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101 Best Cupcakes in America 2014

101 Best Cupcakes in America 2014

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Cupcakes are dead. At least, that is what The Wall Street Journal reported on August 17th, 2013. Since then, Crumb’s Bake Shop stock has plummeted to $0.45 today and some say that this is due to the novelty of cupcakes wearing off. There was no long term future in cupcakes, as people don’t regularly visit a cupcakery on a daily basis.

Click here for the 101 Best Cupcakes in America (Slideshow)

Perhaps this is true. Crumb’s Bake Shops are going dark across the country and in fact, they’ve been predicting the crash since its overall boom in the early 2000s. To pinpoint where it began is rough. Could it have been the drooling the Sex and the City girls did over Magnolia Cupcakes in New York? Was it the celebration of cupcake design by Food Network shows like Cupcake Wars? Or maybe it was just an obvious trend that finally got noticed for its economic potential by both consumers and purveyors. Or maybe, just maybe, it is far simpler than all of that. Maybe cupcakes just make people happy.

Really, have you ever bit into a cupcake and had anything less than joy rocket through your brain? Heck, have you ever even looked at a cupcake photo or ingredient list and had any hostile thoughts?

When done right, they are an art form. Cupcakeries that know what they are doing somehow provide perfectly moist, bite-sized cakes topped with just sweet enough frosting. And when they are just right, they are usually coming from a place of pure passion. Just read the backstory behind almost any cupcakery and the story will be similar. The current owner was stuck in a job they loathed and found true happiness when pouring batter into a lined cupcake tin. The joy it brings the bakers translates into each fold of batter. Cupcakes are simply love in a liner.

But determining who makes the best cupcake is a tough thing to do when so many of them have such impressive amounts of passion poured into them. In our last round, we rated and ranked 50 of America’s Best Cupcakes on a looser methodology. Frosting, presentation, and menu were the main criteria for our last round up. But expanding the list meant we had to crack down on the specifics to nail down what makes the truly best cupcake in America.

Using last year’s list as our basis, we re-entered all 50 into a network of over 100 other cupcakeries vetted from every state’s best-of lists. We then ranked them according to five different categories, assigning them a value of one thru 20 (20 being the highest) and tabulating the highest ranking cupcakes.

Menu variety was the first set of criteria we looked at. Exactly how many cupcake options were there? Did they have a wide range of flavors and was the menu accessible to the masses? Presentation rankings were determined based upon consistency and artistic creativity. Were the cupcakes pretty on their webpage but a mess on Facebook? Was the design reflective of the overall style of the cupcake or even visually appealing? Speaking of Facebook, we turned to social media for our next set of criteria, tabulating the numbers of followers they had as an indication of how interactive they were with their community and vice versa. We then turned to online review sites to help us determine just how satisfied their customers were with their cupcake experience according to the star ratings and taking special note of the commentary. And the last portion was editorial discretion, which took the preceding criteria into consideration and as well as culinary value and variety.

101. Cupcake Heaven, Wilmington, Del.

Yes, it is official. You have died and gone to Cupcake Heaven. This low-key Kosher bakery has roughly 25 to 30 cupcake flavors available at any given time, but has curated over 100 flavors in its time. In the mood for a minty cupcake? Try the “peppermint patty cupcake” that is topped with mint buttercream and chocolate ganache. Want some zesty chocolate? Sink your teeth into the “chocolate chip orange,” a chocolate chip cake topped with orange buttercream. Another cool feature they offer is a “cupcake in a jar” where these sweet treats become functional, tasty gifts!

100. Magpies Bakery, Knoxville, Tenn.

Magpies Cakes offers over 20 classic, deluxe, and super deluxe flavors on a daily basis in a variety of sizes. Where it is “all butter, all the time,” these decadent cupcakes will satisfy the craziest of cravings. The “lemon raspberry” offers cupcake cravers a refreshing spring time treat while the tamer (but utterly sinful) German chocolate cupcake appeals to a cupcake lover who likes a touch of flair to their classic sweet treat.

And without further ado, we present The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Cupcakes in America.

This article was originally published April 16, 2014.

Additional reporting and some original captions written by Marilyn He.

10 Most Popular Cupcake Flavors — and Why

It's pretty safe to assume that if you're reading this article, you're a fan of cupcakes -- and it's a good time to be one. In recent years, these versatile, tasty treats have gone from being inexpensive, easy-to-make confections given away at children's parties to trendy desserts enjoyed by hipsters around the world.

Today, little cupcakes are a big deal. While many restaurants and eateries have been forced to shut their doors due to the recent economic downturn, business in specialty cupcake shops is booming [source: Tulsa World]. The reason for cupcakes' recent surge in popularity is simple: They're relatively inexpensive and grant people a few bites of indulgence, even when money is tight.

In this article, we'll walk you through the 10 most popular cupcake flavors and explain the reasons behind their appeal. When you're done with the list, you'll know how to order like a pro from the most popular cupcake boutiques.

