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.