This week I am going to help you make sure that your cupcakes turn out exactly like mine. I will let you in on what ingredients I use and how they are measured. I'll even show you the easiest ways to change up the recipes if you are interested.
All of the recipes I post call for all-purpose flour unless otherwise noted. I use bleached all-purpose flour and I always buy generic. I have found that the only difference in name brand baking ingredients and the generic ones is the price. To measure the flour, I use the spoon and level method. I take a smaller measuring cup and "spoon" the flour into the correct measure. I then level it off with the back of a butter knife. Do not tap it or pack it in as you will have too much flour.
If a recipe calls for sugar it means white, granulated sugar. Again, go with the generic brand. I always let you know if you need brown sugar, powdered sugar or a sugar substitute. I measure granulated sugar and powdered sugar the same way that I measure flour. Brown sugar needs to be firmly packed in the cup to get a correct measure. I push it down with the back of a spoon as I spoon it in the measuring cup.
Butter is always unsalted "sweet cream" butter and eggs are always large unless the recipe specifically calls for something different. If you only have salted butter don't add the salt in the recipe. Don't try to substitute eggs sizes. It will cause problems.
When a recipe calls for vanilla extract there are a few ways you can go. You can use vanilla flavoring, pure vanilla extract, or clear vanilla. For cupcakes and most icings I use vanilla flavoring. With the amount of vanilla I go through I can buy large bottles and it is more cost-effective. I save the pure vanilla for special occasions. When you don't want to alter the color of your icing (or cupcake) use clear vanilla. It is great for making a true white and won't affect the way other colors turn out when added to your icing.
For the most part, all nuts in these recipes are interchangeable. Obviously if something is specifically "peanut" or "hazelnut" you will have a different cupcake. If the nut isn't the star of the show choose your favorite or whatever you have on hand.
Chocolate chips are pretty forgiving, too. I usually choose semi-sweet chocolate chips but feel free to use milk chocolate, white chocolate, or anything you want. The chocolate chips (along with the nuts) are a quick, easy way to change things up.
When it comes to dying the cupcakes or icing I have found that the gel food coloring is the easiest option. Since it is concentrated it requires much less and you don't have to worry about your icing becoming runny due to the liquid. Just start off slow because a little goes a long way. I use Wilton gel colorings. You can find them at almost any craft store and even Wal-Mart. They are fairly inexpensive and you can buy them individually or in packs.
I hope that these basic tips will help you to make your cupcakes. If you follow these tips they will turn out right every time!