The Great Cupcake Taste Test

So the other day we were sitting around playing video games and drinking cocktails (I know, shocking, right?), when suddenly we were all struck with an intense desire for yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting. The crappy kind, from a box, with frosting from a can. Of course, we were also having company, in the person of Katebits, so I figured it would be both fun and very mature in a hostessy sort of way to try making yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting from scratch. The problem was, I wanted the cheap-assed kind, too, so I opted to conceal my lameness behind a guise of “conducting a taste test”. It was a foolproof plan, and promised a vast quantity of cupcakes, to boot.

The contestants in this cupcake-off were Betty Crocker’s traditional, normal old yellow cake mix (not the “butter recipe” or anything crazy-assed like that) paired with a Duncan Hines variety of chocolate frosting that seemed to be just normal old frosting (not, like, “whipped” or “extra chocolatey” or whatever options they have nowadays), vs. the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Illustrated “Yellow Cupcakes With Chocolate Frosting” recipe. The baking happened on a Friday afternoon, taking about an hour, start to finish, for both batches of cupcakes. Here they are, in the nude:


The Betty the Crock cupcakes were made in the standard manner. The Cook’s Illustrated ones seemed on paper like a fairly mundane sour cream cake made yellow by an excess of egg yolks. However, the batter was really, really thick. Like, pound cake batter thick. The cupcakes came out really lumpy and texturally unpleasant-looking, and had the crumb of a corn muffin. I was quite displeased, but the flavor results remained to be seen.

The Duncan Hines frosting was to be expected. The Cook’s Illustrated frosting was actually just a ganache, which the recipe suggested whipping after letting it set. I may have let mine set for a bit too long, because after whipping it I was left with just a bowl of ganache crumbles. Things were not looking good for the homemade cupcakes, especially after I discovered I pretty much had to wad a bunch of the crumbles into a ball and them smush it onto the top of the cupcake to frost it. Here are the cupcakes, bedecked with frosting and adorned with sprinkles:


The tasting itself was interesting. In one corner, the Betty Crocker cupcakes were exactly what you would expect — fake tasting, light, delicately-crumbed, smoothly frosted and, overall, reliably yummy. In the other corner we had the homemade cupcakes, which were buttery, rich, real-chocolatey and “from scratch” baked-good delicious, but were also texturally suspect. When I felt the undeniable urge for cupcakes, I wanted a nice cakey crumb, not something unholy and muffiny. While Katebits, Pookie and Boomer were all politely pro homemade cupcakes, I actually give the nod to Betty the Crock, if just for the texture. This is perhaps a taste test that needs to be revisited as I search for a new recipe to challenge my eminently beatable champion.



Filed under Baked Goods, Cupcakes, Taste Test

15 responses to “The Great Cupcake Taste Test

  1. I accept the difficult duty of partaking in another motherfucking cupcake off.

  2. HG

    I am willing to also partake in the next one, adding the element of being the official receiver of the “How Well Do They Travel?” segment.

  3. Oh, great idea! We can get some of those individual cupcake totes that Baker’s Catalog sells, and try them out for international mailing. (Although really, neither competitor in this particular stand-off was worth mailing anywhere.)

  4. We could all have the same test in different locales, on a prescribed day. That way you could get a bigger sampling (har!) of tasters. Who would be sampling.

  5. We could all have the same test in different locales, on a prescribed day. That way you could get a bigger sampling (har!) of tasters. Who would be sampling.

  6. HG

    Ooo! You have my address! :D I got new mugs for Christmas that I think would look nice filled with tea to have with my cupcakes.

  7. It’ll be like the great national cupcake taste test! (And seriously, guys, neither of these cupcakes were really that good…)

  8. HG

    No, no! INTERnational! (And I don’t care. I guess you better choose better ones next time :P)

  9. I’m sorry! I MEANT international! I was in a rush when I typed that! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Our cupcake taste test knows no borders!

  10. I wasn’t just being polite about the homemade cupcake…I thought it was genuinely more delicious. For reals. I liked the heartier texture.

  11. Shhh! Katebits, I was using this as an excuse for making more cupcakes! If you start spreading lies that these cupcakes from scratch were good, then I’ll look like some kind of fat, fat pig!

  12. My main problem with the box-mix cupcakes is that they always come out a bit greasy…or is that just me?

  13. Oh, they’re totally greasy. But… I like that about them?

  14. I ve tried it but it is very hot and fast – i woud better better preffer

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