Cupcakes are whimsical, easy to serve and may be more cost-effective than the traditional multitiered wedding cake. They can also reflect the bridal couple's personalities and tastes — which is why they're so popular.
"Each tier (of a cupcake stand) offers you the opportunity to completely change the cake and the icing. You can't do that with a traditional cake," said Bobbie Lloyd, president and chief baking officer of New York-based Magnolia Bakery.
"With cupcakes, (couples are) looking more for flavor. You may have one layer of pumpkin cupcakes with maple-cream cheese icing. Another layer could be coconut cake with meringue icing," she said, noting Magnolia's cupcake trees hold 24 cupcakes up to more than 100 cupcakes.
"On a wedding cake, people traditionally use a butter cream frosting that has some structure to it or they use fondant because they're looking for those three-dimensional shapes," she said. "A meringue icing you could never put on traditional wedding cake. Cream cheese icing you could never put on a traditional wedding cake."
As with anything you eat, but especially a cupcake, it needs to taste delicious (not just be sweet) and really special, said Darcy Miller, editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings.
"What's going to go with your color palette and the feeling of your wedding? What's going to go with the time of the year you're getting married? What's going to go with your guests or your menu?" she said. "Often today at weddings, people serve more than cake. They'll serve chocolate mousse or sorbet. So I'm not really sure if you're serving chocolate mousse whether your cupcakes should be chocolate."
Also think about how they'll be displayed. "There are so many great things that you can do," said Miller. "I love those cupcake wire stands. We've taken the plastic foam rounds that a cake baker would use to make the dummy layers of cake, and we covered them with papers and doilies and tiered them."
If you let a pro handle the wedding cupcakes, you still can showcase your cupcake baking talents sometime during your wedding celebrations, suggested Miller: "You might make them for your rehearsal dinner or engagement party. Or bring them to your shower as a gift to thank those who are throwing the party for you."
Appetites: Will there be other desserts? Sorbet? Cookies? If you're doing mini-cupcakes, you may need more.
Beyond cupcakes: "If you want to be part of making your cupcakes, make an embellishment," said Miller, whether it's fondant hearts or sugared petals and you won't be frosting cupcakes the morning of your wedding.
Confirm: "Someone is assigned to the project, and they understand these are delicate," said Lloyd. "They can get squished."
Magnolia Bakery super rich chocolate cake
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 25 minutes
Makes: 24 cupcakes
Adapted from a recipe from New York's Magnolia Bakery.
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons each: baking powder, baking soda, salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1. Heat convection oven to 350 degrees or conventional oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt In a large bowl.
2. Whisk together eggs, milk, oil and vanilla in a separate bowl. Whisk the egg mixture with the sugar-flour mixture by hand; beat together until combined. Whisk in the boiling water just until combined. The batter will be thin and very watery.
3. Pour batter into two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners, filling barely half full. Bake until a tester inserted into a cupcake comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes in a convection oven or 25 to 30 minutes in a conventional oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Per cupcake: 146 calories, 31% of calories from fat, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 24 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 238 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
Magnolia Bakery vanilla butter cream frosting
Prep: 15 minutes
Makes: 3 cups
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners' sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1. Cream butter with beaters in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add vanilla.
3. Gradually add sugar 1 cup at a time, beating between additions.
4. Scrape down sides of bowl often.
5. When mixture starts to thicken and appears dry, add 2 tablespoons of the milk. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 2 to 4 minutes.
6. Add more milk as needed if you want a thinner consistency. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring.
7. Store frosting at room temperature. Icing can be stored in an airtight container up to three days.
Per 2-tablespoon serving: 143 calories, 48% of calories from fat, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 19 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 2 mg sodium, 0 g fiber