Click over to the next page to learn why vanilla cupcakes are anything but bland.

Despite how tame you may think vanilla is, the flavor has exotic origins. Vanilla comes from plants that grow in tropical areas, and harvesting the prized vanilla bean is no easy feat. After a long and complicated process, the end result is the immensely popular vanilla extract.

Chances are you've had a vanilla cupcake at one time or another. As you probably already know, vanilla is one of the most common flavors found in candies, pastries and various sweet treats. In fact, like chocolate, the taste of vanilla typifies sweet desserts and confections for many of us, so it's not surprising that these cupcakes are so popular and easy to find.

Vanilla cupcakes usually consist of a sweet white or yellow cake with a thick layer of creamy white frosting. They line the shelves of local bakeries and grocery stores and will almost certainly appear on the menu of any specialty cupcake shop you visit -- you can even pick one up at Starbucks. Some say the cupcake is a fleeting trend, but regardless, the vanilla flavor is here to stay.

Indigenous North Americans have been growing pumpkins for approximately 5,000 years [source: History Channel]. But how long have they been eating pumpkin cupcakes?

Pumpkin-flavored foods are extremely popular during the fall and winter months. The pleasant taste of these large orange fruits appears in everything from pie to beer, so it should come as no surprise that pumpkin cupcakes are all the rage leading up to Halloween and throughout the holidays. Although they're typically available for just a few months out of the year, pumpkin cupcakes are extremely popular. It's not unusual to find them at parties, grocery stores, bakeries or even on restaurant dessert menus.

When sitting down to devour one of these tasty treats, you can count on a pumpkin cake base, but the choice of topping is up to the baker. You might find a traditional, sugary icing that may or may not taste of pumpkin, or the cake might simply be glazed. Cream cheese is a very popular and common topping. By the time Christmas dinner comes around, if everyone's tired of pumpkin pie, pick up a dozen pumpkin cupcakes and serve them for dessert, instead.

There's something comforting and nostalgic about a steaming loaf of banana bread. Banana cupcakes taste a lot like banana bread -- only you probably won't be eating one for breakfast. These surprisingly popular desserts are more common than you might think, and like their pumpkin-flavored cousins, they go well with a variety of toppings and icings.

Anyone who has tried a banana split knows how versatile these mushy yellow fruits can be, so when they're the star flavor in a cupcake, the possibilities are nearly endless. Banana frosting is always a good choice, as is strawberry, raspberry or any other berry-flavored icing. Of course, just about any type of chocolate frosting is delicious when topping these little yellow cakes, but if you're in the mood for something really different, try adding a dollop of whipped cream. It's simple and delicious!

Coffee-flavored cupcakes may sound bizarre to some people, but they make perfect sense when you think about it. After all, there's coffee cake (though typically sans icing), ice cream, candy -- even tiramisu contains a distinctive coffee taste. Coffee made the jump from a pick-me-up drink in the morning to a popular dessert staple a long time ago, so don't be surprised if you see coffee cupcakes sharing shelf space with their chocolate and vanilla counterparts at your local supermarket or bakery.

Coffee is featured prominently in desserts because it goes well with just about anything that tastes sweet. Therefore, there are a myriad of possible frosting options for coffee cupcakes. Chocolate, vanilla, butterscotch, almond, raspberry -- really, any flavor that might go with a cup of joe is a possible contender for the cake or icing part of your cupcake. Even if you take your cup decaf, you have nothing to fear decaffeinated grounds can easily be substituted into any coffee cupcake recipe.

Let's face it, just about everyone loves chocolate. And no wonder -- many of the compounds contained in chocolate cause receptors in the brain to chemically induce feelings of pleasure (Read more about this in Can chocolate give me a happy high?). Chocolate is eaten by people all over the world, and for many of us, dessert and sweet treats are synonymous with the flavor.

Perhaps the main reason that chocolate cupcakes are so popular is because they use a winning combination: chocolate on chocolate. However, just because chocolate cupcakes have chocolate cake and frosting doesn't mean they're all the same. A rich dark chocolate cake spread with creamy white chocolate icing differs significantly from a milk chocolate cake topped with chocolate ganache. It's all chocolate, so you know it's going to be good, but it doesn't all taste the same.

Biting into a lemon cupcake isn't anything like sinking your teeth into an actual lemon. Although there will be a definite bit of tartness with the cupcake -- the amount of which is determined by the recipe -- the overriding sensation should be sweet. In fact, that's what makes this variety so popular. People who like a little sour with their sweet have found an answer to their dessert dilemma after years of passing up chocolate and red velvet cupcakes. Lemon cupcakes have really gained popularity in recent years, and you'd be hard-pressed to walk into a specialty cupcake store and not find one.

Lemon cupcakes typically consist of a yellow, lemon-flavored cake with sweet but slightly tangy yellow frosting. If the combination of lemon cake and lemon frosting is too tart for your taste, ask for an unfrosted cupcake with just a light dusting of powdered sugar for a subtle dose of extra sweetness.

