The long, sweet history of the wedding cake is a mix of traditions, dreams and changing tastes. So it's no surprise that cupcakes are playing a major role in the latest version of this multitiered, frosting-swirled world.
Call it Wedding Cake 2.0.
Dozens of cupcakes — tiered on decorated stands or arrayed on a table, often in a variety of flavors, colors and embellishments — let bridal couples personalize the celebratory sweet.
"The whole trend in weddings in general is to make it personal," said Darcy Miller, editorial director for Martha Stewart Weddings.
The ultimate personal touch? Cupcakes you bake and decorate yourself.
America's love affair with cupcakes is intense. "Whether it is a throwback to childhood or another way to make dessert a little more special and fun, these small cakes are a sweet spot for adults and children," NPD Group's Kathleen Cella noted. The research group found cupcake pan sales were up 14 percent in the 12 months ending September 2010, and 555 million cupcakes were eaten between February 2009 and February 2010.
Before you opt for DIY cupcakes for your wedding, realize that they require planning, a strong support team and a cup of common sense.
"In the 48 hours before your wedding, you should have no responsibilities other than being with your guests, enjoying yourself and getting last-minute stuff done that has to be done," said Miller.
However, if you love baking and you've always baked, go for it, she said. "You can make them ahead, then stick them in the freezer, though I think it's better if they're fresh."
Bobbie Lloyd understands the urge to bake the mini-cakes. "I'm one of those crazy people who catered my own wedding," said Lloyd, president and chief baking officer of New York-based Magnolia Bakery.
Remembering the 180 cupcakes she baked, "I have to tell you, it takes away from your wedding because you're stressing out about all these factors." She suggests that home bakers tackle cupcakes for small weddings of 50 or so guests.
DIY success, say experts, depends on finding the perfect first lieutenant in charge of sweets, a cupcake wrangler — an aunt, cousin, friend — with baking savvy.
"Maybe it's a collaboration with you and your aunt. Someone who is close to you so you can enjoy the process, but not someone who has to be at the rehearsal and is in your wedding party," said Miller.
Added Lloyd, "If you do cupcakes the day before and even ice them the night before, they stay pretty fresh."
"Whatever you do, practice," Miller said. "You shouldn't be doing anything for the first time at your wedding other than going down the aisle, whether it's your first dance or … tasting the food or baking the cupcakes. What you don't want the day of your wedding is surprises — cupcakes that are too sweet or too rich."
Practice: Do a practice run; do it again.
Balance: Flavors and textures, for cupcakes and frostings.
Count: Most people eat one traditional-size cupcake. "We usually recommend you go 15 to 20 percent over the number of guests," said Magnolia Bakery's Bobbie Lloyd. For 100 guests, have 120 cupcakes.
Top it: "Sometimes we also do a small 6-inch cake on the top so the bride and groom can do the cake cutting," said Lloyd.
Buy: Containers for carrying to the event.
The look: A metal tree? Decorated cardboard tiers? An array on a table? Research ideas.
Design: Complement the wedding's colors, personality, theme.
Help: Provide a key if there is a large variety of cupcakes.
Avoid disaster: Give very specific instructions to cupcake handlers. "All it takes is one busboy who says, 'Sure I'll take that,' and he tips over your cupcakes," Lloyd said.
For ideas: Check wedding and cupcake Web sites, books, magazines, TV cake shows.
For bakery supplies, cake trees, embellishments: Check cookware, baking and craft supply stores, plus online resources such as:
Prep: 60 minutes
Bake: 20 minutes
Makes: 24 cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Weddings. If you don't want to tackle the sugared rose petals, use an alternative embellishment, a strawberry perhaps.
3/4 cup each: all-purpose flour, cake flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon each: baking soda, salt
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped
4 cups confectioners' sugar
7 to 8 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon rose water or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Pink gel-paste food coloring or 1 drop red food coloring
Sugared rose petals, see note
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flours, ground ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Beat granulated sugar and butter with mixer until pale, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time until incorporated. Beat in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour. Stir in candied ginger until distributed.
2. Pour batter into a muffin pan with paper liners, filling each cup half full. Bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer pan to rack; cool 15 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool. Store in airtight container up to 2 days.
3. Make icing: Whisk together confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth. Add rose water or vanilla. Stir in a small amount of food coloring to make a pale pink. Immediately ice cupcakes. Decorate with sugared rose petals. Let set 2 hours until surface hardens.
Note: For sugared rose petals, you will need 2 or 3 organic roses (unsprayed, pesticide free) from a florist or garden. Remove petals from the roses; you should have 24 to 30 petals of varying sizes. Whisk together 1 room-temperature pasteurized egg white with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Hold each petal with clean tweezers; brush egg wash over one side using a small, fine brush. Sprinkle with superfine sugar (you'll need about 1 cup). Set on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Let stand overnight. Store in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 months.
Per cupcake: 198 calories, 21% of calories from fat, 5 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 60 mg sodium, 0 g fiberCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun