Cupcake Recipes from the Cake Mix Doctor

Once upon a time, a family had only two recipes for cupcakes -- chocolate and vanilla. Not anymore. Anne Byrn brings endless cupcake variations to America's kitchens in her latest book, "Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor," which includes 135 amazing recipes for kids and grown-ups. A master baker, Bryn is the author of "The Cake Mix Doctor" and "Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor," which have a total of more than 1.8 million copies in print.

You can find four fabulous cupcake recipes below. For a printer-friendly version, go to the bottom of the page and click the "Print This Article" icon.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet cupcakes take a beloved traditional recipe and make it even more flavorful. The cupcakes are the de rigueur red, but they are filled with mini-chocolate chips to bring out the chocolate flavor. To complement the color and the flavor, I've paired them with a white chocolate frosting, delicately seasoned with peppermint.

Ingredients

• 24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2 ½ -inch size)

• 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain German chocolate cake mix

• 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix

• 1 cup sour cream (see "The Cupcake Doctor Says")

• ½ cup water

• ½ cup vegetable oil

• 1 bottle (1 ounce) red food coloring

• 3 large eggs

• 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

• Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

• Place the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, water, oil, food coloring and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

• Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat two minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look thick and well combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

• Spoon batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.) Place the pans in the oven.

• Bake the cupcakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

• Meanwhile, prepare the White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting. When finished, place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely.

• Place these cupcakes, uncovered or in a cake server, in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 3 cups, enough to frost 24 cupcakes (2 ½ inch size) generously

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

• 6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

• 4 ounces (half an 8-ounce package) reduced-fat cream cheese, at room temperature

• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature

• 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

• 2 to 2 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Directions:

• Place the white chocolate in a small glass bowl in the microwave oven on high power for one minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.

• Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until well combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the melted white chocolate and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds.

• Add the peppermint extract and two cups of the confectioners' sugar and blend on low until the sugar is incorporated, 30 seconds more. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, one minute more, adding up to ½ cup more sugar if needed to make a spreadable consistency.

• Feel free to fold in up to ½ cup crushed peppermint candy for a crunchy and creamy frosting!

To store:

Store the cupcakes, in a cake saver or under a glass dome, at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to one week. Or freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver, for up to six months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes with Coconut Meringue

Part pie, part cake, these elegant cupcakes with tropical flavors have the best of both worlds. Once baked, they are filled with a traditional Key lime pie filling of sweetened condensed milk and real Key lime juice. Then the cupcakes are topped with a quick coconut-flavored meringue and placed in a hot oven to brown.

Variations abound on this elegant dessert. If you are in a hurry, frost them, unfilled, with a little whipped cream, or lighten up the filling mixture with a little whipped cream and use it as a frosting instead. Or just fill the cupcakes and dust them with confectioners' sugar instead of adding the meringue. But if you go all the way, serve them when they are still a little warm, and you will have one stupendous cupcake with a surprise inside.

Ingredients:

• 24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2 ½ -inch size)

For cupcakes:

• 1 large lime, scrubbed (for 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)

• 4 large eggs

• 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix

• 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix

• 1 ¼ cups water

• 1/3 cup vegetable oil

• 1 teaspoon coconut flavoring

For filling:

• 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

• 1/3 cup Key lime juice (see "The Cupcake Doctor Says" below)

For coconut meringue:

• ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

• Reserved 3 large egg whites

• ½ teaspoon coconut flavoring

• 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

• Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

Prepare the cupcake batter:

• With a citrus zester or fine grater, zest the lime and reserve one teaspoon. Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over a strainer into a small bowl; you should have two tablespoons. Set aside.

• Separate three of the eggs, place the whites in a large clean mixing bowl and the yolks in another mixing bowl.

• Add the remaining egg, cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil, coconut flavoring and lime zest and juice to the yolks. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well blended.

• Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two thirds of the way full. Place the pans in the oven.

• Bake the cupcakes until they are lightly golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 22 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for five minutes. Increase the oven heat to 450°F.

• Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before filling.

• Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Place the sweetened condensed milk and Key lime juice in a small bowl and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip. Press the tip 1/4 inch into the top center of each cooked cupcake and squeeze the bag to release about 1 tablespoon filling into the cupcake. Scrape off any excess filling with a rubber spatula. Place the cooled cupcakes nearly side by side on a baking sheet.

Prepare the meringue:

• Add the cream of tartar to the reserved egg whites and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until frothy, 45 seconds.

• Add the coconut flavoring and one tablespoon of the sugar. Continue beating on high, adding one tablespoon sugar at a time, until the whites form stiff peaks (if you pull the beaters from the meringue, the meringue should extend from the beaters in straight stiff peaks).

• Spoon two tablespoons meringue onto the top of each cupcake and swirl to spread it just to the edges with a short metal spatula or a spoon. Place the pan in the oven. Bake until the meringue is light nutty brown in color, five to six minutes.

• Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingers. Serve at once, or allow the cupcakes to cool 10 minutes, then serve.

To store:

Store these cupcakes, in a cake saver at room temperature, for up to three days.

"The Cupcake Doctor Says"

It's important to buy real Key lime juice for this recipe. It has a different flavor from Persian lime juice -- it's fresher and more tart tasting. Many supermarkets carry Key lime juice in the juice aisle, so you won't have to visit a specialty store. Once opened, store the bottle in the refrigerator for a month of so. You will have plenty left to make a Key lime pie!

Warm Chocolate Cupcakes with Molten Centers and Cinnamon Creme Anglaise

It was chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten of New York City who put little chocolate cakes with warm, melting centers on the map. The method he uses is to bake a rich chocolate batter with very little flour at a high heat until the sides of the cake set but the centers are still runny.

This method works in a restaurant kitchen, but there is a more practical method for the home cook. This one uses a chocolate cupcake batter with a center of chocolate ganache -- that luxurious mixture of semisweet chocolate and hot cream, stirred until smooth, and allowed to cool. The ganache sinks into the batter as the cupcake bakes, creating a creamy molten center. Serve these tout de suite, as the French would say, and have ready to go the dessert plates, forks, sauce and sugar for sifting.

Step 1: Basic Chocolate Ganache

Chilled at least 1 hour (see "The Cupcake Doctor Says" below)

Ingredients:

• ¾ cup heavy (whipping) cream

• 8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

• 1 tablespoon liqueur of your choice or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

• Place the cream in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring.

• Meanwhile, place the chocolate chips in a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Remove the cream from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir with a wooden spoon until the chocolate has melted. Stir in the liqueur, if desired.

• Let sit at room temperature for one hour or chill for 20 to 30 minutes so it thickens to a spreadable consistency.

"The Cupcake Doctor Says"

You will most likely prepare these special cupcakes for company, and I would recommend them heartily! Make the ganache the day or night before, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. For a bigger, bolder flavor, prepare it with Ghirardelli double chocolate baking chips, a bit less sweet than the typical semisweet chips. You can add one tablespoon crème de cacao to the ganache to make it special, but this is easily omitted. Flavor these as you desire, by adding almond extract instead of vanilla, for example.

Step 2: Cinnamon Crème Anglaise

Ingredients:

• 2 cups whole milk

• 5 tablespoons sugar

• Pinch of salt

• 4 large egg yolks

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

• Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a heavy-bottomed medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sugar dissolves, two to three minutes.

• Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat with a fork until lemon colored. Remove the saucepan from the heat and ladle a large spoonful of the hot milk mixture over the egg yolks, stirring the yolks gently.

• Transfer the yolks to the milk mixture and stir to combine. Place the pan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, three to four minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and cinnamon.