When you think of peanut butter, cupcakes probably aren't the first thing that comes to your mind. However, peanut butter cupcakes have become quite popular in recent years, and, like many of the other cakes featured in this article, they aren't too sweet, which makes them extremely versatile and likeable.

Since you're starting with a nutty, slightly savory cake, you could just build on that by topping it with peanut butter frosting. To take the decadence up a notch, add chocolate. If you feel like going for something more unique, try mixing up some banana or honey frosting for an unusual treat. Or, if you're just looking to sweeten up an old childhood favorite, try forgoing frosting altogether and simply adding a few dollops of grape jelly to the top of the cupcake -- it's like a bagged lunch and trendy dessert in one!

Carrots have been a principal ingredient in European sweet cakes since the Middle Ages. The reason for this is simple: Carrots have more sugar than just about any other vegetable [source: Davidson]. Even if you have an aversion to carrots, you'll probably still like carrot cake cupcakes. They're like regular carrot cakes, only smaller. These sweet orange and white treats consist of a miniature carrot cake with a cream cheese-based frosting. If you're out of frosting (or don't like cream cheese), you can also eat them plain.

Carrot cake cupcakes epitomize the reason cupcakes have become so chic recently, as they offer a taste of indulgence without the temptation of an entire cake. You can find carrot cake cupcakes in most cupcake specialty stores and in many bakeries and supermarkets.

Like carrot cake cupcakes, red velvet cupcakes are big treats in miniature form. Instead of ordering an entire red velvet cake, why not choose a portion-controlled red velvet cupcake, which you can eat in about five or six big bites? This variety is moderately decadent and easier on both the wallet and the waistline than a full-sized cake, a fact that has helped red velvet cupcakes become virtually synonymous with the modern cupcake movement. It's a trendy, grown-up flavor in a kid-sized form that appeals to sweet-lovers of all ages. In fact, red velvet cupcakes often outsell all other flavors, including such traditional favorites as chocolate and vanilla, in some specialty cupcake stores [source: cupcake].

Aside from size, red velvet cupcakes don't really differ from their full-scale brethren. The little red cakes are smaller, but otherwise identical, to full-scale red velvet cakes, and they are topped with the same cream cheese-based frosting.

Forget the fads -- chocolate and vanilla cupcakes are timeless. These scrumptious desserts combine the two most essential sweet tastes into an unbeatable concoction that's always in style. You can find chocolate and vanilla cupcakes everywhere from the trendiest cupcake shops to elementary school cafeterias.

Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes might only consist of two flavors, but they've got countless variations. A light vanilla cake with dark chocolate frosting provides an entirely different taste from a milk chocolate cake slathered with creamy vanilla icing.

You can't go wrong with these two classic flavors, regardless if you're mixing up a batch straight out of a box or are about to devour a carefully concocted treat made from the finest ingredients.

101 Best Cupcakes in America 2014 - Recipes

Gourmet Mobile Cupcake Truck serving Anchorage & Eagle River

Click on the picture to the left to sign up for our text alerts to stay up date about where the cupcake truck is, pre-order info, birthday clubs and chevron gas station cupcake drop off days!

Best of Anchorage - Food Trucks (2012)

Best of Anchorage - Cupcakes (2013)

Best of Eagle River - Bakeries (2011, 2012, 2013 & 2014)

"Best of" in 49 Categories - Best Food Truck - Aurora Award (2015 & 2016)

Best of Alaska - Food Trucks (2016)

Kastle Sorensen & Mayor Dan Sullivan

Proclamation Award presented by Mayor Dan Sullivan for Kastle's Kreations achievement of winning Cupcake Wars!

Kastle Sorensen & her assistant Amy Grue with Florian Bellanger. Picture taken after their victory on Cupcake Wars.

Click on the Picture to the right to check out our Audition tape for Cupcake Wars.

Bernie Kale from Outward Bound Collective did an AMAZING job filming & editing in just 48 hours. Third times a charm, watch to see what got us on CUPCAKE WARS.

Picture by: Outward Bound Collective

Mission: Cupcakes are suddenly the "it" sweet treat, more healthful than doughnuts and more versatile than your average cake. They're more decadent than muffins and more interesting than a chocolate chip cookie.

My goal is to make cupcakes that are so much more than just another treat! Practically perfect in every way, so take your sweet time and enjoy!

AMAZING cupcakes, pick from a variety of over 90 great flavors. Check out pictures of all the flavors under the"flavors" tab. Dont see a flavor you want? Just ask and I will come up with a recipe for your favorite cupcake.

Follow us on Facebook to find out where the cupcake truck will be next & a chance to pre-order. If you don't have Facebook, head on over to the "Cupcake Truck & Flavor Schedule" to find up to date information

The most magical cupcake shops across the nation

Gourmet cupcakes are all the rage, and as many of us have learned the hard way, they are so worth standing in a two-hour line for at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning. While we’ll never complain about eating a cupcake, only a select few cupcakes can be classified as superior, crème de la crème and worth dreaming about. (Hey, we’re not here to judge.)

