Short History of Cupcakes

A cupcake, also referred to by some as a fairy cake, patty cake, or cup cake, is a small cake, often baked in a small paper or aluminum cup, and meant as a single serving. They are commonly frosted or adorned with sprinkles or other decorations.


The history of the cupcake can be traced back as far as 1786, when American Cookery by Amelia Simms mentioned something of “a cake to be baked in small cups”. It was first documented in 1828 in Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook as “Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats”.

Cupcake or Cup Cake?

iconThere were two different uses for the name: “cupcake” or “cup cake” in the early 19th century. Before muffin tins were widely used, the cakes were usually baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds, which their name evolved from.

  • Nowadays, the name cupcake is given to any small cake that is about the size of a teacup. Fairy cake, as they have also been referred to as, is a fanciful description of its size, and thought to be appropriate for parties of fairies to share.
  • Cup cakes, on the other hand, referred to a cake whose ingredients were measured in a standard-sized cup. Recipes whose ingredients were measured using a standard-sized cup could also be baked in cups, even though at the time, they were commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves. When the use of volume measurements was established in home kitchens some years later, the recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes. This was because of the four ingredients they were composed of: 1 part butter, 2 parts sugar, 3 parts flour, and 4 eggs. Since they used about half as much butter and eggs as a pound cake, they were plain and yellow, less rich, and a little less expensive.



Towards the beginning of the 21st century, cupcake shops began catching on as a trend in the United States, playing off the sense of wistfulness induced by the cupcakes. Cupcake shops like Magnolia Bakery out of New York City gained publicity by appearing on shows like Sex and the City. In 2010, Martha Stewart published a cook book solely dedicated to cupcakes.

Types of Cupcakes

A standard cupcake uses the same basic ingredients as standard-sized cakes: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. Nearly any recipe that is suitable for a layer cake can be used to bake cupcakes. Because their small size is more efficient for heat conduction, cupcakes bake much faster than layer cakes. There are several variants of the classic recipe.

  • A “cake in a mug” is a variant that gained popularity on many internet cooking forums and mailing lists. The technique uses a mug as its cooking vessel and can be done in a microwave oven. The recipe often takes fewer than five minutes to prepare.
  • A butterfly cake is a variant of cupcake, also called fairy cake for its fairy-like “wings”. They can be made from any flavor of cake. The top of the fairy cake is cut off or carved out with a spoon, and cut in half. Then, butter cream, whipped cream or other sweet filling (e.g. jam) is spread into the hole. Finally, the two cut halves are stuck into the butter cream to look like butterfly wings. The wings of the cake are often decorated using icing to form various patterns.
  • A icon cake ball is an individual portion of cake, round like a chocolate truffle, that is coated in chocolate. These are typically formed from crumbled cake mixed with frosting, rather than being baked as a sphere.
  • A gourmet cupcake is a somewhat recent variant of cupcake. Gourmet cupcakes are large and filled cupcakes, based around a variety of flavor themes, such as Tiramisu or Cappuccino. In recent years there has been an uprising of stores that sell only gourmet cupcakes in metropolitan areas, such as Crumbs Bake Shop.

Cupcake Pans and Liners

Cupcakes were originally baked in heavy pottery cups and some bakers still use individual ramekins, small coffee mugs, large tea cups, or other small ovenproof pottery-type dishes for baking cupcakes. Specialized pans are made for baking cupcakes today, similar in form to muffin tins. These ovenproof pans are most usually made from some sort of metal, with or without a non-stick surface, and generally have six or twelve depressions or “cups”. They may also be made from stoneware, silicone rubber, or other materials. A standard size cup is 3 inches in diameter and holds about 4 ounces, although pans for both miniature and jumbo size cupcakes exist. Specialty pans may offer many different sizes and shapes.

