Magnolia Bakery’s famous “Vanilla Vanilla” cupcake goes for $3.25 a pop, but with this DIY recipe we dug up in the Cooking Channel archives, you’ll spend only about 43 cents per cupcake. The low cost makes it perfect for a work party (or any party, for that matter), plus it’s simple, delicious and easy to tailor to your theme — should you choose to splurge on decorations. We tried this recipe for April’s Lab Week (Erika is a pathology resident at a nearby hospital), so we went with science-themed toppings (in case you were wondering about those strange-looking toppings above).
Below is a breakdown of the recipe steps, along with some tips we discovered through some admittedly rookie mistakes. We’re bakers in progress, so if you have any sage cupcake wisdom to share, please do so in the comments!
Step 1: Mix the batter.
Tip: Don’t have self-rising flour? Create your own by adding baking powder and salt to all-purpose flour.
Step 2: Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F (our cupcakes took the entire 25 minutes) and cool on wire racks.
Tip: Allow cupcakes to cool completely, or risk melted frosting! (More on this below.)
Step 3: Make the icing.
Tip: Add enough confectioners’ sugar to ensure your icing isn’t runny! We used about 7 cups, and probably could have used the full 8.
Step 4: Ice and decorate!
Tip: This is your time to shine! As mentioned, our cupcakes were for Lab Week, so Erika created science(!)-themed decorations that her doctor colleagues would be sure to appreciate: periodic-table elements (mini shortbread cookies and icing), molecules (Lemonheads), beakers (melted white chocolate chips), chromosomes (also made with melted white chocolate chips) and the science symbol (sparkly gel icing).
Final Thoughts: As you can see, we had some icing runnage, particularly on the cupcakes’ right side. In the future we will remember to exercise patience during cooling time to prevent melting, and use enough confectioners’ sugar to ensure a nice thick texture for sculpting. But even if your icing doesn’t take perfect shape, it’s still pretty darn good (we promise).