These are the kind of memory-making cupcakes you’ll travel long distances to get your hands on. We searched high and low to find the best of the best cupcake shops in the U.S., and we’re certain you will not be disappointed.

1. Magnolia Bakery

Image: Magnolia Bakery

Magnolia Bakery opened its first shop in 1996 in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. It has since expanded to nine other locations throughout the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago, and almost two dozen international locations. Its greatest claim to fame is its cameo in Sex and the City, but a Magnolia cupcake is so much more than a pretty cake. Each and every item at Magnolia Bakery is made from scratch throughout the day, using the finest ingredients. In other words, you’ll never have a day-old cupcake at this shop. Though its specialty is divine cupcakes, the bakery also whips up a mean bread pudding, classic pies, mini cheesecakes, cookies straight from the cookie jar and more! Order online here to have them shipped directly to your door.

2. Crumbs Bake Shop

Image: Crumbs Bake Shop/Facebook

Crumbs Bake Shop first opened in Manhattan in March of 2003. Though it does feature more than just cupcakes, the cupcakes are what the shop is known for. And we see why! Crumbs cupcakes are elegant and beautifully made, with a taste unlike any other. They’re made fresh daily with only the finest ingredients. Signature flavors include Hugs and Kisses, Blackout, Cookie Dough, Peanut Butter Cup, Apple Cobbler, Dulce de Leche and more. Is your mouth watering yet? Luckily Crumbs offers nationwide delivery!

3. Georgetown Cupcake

Image: Georgetown Cupcake

Our Menu

Delicious Cupcakes including Gluten Free options!
Regular cupcakes: $3.00 each 6 for $16.50, 12 for $30.00
Gluten Free: $4.00 each 6 for $20.00

All cookies are baked fresh every morning!
1 for $1.50
3 (mix and match) for $4.00

Light, chewy and delicately crunchy all at the same time! These little sandwich cookies are addicting
1 for $2.50
5 macarons in a cute pink and white box for $13.50

Beautiful and Delicious Cakes to go!
All cakes are 8" and feed approximately 15 people
Regular cakes: $35.00

We offer an assortment of gluten free options including cupcakes, macarons, and brownies!

Other items include New York Style cheesecakes, gluten free brownies, fudge bars, and cake pops!

Our Signature PINK Velvet

Our very own PINK velvet cupcake with vanilla buttercream

Cookies & Cream

Chocolate cupcake with a chocolate sandwich cookie baked in the bottom! Topped with Cookies & Cream buttercream

Birthday Cake

Childhood favorite! Vanilla cupcake with chocolate buttercream and rainbow sprinkles

Triple Chocolate Crunch

For those chocolate lover’s! Chocolate cupcake with rich chocolate buttercream and sprinkled with Valrhona crunchy pearls

Gluten Free Carrot

Extremely moist gluten free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

The Classic

Delicious vanilla cupcake with smooth vanilla buttercream and pink sprinkles

Coconut Cupcake

Vanilla cupcake with coconut buttercream dipped in shredded coconut

Dulcey Chocolate Cupcake

Moist chocolate cake topped with a white chocolate Dulcey buttercream, finished with a Dulcey drizzle. What is Dulcey Chocolate?! It is a smooth and creamy blond chocolate with a velvety, buttery, not too sweet flavor

Soft Sugar Cookie

Soft and buttery sugar cookie with a delicious sugar coating. A classic.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie

Soft, chewy and chocolatey. What could be better? This is a crowd favorite!

Oatmeal Cookie

Chewy, oatmeal cookie dotted with delicious raisins and a hint of cinnamon. Perfect for the fall!

Snickerdoodle Cookie

Thick, chewy & cinnamony deliciousness!

Flourless Chocolate Crinkle Cookie

Chocolate Chip Sandwich

Our signature chocolate chip cookies filled with buttercream and rolled with sprinkles

Raspberry Shortbread Love Cookies

Four delectable raspberry filled shortbread LOVE cookies. Perfect Valentine's Day treat!

Pink Velvet with Vanilla

Our signature pink velvet cake filled with smooth vanilla buttercream

Vanilla with Chocolate

Light and fluffy vanilla cake with silky chocolate buttercream

Vanilla with Vanilla

Moist vanilla cake filled with classic vanilla buttercream

Chocolate with Raspberry

Rich chocolate cake with a sweet raspberry buttercream

Starting at $45

Ganache Drip Cake

Starting at $45 for a 6", $65 for a 8" & $85 to 10"


Chocolate macaron shell filled with chocolate ganache filling

Vanilla Bean

Classic macaron with delicious vanilla bean buttercream


Pink macaron with raspberry jam


A classic macaron shell with a buttery, toasted dulcey ganache filling

Almond Essence

Almond shell with chocolate ganache coconut filling

Dulce De Leche

Cinnamon Macaron Shell filled with dulce de leche

Chocolate Hazelnut

Chocolate macaron shell filled with chocolate hazelnut buttercream

Honey Lavender


A delicious chocolate shell dipped in dark chocolate, rolled in graham cracker and filled with marshmallow meringue.