Individual cups, or cupcake liners, may be used in baking. These are typically round sheets of thin paper pressed into a round, fluted cup shape. Liners can facilitate the easy removal of the cupcake from the tin after baking, keep the cupcake moister, and reduce the effort needed to clean the pan. The use of liners is also considered a more sanitary option when cupcakes are being passed from hand to hand. Like cupcake pans, several sizes of paper liners are available, from miniature to jumbo.

In addition to paper, cupcake liners may be made from very thin aluminum foil or, in a non-disposable version, silicone rubber. Because they can stand up on their own, foil and silicone liners can also be used on a flat baking sheet, which makes them popular among people who do not have a specialized muffin tin. Some of the largest paper liners are not fluted and are made out of thicker paper, often rolled at the top edge for additional strength, so that they can also stand independently for baking without a cupcake tin. Some bakers use two or three thin paper liners, nested together, to simulate the strength of a single foil cup. As an alternative to a plate of individual cakes, some bakers place standard cupcakes into a pattern and frost them to create a large design, such as a basket of flowers or a turtle.

We hope you enjoyed our post!

Valentine’s Day Cupcake Guide – Part 1

This Valentine’s Day, we decided to feature some of the most beautiful cupcakes out there. The following are just a few suggestions (in random order) we have received from our readers. If you own a bakery shop or sell cupcakes online and have gorgeous Valentine’s Day cupcakes, don’t hesitate to contact us! If we like your “artwork”, we might feature you, too! Check out Part 2!

Sweet and Saucy Shop

Sweet & Saucy Shop specializes in custom desserts that taste as good as they look.

Melody Brandon, Owner and head Pastry Chef, realized her passion for desserts and stopped her pursuit of a career as a teacher and jumped head first into the world of butter, sugar, and flour! She headed to pastry school and graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu program at the California School of Culinary Arts as a Pastry Chef. She started Sweet & Saucy Shop with the desire to create gorgeous, delicious, modern looking desserts.

Price: $3.oo – $3.25 each. Cupcake with custom fondant accents range in price from $3.50-$7.00 each. Their mini cupcakes: $1.50 – $2.00

Location: Long Beach, California or


Cupcake’s cupcakes will whisk you away to your childhood with just the first look!

One of their Valentine’s Day cupcakes: Black Bottom Cupcake – a dark chocolate cake with chocolate chip cheesecake baked in complimented with cream cheese icing . Mix & match a dozen -$30.00 or $2.75 each.

All of their cupcakes are made to order with real butter, whole milk and buy organic ingredients whenever possible with no preservatives. Nine flavors are baked every day for our customers. Their cupcakes are made-to-order, so they are at their very best! Special orders are always welcome with 24 hour notice.

Location: Charleston, Mt. Pleasant and Columbia South Carolina; website:

Kupcake Kitchen

Choose from their richly moist chocolate cupcake to their luscious classic red velvet to something fun like cookies ‘n cream and then pick your design. Both featured cupcakes are topped with their creamy vanilla butter cream frosting (one tinted pink). Their layered fondant hearts with red sprinkled edges and their fondant “XO” cut-out design with heart-sprinkled edges (see the gallery below) are the perfect Valentine’s treat that say “Wow.”

Kupcake Kitchen is a special-order cupcake company located in Santa Clarita, CA. All of their cupcakes are baked from scratch using only the freshest ingredients, are made to order, and are never frozen.

Prices: $15 for 12 mini kupcakes or 6 standard kupcakes.


Sweet Surrender

 Decadence D’Or (from Sweet Surrender) is a sumptuous cupcake, handcrafted from the most exclusive, rich, and enterprising ingredients around the globe. One main ingredient in Decadence D’Or is Palmira Single Estate Chocolate. This special chocolate varietal is derived from the rare and fragile Porcelana Criollo bean and cultivated to its fullest state of richness exclusively at the Valrhona plantation in Venezuela. Complementary to the Palmira Single Estate Chocolate is Tahitian Gold Vanilla Caviar. This fruit, after it is ripened for nine months, then hand-harvested, cured, sweat, dried, and hand-split, is obtained only by tedious manual extraction; it is truly a delicacy, both in taste and exclusivity. Topping the Decadence D’Or is the masterfully smooth Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac, 100 years in the making, and edible, metallic gold flakes, each painstakingly hand-placed. Finally, once baked to perfection, this grand dessert is encased in a stately, hand blown sugar Fleur-de-Lis and presented on a handmade exclusive elegant crackled-gold glass curved plate and bowl. Talk about the royal treatment!

