If you visit Putney Farm regularly, you may notice an affinity for cupcakes. And this isn’t because cupcakes are all the rage these days (not that there is anything wrong with that), but because we have two boys with lots of friends, birthdays, sports and school events. And everyone knows we cook and are willing to
be dragooned “volunteer”…. 😉 So when we want to feed a horde of crazed kids crowd, cake or cupcakes are very good options. (So is barbecue, but that is for another post.) We often make chocolate cake for a crowd, but there is something about the cupcake that is even more special. People from ages one to one hundred just love a cupcake. It’s sweet and tasty, it’s easy to handle and it’s all yours.
But sadly, many cupcakes really aren’t all that good, the big blob of frosting covers for a dry chunk of cake. The problem, surprisingly, is the overuse of butter in most cupcake recipes. While we love real butter, it has water along with the butterfat and when the water cooks out it makes for a drier, crisper cupcake (the science is pretty solid, btw). This is good for pie crust, bad for cake, and especially bad for small cakes with a lot of surface area vs. mass (that would be the cupcake). The secret to a moist cupcake is to use vegetable oil (no water) and often to add another moistening ingredient. And this recipe not only uses oil but adds mashed sweet potatoes for an extra moist and sweet cake. Yum.
Sweet potatoes in cupcakes? Well yes. They work famously well in biscuits, so why not cupcakes? You don’t taste sweet potato, but mixed with winter spices and orange zest you get a super-moist, caramel-colored cupcake with deep wintry flavors. Topped with sweet caramel cream cheese frosting, this cupcake is good all the way through. And as the oil and sweet potato keep the cake moist, you can easily adapt the recipe for either large or thimble-sized cupcakes with no loss of quality. A neat trick, and something to keep in mind when the size of the crowd may vary.