Salted Caramel

Macaron Gift Box

Choose any 5 macarons and add this beautiful package and bow. Perfect for a gift!

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie

Rich fudgy brownie topped with homemade fudge frosting, DELICIOUS!

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge Brownie

Rich fudgy brownie topped with homemade fudge frosting and sprinkled with valentine candy hearts

Oatmeal Fudge Bar

Fudge Brownie

Gluten Free Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Brownie with chocolate glaze and hazelnut crunch

Butterscotch Walnut Blondie Bar

Starting at $8.00

New York Style Cheesecakes

Chocolate Cheesecakes available in 4", 6", and 8" sizes

Starting at $3.50

Chocolate Cheesecakes

Chocolate Cheesecakes available in 2" & 4" sizes

Coconut Cake Pop

Coconut cake dipped in white chocolate and shredded coconut

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake Pop

Rainbow sprinkle cake dipped in white chocolate and coated in rainbow sprinkles

This Will Make or Break Your Recipe

Fill the cupcake liners only halfway full. Not 2/3, not 3/4, not all the way to the top. Half full. You will question yourself as you pour in the batter. Really? This is ALL that I’m using for each cupcake? The answer is yes, that is all you are using for each cupcake.

  • If you fill the liners too full, the cupcakes will overflow.
  • Too full = crisp mushroom tops
  • Too full = sinking in the center

Got that? Halfway full! Halfway full!

Now that the cupcakes are baked and your self control is fading quickly, it’s time to frost them. The frosting flavor is completely up to you. We have a plethora of options on this site from chocolate buttercream and rainbow chip frosting to strawberry frosting, vanilla buttercream, salted caramel frosting, and cream cheese frosting. Keeping things even (though highly indulgent) with chocolate buttercream and a friendly dose of chocolate sprinkles.

And layer that buttercream on nice and tall. (used wilton 1M!)

I don’t normally reach for chocolate desserts if there’s a fruity one on the menu, but I would gladly unwrap one of these over any other choice.

By the way, this recipe transfers beautifully into cake pans to make a 6 inch cake.

Red Velvet Cake: A Classic, Not a Gimmick

In the pantheon of food-related shark jumps, red velvet cake body mist may well be the greatest leap of all.

Red velvet cake, once a reasonably tender, softly flavored culinary gimmick, has become a national commercial obsession, its cocoa undertones and cream-cheese tang recreated in chemical flavor laboratories and infused into all manner of places cake should not exist.

One can buy a red velvet scented candle, red velvet protein powder, red velvet air fresheners and red velvet vodka.

Even in the world of actual food, red velvet has taken over like so much kudzu.

In San Francisco, where one presumes people know better, the American Cupcake bar and bakery offers chicken that has been soaked in red velvet cake batter, rolled in toasted red velvet cupcake crumbs and fried. The dish comes with garlic- and cream-cheese mashed potatoes and cocoa-infused slaw.

Dunkin’ Donuts sells red velvet lattes. Republic of Tea sells red velvet tea. There are red velvet waffles, Pop-Tarts, whoopie pies and, in a pileup of dessert trends, the red velvet molten cake sundae.

How red velvet cake got its sleeve caught in the American food merchandising machine and ended up as a scent for bath salts is a cautionary tale for any food that starts out with the best of intentions.

“Why this happened to red velvet is at the core of the culture’s spirit of democracy and innovation,” said the Canadian author David Sax.

Mr. Sax writes about American food trends and fads in his new book, “The Tastemakers: Why We’re Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up With Fondue.” He is the kind of person who can get away with declaring buffalo chicken the Cronut of the poultry world.

“Even if it’s rediscovering something like yogurt or red velvet cupcakes or toast, it’s always about what can we push or innovate,” he said. “It’s just that pure, beautiful American capitalism, which is really uniquely suited to take any sort of advantage you can take and expand on it.”

The red velvet cake, with its artificial coloring and benign cocoa sweetness has always been about commercialization. But it has honest roots.

Velvet cakes, without the coloring, are older than Fannie Farmer. Cooks in the 1800s used almond flour, cocoa or cornstarch to soften the protein in flour and make finer-textured cakes that were then, with a Victorian flair, named velvet.


All of this led to the mahogany cake, with its mix of buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa powder and coffee, and its cousin, the devil’s food cake.

Chemists, bakers and historians still debate whether the dance between cocoa and acid gave devil’s food cakes a hint of red and thus its name, or whether the name came from brown sugar, which used to be referred to as red sugar.

