Big Book of Cupcakes

Cupcake Wars on The Food Network is one of my favorite tv shows. I love the way the contestants always seem to come up with original, delicious cupcake flavors at the drop of the hat. It's amazing how much you can dress up such a small, ordinary little cake!

Some time ago I was sent a copy of the Big Book of Cupcakes, presented by Southern Living, featuring recipes by Jan Moon, the owner of Dreamcakes Bakery. The book has all kinds of baking hints, decorating tips, equipment and ingredient listings -- and of course, tons of cupcake recipes with step-by-step directions that will have any baker, from novice to expert, baking cupcakes in no time.

That's certainly what happened with The Pea!  She took this book and ran away with it -- and now, her chocolate cupcakes are legendary among her dad's poker buddies.

Here's what I love best about the book:

* The photos
I don't think I've ever seen such tempting-looking photos of cupcakes. Just looking at them makes me want to buy them or make them and stuff them in my mouth. It's food porn, indeed!

* The original recipes
Aside from traditional favorites like red velvet, chocolate and carrot cake, this book has some amazingly original flavor combinations like Maple Bacon cupcakes and Caramel Sea Salt Mocha cupcakes. When I open this book, I feel like I'm stepping into Cupcake Wars!

* The inspiration I get
Each recipe contains a tip on how bakers can modify the decorating instructions to suit whatever occasion they're baking for; for example, how to decorate their bestselling Over the Moon cupcake for a bridal shower. I love all the different ideas, because even if I don't follow the decorating instructions to the letter, the tips and photos serve as a jumping point for my own cupcake decorating ideas.

* The taste
I haven't tried all these recipes yet, and I'm not sure I'll ever get to trying all of them. But we quickly found and tried some that are already family favorites, like their White Cake (the secret is a hint of almond extract!), Vanilla Bean Frosting, Chocolate Cake (the fluffiest, moistest cake EVER)  and Strawberry Cake.

Here are some photos of the cupcakes we've created with the help of this book:

The Chocolate High Cupcake is always popular at our home: Chocolate Cupcakes filled with Chocolate Ganache and frosted with Chocolate Frosting, topped with a Malteser (malted milk ball).  Can you tell my family loves chocolate?

We frosted chocolate cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache, and added a variety of toppings (chocolate sprinkles, chopped nuts, cocoa powder, crushed Oreos).   Don't they look sophisticated?

When I suggested trying to make these Fresh Apple 'N Cheddar Cupcakes, the kids were a bit doubtful at first -- they had never had cheddar cheese with apple pie before -- but I reminded them that we have never had a bad cupcake from this book.  That was all  it took, and after tasting the cupcakes, all their doubts were gone.

We were invited to a fall potluck, so I made Apple Cupcakes, filled them with Vanilla Bean Frosting, and piped on Old-Fashioned Caramel Frosting in a lattic pattern to make it look like mini apple pies.  They were a hit!

Whether you're an expert or beginner baker, whether you love to bake cupcakes, eat them or just look at them, Southern Living's Big Book of Cupcakes makes a wonderful addition to your cookbook collection!

Disclosure: I received a product sample to facilitate my review, but have not been paid to review the book or give my opinions. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.

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