion
Cupcakes offer endless possibilities for incorporating fun themes and innovative flavors. For example, this past summer the Polka Dot Bake Shop featured a Cosmopolitan cupcake flavored with hints of cranberries, oranges and lime to celebrate the debut of the Sex and the City movie. One of their more classic flavors is the “Tuxedo” cupcake, which consists of rich devil’s food filled with cream cheese and semi-sweet chocolate chips topped with cream cheese icing. If your mouth isn’t watering yet, the Polka Dot Bake Shop also offers Peanut Butter Cup, Cookies and Cream, Honey Almond and Crème Caramel.

The calendar year is filled with holidays and special occasions, all deserving of a festive treat. Anne Byrn, author of the cookbook “Cupcakes!” offers many tips for customizing cupcakes throughout the year. She suggests festively wrapped holiday present or dapper snowmen cupcakes for winter. Warmer weather is the perfect time for Easter basket cupcakes topped with coconut grass for spring and confetti fireworks cupcakes. Fall weather means pumpkin cakes or spooky spider treats.

Cupcakes At Children’s Birthday Parties
Cupcakes make a perfect, sweet snack and at children’s birthday parties they can be as fun as any party game. A major benefit to cupcakes is they can be served immediately without any cutting or delay. Decorate them to match any theme from Disney characters and sports, to princesses and super heroes. Cupcakes can also be arranged to spell out a name or resemble a fun theme like a racecar or funky purse.

Brenda Lord, who co-owns SweetCakes Bakery – serving the Lake Norman area — along with daughter Heather Allen, suggests ordering cupcakes a couple of days in advance so that they are fresh on your special day. She also suggests mixing and matching cupcake flavors to satisfy all your guests. Flavors at SweetCakes Bakery include white chocolate raspberry, banana coconut cream, Mississippi mud, carrot, lemon, strawberry, coconut and more. They also incorporate fresh fruit in their recipes and match the cake to the icing. For example, their strawberry cupcake has real strawberry cake and real strawberry icing.

Everybody’s Favorite Little Cake

Cupcakes are portable, you do not need silverware to eat them and the serving size is just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth without going overboard. They also make great party decor. Buy a cupcake tree and fill it with cupcakes to serve as a beautiful centerpiece at your celebration. Decorative cupcakes can even be given away as party favors.

And last but not least, no one outgrows cupcakes. Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in everybody’s favorite little cake. Just peel back the paper and enjoy what Chapman and Miller refer to as “a sophisticated version of comfort food!”

Tips for making your own beautiful cupcakes:

oSurprise children at a birthday party by baking cupcakes in flat bottom ice cream cones. Fill cones half full with cake batter and bake according to directions. The cake will rise to the top of the cone and then you can use icing to make it look like ice cream on top of a cone. Add sprinkles for a finishing touch.

oUse flowers of all different mediums to make your cupcakes stand out. Find edible flowers to decorate the tops of your cupcakes. Make your own flowers from gum paste or cut flowers out of rolled fondant and attach to the top of the cupcake to give a different look. Another type of flower is a small silk flower to give a pretty addition to the cupcake.

oBake cupcakes in a shaped pan. Individual star, heart and other shaped pans are available at most craft stores, such as Michael’s, that sell cake-decorating supplies. Bake your cupcake in decorative cupcake liners. Cupcake liners of all patterns, themes and designs can also be found at most craft stores.

oDo not over bake as cupcakes are small and tend to dry out easily. If you freeze or refrigerate your creations, bring them to room temperature about an hour before your event.

Kristen Behlke is a freelance writer in Charlotte and mother of a two-year-old.