By the 1930s, recipes for red devil’s food cake were showing up in West Coast and Midwest newspaper food columns as a Christmas cake. It had its early critics. “Generally popular,” wrote Irma S. Rombauer in the 1943 edition of “The Joy of Cooking,” “but not with me, which is not to be taken as a criterion.”

But the garish modern red velvet cake, like so many food trends, likely started among the elite.

Erin Allsop, the archivist at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, did some sleuthing and places the debut of the cake at the Waldorf in the 1930s, though some Southern cake historians believe that story is more legend than fact. It would later appear as a specialty of the fancy Eaton’s department store in Toronto, credited as a favorite of Lady Eaton.

Meanwhile, in Austin, Tex., John A. Adams was getting rich selling vanilla and food dyes. He and his wife, Betty, ate the cake at the Waldorf, said Sterling Crim, the managing partner and chief marketing officer for the Adams Extract Company.

Mr. Crim is something of a student of both extracts and popular culture. In the 2009 movie “Extract,” a comedy about the troubles facing an extract plant owner, Jason Bateman’s character is based loosely on his life.

Mr. Crim said that through company histories and interviews with former employees, the company traced the red velvet cake back to that trip to the Waldorf. “That’s the cake that started us down this path.”

After Congress passed the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1938, shoring up regulations for food coloring, Mr. Adams figured he could sell a lot more extracts and dyes, and a red cake would be just the way to do it. Sometime in the 1940s, the company tricked out a mahogany cake recipe with food coloring, printed it on cards and began plans to merchandise it alongside bottles of vanilla, red dye and artificial butter flavoring, which was popular when butter was rationed during World War II.

The cake was iced with a roux of milk and flour that was whipped into butter and sugar, creating a stark white, fluffy mixture called ermine or boiled-milk frosting.

What to Cook This Weekend

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the weekend. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • In this slow-cooker recipe for shrimp in purgatory, the spicy red pepper and tomato sauce develops its deep flavors over hours.
    • Deploy some store-bought green chutney in this quick, saucy green masala chicken. could be good for dinner, and some blueberry muffins for breakfast.
    • For dessert, watermelon granita? Or a poundcake with macerated strawberries and whipped cream?
    • And for Memorial Day itself? You know we have many, many recipes for that.

    Armed with dye and a supermarket recipe, home cooks fanned out in Texas kitchens and beyond. Red velvet cake recipes won at state fairs in the Midwest, where food companies used cooking contests to promote their products.

    This is a good time to counter the notion that the red velvet cake is an original member of the classic Southern cake collection.

    “I find it insulting on some level culturally,” said Virginia Willis, the Southern cookbook author. “It’s kind of a weird Southern cake anyway, and it’s bizarre the way it’s been appropriated.”

    Nor is it historically a cake that sprang from the African-American table. But Harlem is thick with examples of red velvet cake, cupcakes and milkshakes, and the cake remains a regular guest at Emancipation Day parties, where red food is part of the ritual. The June 19 celebration, also called Juneteenth, marks the date in 1865 when slaves in Texas found out they had been freed.

    Red food is an important part of a Juneteenth party, which started with red lemonade, served ostensibly to symbolize the blood shed during slavery and in the Civil War, said Adrian Miller, the author of “Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time.”

    Mr. Miller explored the history of soul food by recreating a dinner and delving deeply into each component. He was going to include red velvet cake until he realized it was a latecomer, showing up first in his research on African-American tables in the 1950s as a Christmas cake.

    “I interviewed a lot of older people, and they just didn’t talk about red velvet cake in their childhood,” he said.

    (He did find devil’s food cake with red food coloring in “A Date With a Dish: A Cook Book of American Negro Recipes,” published in 1948.)

    Still, it is the rare professional Southern cook who doesn’t feel compelled to produce some version of a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

    When cream cheese frosting muscled its way on top is still a bit of a mystery. Archivists at Kraft Foods, which owns the Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand, say their first record of cream cheese frosting is in a corporate recipe cookbook in the late 1940s.

    The cake rolled with the times, its recipe getting simplified to accommodate a cup of oil instead of the creaming of butter or shortening and flour.

    But it was never the most popular cake in the room. In 1972, James Beard sneered that the cake was bland and uninteresting. Cake and baking experts like Rose Levy Beranbaum did not mention red velvet in their books in the 1980s and early 1990s.

    Then, driven in part by a cameo as an armadillo groom’s cake in “Steel Magnolias” in 1989 and the arrival of the Magnolia Bakery in the West Village in New York City in 1996, red velvet gained new life.

    The cake became a top seller at the bakery, which also turned it into cupcakes. As the nation swung into its post-9/11 comfort-food phase, both cupcakes and Southern food offered solace. Red velvet became a superstar.

    When Raven Dennis opened his cake shop, Cake Man Raven, in Brooklyn in 2000, red velvet turned him into a cult figure. He baked the cakes for pre-hipsters and stars like Mary J. Blige. By 2005, they were a staple at upscale bakeries on both coasts.

    And the merchandising arms race was on.