Chef Long Nguyen, executive pastry chef of The Venetian and The Palazzo is the visionary genius behind all the exotic cupcake flavors and Chef Johann Springfield, head baker makes the cupcakes a reality.

Price: $750

Location: Sweet Surrender, located on The Palazzo casino (Las Vegas) floor next to guest elevators; special orders can be placed by dialing 702-607-0753.

Diana Sproveri Cupcakes

Since last Fall, Diana Sproveri Cupcakes have been delightfully devoured by Hollywood celebrities, busy executives, and hard-working mommies. Diana Sproveri’s designer baked goods have appeared in Sunset, People, and Good Day LA.

Why all the munching and buzzing? Diana Sproveri cupcakes are artisanal, decadent, and crafted from heirloom recipes. No matter the occasion, they make a great and delicious dessert!

Pricing: Online pricing is $36 per dozen. With premium Valentine’s gift-wrapped packaging, $47/dozen.

Location: Los Angeles, California; her website:

Yummy Cupcakes

For Valentine’s day their special cupcake menu will include:

Cream Puff: Vanilla bean cupcake filled with fresh whipped cream, dipped in pure chocolate ganache, topped with a dollop of buttercream and an edible petal of gold
Sprinkle Heart: Vanilla bean cupcake frosted with vanilla bean buttercream, rolled in solid red sprinkles that shape a heart.
Vanilla Rose: Vanilla bean cupcake baked with a hint of rose essence frosted with a vanilla rose buttercream, topped with a small chocolate rose
Cherries Jubilee (aka Bleeding Heart): Vanilla bean cupcake filled with cherry pie filling that overflows out of the vanilla bean buttercream. Take a bite and cherries flow out!

Some other cupcake creations that make great gift items and can be shipped nationally and won’t break your budget include: original “Cupcake in a jar” (see gallery below) and Cupcake truffles: An assortment of decadent chocolate cupcake truffles for the Valentine holiday, decorated with chocolate drizzles and chocolate hearts

Location: Yummy Cupcakes has two locations in LA but they ship nationally so anyone can enjoy their 175+ designer cupcake flavors, 42 vegan flavors, and 100% natural ingredients. Website:

Sweet E’s

Sweet E’s, “the mini bake shop” is LA’s premier Dessert Delivery service. Sweet E’s bakes the perfect size treat, 2-3 bites of pure delight. They offer an array of deliciously convenient mini cupcakes, cake pops, brownies, and more! Everything at Sweet E’s is baked from scratch using only the finest ingredients, then hand decorated and delivered straight from their ovens to your table.

Sweet E’s specializes in customizing cupcakes, cakes, & cupcake towers to match the style and theme of any event. They will help you visualize your dream and design your creation specifically for you.

Valentine’s Day Special: Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcake Strawberry cake with milk chocolate frosting.

Price: Valentine’s Day cupcakes – $66/2 doz.

Location: With a kitchen based in North Hollywood, hand delivery is available anywhere in the Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Website:

Kumquat Cupcakery

Every Valentines Day, Kumquat Cupcakery- a catering company in New York City, drops the minimum of 3 dozen to 2 dozen cupcakes and adds a cute little holiday card. This year they are doing something really special: they are offering a box of “roses”! An assortment of vanilla, chocolate, and red velvet cupcakes adorned with different shades of frosting in the shape of roses.

Kumquat Cupackery was mentioned in many printed magazines and even on Martha Stewart!

Price: Each box is $48 + tax.

Location: New York City; more info on their website:


Fondant "XO" cut-out design -
Fondant “XO” cut-out design from
Cupcake in a jar –

More to come!!