Cupcakes for Mother's Day

St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT

Think of cupcakes as edible Mother's Day cards. And no matter the skill level of the baker (or the baker's "assistant"), there's a technique that will fill the bill, from using cake mix with canned frosting to baking from scratch and crafting elaborately decorated tops. Here are some ideas for cooking up a memorable day for Mom.

Milk chocolate frosting

Yield: Enough for 12 regular cupcakes

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

10 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, broken into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Combine cream and butter in a saucepan; place over very low heat. Stir constantly until butter melts completely. (Do not let it come to a boil, or it will burn.) Remove from the heat; add chocolate. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes.

2. Add vanilla and whisk until smooth.

3. Let frosting stand at room temperature until it is cool and thick enough to spread on cupcakes.

Per serving (based on 12): 180 calories; 12g fat; 7g saturated fat; 20mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 15g carbohydrate; 13g sugar; no fiber; 45mg sodium; 40mg calcium.

Adapted from "Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery," by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas (Kyle Books, 2009)

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Chocolate cupcakes

Yield: 18 to 22 cupcakes

3 large eggs, divided

1 1/4 cups milk, divided

1 cup packed brown sugar

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. All ingredients should be at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the tops of two 12-cup cupcake pans and line the pans with cupcake liners. Separate one of the eggs.

2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine 1/2 cup milk, brown sugar and chocolate. When chocolate has melted, whisk in egg yolk. Remove from the heat and set aside.

3. Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Slowly add the remaining 2 eggs and the reserved egg white, scraping the bowl down after each addition.

4. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt onto a piece of waxed paper. With the mixer at low speed, add the dry ingredients in several additions, alternating with the remaining 3/4 cup milk and vanilla. Stir chocolate mixture into batter by hand, mixing only until combined.

5. Pour batter into the cupcake liners, filling each three-quarters full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pans, place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing.

Per serving (based on 22): 200 calories; 7g fat; 4.5g saturated fat; 40mg cholesterol; 3g protein; 31g carbohydrate; 20g sugar; 1g fiber; 130mg sodium; 40mg calcium.

Adapted from "The Whimsical Bakehouse," by Kaye Hansen and Liv Hansen (Clarkson Potter, 2002)

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Perfect cake mix cupcakes

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes

1 (18 1/4-ounce) box cake mix without pudding (such as Duncan Hines)

1 cup buttermilk

Vegetable oil (the amount called for in mix directions)

4 large eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin cups with paper liners.

2. Follow the cake mix instructions, substituting 1 cup buttermilk for whatever amount of water is called for and using 4 eggs regardless of instructions. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes more.

3. Spoon half of the batter into a large zipper-closed plastic bag, press out the air, and seal. Snip a 1/4-inch corner from the bag. Fill the paper liners two-thirds full of batter. Repeat with the rest of the batter and another bag.

4. Bake until golden (if using a light-colored mix) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 25 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pans, place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing with your favorite frosting.

Per cupcake (yellow cake, made with 1/3 cup vegetable oil): 135 calories; 6g fat; 1g saturated fat; 35mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 18g carbohydrate; 10g sugar; no fiber; 165mg sodium; 40mg calcium.

Adapted from "What's New, Cupcake?" by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson (Houghton Mifflin, 2010)

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Vanilla buttercream frosting

Yield: Enough for 15 to 20 standard cupcakes

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup 2 percent milk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Food coloring, optional

1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, milk, vanilla and half of the sugar until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.

2. For colored frosting, start with one drop of food coloring and beat thoroughly, which will result in a pale pastel color. Add one drop at a time, beating after each addition, to reach the desired shade.

Per serving (based on 20): 120 calories; 1.5g fat; 1g saturated fat; 5mg cholesterol; no protein; 26g carbohydrate; 25g sugar; no fiber; no sodium; no calcium.

Adapted from "Cupcakes From the Primrose Bakery" by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas (Kyle Books, 2009)

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Cream cheese frosting

Yield: Enough for 24 standard cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add sugar and beat until smooth.

Per serving (based on 24): 210 calories; 14g fat; 9g saturated fat; 40mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 20g carbohydrate; 20g sugar; no fiber; 55mg sodium; 20mg calcium.

Adapted from "The Icing on the Cupcake (A Novel)," by Jennifer Ross (Ballantine Books Trade Paperback, 2010)

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(c) 2011, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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