    In 2009, red velvet cake flavoring was part of 1.5 percent of all items on menus. By 2013, it was in 4.1 percent of items, according to data gathered by David Sprinkle, research director of Packaged Facts, a publisher.

    A key year was 2011, when “red velvet cake flavor emerged as a force of nature,” Mr. Sprinkle said. That’s when the body mist made its debut.

    For those who just can’t bear one more red velvet product, there is some relief in sight. The number of new products with red velvet in the title is slowing slightly. Between 2012 and 2013, the number was down to 12 percent, said Marcia Mogelonsky, a director in the food and drink group at Mintel, a global marketing research company.

    “There is a limit to the red-velvetization potentials in different categories,” she said. “Red Velvet wine, for example, is an effort that may not lead to more product launches.”

    But red velvet, like a species that adapts to a new environment, endures. In the age of allergies, agriculture and artisan food, some chefs have taken on a renewed effort to rid the cake of its food coloring.

    One is Pamela Moxley, the pastry chef at Miller Union in Atlanta, who has perfected a beet red velvet cake. She uses a lot of acid to keep the color bright and balance the taste of roasted beet.

    In homage to beet and goat cheese salad, she tops the cake with a mixture of goat cheese and cream cheese, and serves it with tiny beet chips and tarragon ice cream.

    This cheffing up has traditionalists shaking their heads.

    “The secret to red velvet is the flavor of the red food coloring,” said Ted Lee, half of the Charleston cooking duo the Lee Brothers. “It is part and parcel to the cake. It really is. Without the coloring, I think the concept is gone.”

    The Adams Extract Company is pushing back against the twisted permutations of red velvet, too. The company this year began marketing the original scratch-cake recipe in a vintage-style box with cocoa, flour and bottles of extract and dye.

    “We’re purists,” Mr. Crim said. “What I don’t want to happen is for it to become white cake painted red slopped over with cream cheese.”

    Recipes: Red Velvet Cake | Ermine Frosting | Beet Red Velvet Cake | Cream Cheese Frosting

    Nutrition Facts


    • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour, sifted
    • 1 1/2 tsp (7.5 mL) baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) salt
    • 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
    • 2 eggs, at room temperature
    • 3/4 cup (175 mL) milk
    • 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract


    • 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 4 cups (1 L) icing sugar, sifted
    • 1/4 cup (60 mL) 35% whipping cream (approx.)
    • 2 tsp (10 mL) vanilla extract
    • Pinch salt

    Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

    Classic vanilla cupcakes don't get the hype they deserve and that's because homemade ones are usually subpar. We wanted a cupcake that was better than any bakery or box, strong vanilla flavor, and perfectly soft and fluffy. These cupcakes fit the bill. The recipe includes cornstarch which makes them lighter and mimics the characteristics of cake flour. As for the vanilla, we made sure to use lots of it. And no imitation vanilla here! This is where the fancy, high quality Madagascar vanilla comes in handy. You could even scrape vanilla beans in there as well to really drive it home. These cupcakes bake up perfectly domed with an almost crunchy sugary top making them completely irresistible. Cupcakes this perfect deserve our Perfect Vanilla Buttercream.

    Measure Correctly

    If you've ever thought your cupcakes came out a different each time it may be the way you are measuring your ingredients! A scale is always the most accurate and reliable, but we understand you may not have one or know the gram conversions for each ingredient. Flour is the biggest ingredient to make sure you are measuring correctly and we always recommend the scoop and level technique. Instead of just dipping your measuring cup into the flour, spoon flour into the cup without packing. Once the cup is full use the back of a nice with a straight edge and level off the top of the measuring cup. Easy!

    Speaking of measuring cups, make sure you are using the right ones. Dry ingredients should be measured with those metal or porcelain cups that are sold in sets. The glass measuring cups with spouts are designed for liquid ingredients and should only be used for them!

    Room Temperature Ingredients

    We know to work with softened butter and if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen you probably are already in the habit pf setting your butter out ahead of time. A lot of recipes won't specify to have eggs and dairy products at room temperature as well, but they should be! For best baking results it's a good idea to have all ingredients at the same temperature, so when you pull your butter out go ahead and grab the eggs and milk out too!

    Frequently asked questions

    Still curious about cornstarch? Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

    Why is cornstarch used so often in gluten-free baking?

    Probably first and foremost because it's naturally gluten-free. Both cornstarch and flour are considered "cereal starches"--but the main difference is the aforementioned gluten. Flour has it cornstarch does not. But, you know, it also adds structure to baked goods, and this can be helpful when they lack the "glue" of gluten.

    Is it possible I know this stuff by a different name?

    I've seen it as "corn starch" and "cornstarch"--I prefer the one-word variation. You'll see it referred to as such in US and Canada in other countries, it may be called "cornflour"--not to be confused with cornmeal.

    My cornstarch got all clumpy in my pie filling. What's up?