Step 3: Cupcakes

Ingredients:

• Vegetable oil spray for misting the pans

• All-purpose flour for dusting the pans

• 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil's food cake mix

• 1 cup water

• ½ cup vegetable oil

• 3 large eggs

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

• ¼ cup confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions:

• Prepare the Basic Chocolate Ganache, cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator to chill. Prepare the Cinnamon Crème Anglaise, cover it with plastic wrap placed right on the surface, and place it in the refrigerator to chill.

• Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly mist 24 cupcake cups with vegetable oil spray and dust them with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.

• Place the cake mix, water, oil, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and blend 1 ½ to 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well combined and thickened.

• Spoon or scoop 1/3 cup batter into each prepared cup, filling it three quarters of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes.) Drop a heaping teaspoonful of ganache onto the top of the batter in each cup. Place the pans in the oven.

• Bake the cupcakes until the cake bakes up around the ganache, the tops are domed, and the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks for one minute. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake cups, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips.

• Place them on dessert plates, sift confectioners' sugar over the top, spoon the crème anglaise in a pool around each cupcake, and serve warm.

To store:

Store these cupcakes, in a cake saver or under a glass dome, at room temperature for up to one day. To reheat so the centers are molten once again, place the cupcakes on a microwave-safe plate and cover with paper towels. Heat on high power for 10 seconds, carefully remove and serve.

Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

Makes 22 to 24 cupcakes (2½ inches each)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 23 to 27 minutes

Assembly time: 10 minutes

24 paper liners for cupcake pans (2½-inch size)

Ingredients:

• 1 package (18.25 ounces) plain yellow cake mix

• 1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix

• 1 cup whole milk

• 1 cup vegetable oil

• 4 large eggs

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

• 1 package (1 pound) frozen cookie dough (see "The Cupcake Doctor Says" below)

Directions:

• Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners. Set the pans aside.

• Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed. The batter should look well blended. Spoon or scoop a heaping 1/4 cup batter into each lined cupcake cup, filling it two-thirds of the way full. (You will get between 22 and 24 cupcakes; remove the empty liners, if any.)

• Cut the frozen dough pieces in half to make 24 pieces. Place a frozen cookie dough piece on top of each cupcake. Place the pans in the oven.

• Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 23 to 27 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for five minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting. They may sink a bit in the center.

• Meanwhile, prepare the Chocolate Buttercream.

"The Cupcake Doctor Says"

If you use the 18-ounce logs of refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough (instead of the one-pound packages of frozen dough), cut them into 24 equal pieces and freeze them before using them in this recipe. It's important to use frozen dough, because you don't want it to bake completely and become a cookie. You want the center to be gooey when you bite into it.

Chocolate Buttercream

Makes 3 cups, enough to frost 24 cupcakes (2½-inch size) generously

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

• 3 to 5 tablespoons milk

• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

• Place the butter and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture is soft and well combined, 30 seconds.
• Stop the machine and add the confectioners' sugar, three tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, one minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, one minute more. Add one to two tablespoons more milk if the frosting is too stiff.

• Place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on each cupcake and swirl to spread it out with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Five Tips for Making Buttercream Frosting

• About three cups of confectioners' sugar produces the right amount of buttercream frosting for a batch of 24 cupcakes.

• Use one tablespoon liquid to one cup sugar to two tablespoons plus two teaspoons butter.

• Sift the confectioners' sugar to prevent lumps in the frosting.

• Begin with soft butter. If needed, soften the butter in the microwave.

• For a white buttercream frosting, begin with unsalted butter. Beat it on medium-high with an electric mixer to lighten the color. Use milk as the liquid.

To store:

Store these cupcakes, in a cake saver or under a glass dome, at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to one week. Or freeze them, wrapped in aluminum foil or in a cake saver, for up to six months. Thaw the cupcakes overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Excerpted with permission from "Cupcakes from the Cake Mix Doctor," by Anne Byrn. Published by Workman Publishing Company. Copyright © 2005 by Anne Byrn.