    Nobody likes clumps and lumps in what should be a smooth pie filling. To avoid lumps, make a slurry (equal parts cold liquid and cornstarch) before incorporating the starch into the pie filling mixture.

    I'm sure I did everything right, but the starch didn't thicken my mixture.

    Check the expiration date. Cornstarch does not last forever, and an advanced age can very much affect its thickening abilities.

    Other possible causes: the mixture got too hot and the starch broke down you overstirred and the starch broke down.

    Help! My pie filling began "weeping". Is the cornstarch to blame?

    Cornstarch can thin as it stands. The technical term is "syneresis", and it is characterized by a liquid "weeping" from the filling. It tends to happen more with mixtures including eggs or a lot of sugar. One of the culprits can be overstirring--this can break up the starch and make it thin out. Be sure to follow the instructions on your recipe to ensure that you are following the specified guidelines for how to treat the cornstarch mixture.

    Don't have cornstarch?

    Here is a list of some substitutes you can use in baking.

    Can I use cornstarch instead of flour?

    Go ahead and give it a try. Cornstarch has twice the "thickening" power of flour, so you won't need as much. This helpful table will assist in substitution amounts.

    11 Baking Ratios Every Pro Should Memorize

    You’ve heard it said before that baking is a science — and it’s true. Ratios are the backbone of our favorite recipes for cookies, cakes and more. And understand the base structures of these items is what separates the pro bakers from the fakers.

    Related To:

    Photo By: Kate Mathis ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

    Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

    Photo By: Kate Mathis ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

    Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

    Photo By: Scott Gries ©© 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

    Why Ratios Matter

    Any novice baker can follow a written recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but only a professional baker instinctively knows about how much flour, sugar, eggs or milk they need for fluffy pancakes, chewy cookies or tender crepes. It’s what separates the pro bakers from the fakers. Understanding the base structures of a few pastries, cakes and the like means you can let your creative juices flow when you want to make a batch of cookies on the fly. You can make variations in flavors and add or substitute ingredients, but each ratio represents the basic components needed to create the most elemental version of that food. Here are the 11 ratios that professional chefs in Food Network Kitchen return to again and again.

    Pound Cake = 1 part flour: 1 part egg: 1 part fat: 1 part sugar

    Baker Move: Pull your butter and eggs out of the fridge a couple of hours before you're ready to bake. Room-temperature butter is better for creaming, and you'll want the eggs at the same temperature to prevent them from seizing.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Classic Pound Cake

    Pancakes = 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part eggs: 1/2-part fat

    Baker Move: Slowly incorporate the liquid into the dry ingredients while whisking constantly for effortless, lump-free pancake batter.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Simple Homemade Pancakes

    Meringue = 2 parts sugar: 1 part egg whites or 1 part sugar: 1 part egg yolks

    Baker Move: Avoid cracks in your perfectly piped meringues by keeping your oven door closed while they dry out. Yep, that means no peeking.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Italian Buttercream

    Pate a Choux = 1 part flour: 2-parts liquid: 2 parts eggs: 1 part fat

    Baker Move: Not many novice bakers will start out making eclairs or cream puffs, but if you are up for the challenge, remember texture is key. Add just enough eggs for the batter to ribbon when pulled up by a spatula.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Spring Pastel Eclairs

    Pie Dough = 3 parts flour: 2 parts butter: 1 part water

    Baker Move: Soggy-bottomed pie crusts, be gone! Pros know to par-bake their crusts for fresh fillings.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Butter Pie Crust

    Fritter = 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part egg

    Baker Move: The key to a crispy fritter is to never crowd the pan. Drop too many in the frying oil at once and the temperature will plummet, producing a greasy, mushy fritter.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Corn-Industry Fritters

    Cookie = 3 parts flour: 2 parts fat: 1 part sugar

    Baker Move: Using a dough scoop (like a small ice cream scoop) to portion equal-size cookies adds a professional touch to your finished cookie plate.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Sugar Cookies

    Custard = 2 parts eggs: 1 part liquid

    Baker Move: Once you have that ratio down, remember to strain your cooked custard through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Vanilla Creme Brulee

    Biscuit = 3 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part fat

    Baker Move: Pros always scoop flour, sugar or other dry ingredient into a measuring cup, then use the back of a knife or other straight edge to level it off.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits

    Crepes = 1/2-part flour: 1 part liquid: 1 part eggs

    Baker Move: Crepe batter needs time to set up, preferably overnight in the fridge.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Basic Crepe Recipe

    Muffin/Quick Breads = 2 parts flour: 2 parts liquid: 1 part eggs: 1 part fat

    Baker Move: Baking times and temps can vary based on something as simple as the humidity in the air. Pros test the doneness of muffins, quick breads and cakes by simply inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean, they are ready to cool.

    Here's a recipe that puts this ratio in action: Blueberry Muffins

    Want More Bakers vs. Fakers?

    Head to Food Network's Bakers vs. Fakers headquarters for more top-notch baking tips for newbies and pros alike.


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