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Beachy-keen Cupcakes

August 4, 2010

Above:  a scene from Chatham, MA?

I was inspired by some cupcake decorating ideas on Martha Stewart’s website.  I can’t take credit for the beach scene, which was her idea (or that of one of her minions), but the other design is mine. 

And these cupcakes are seriously delicious.  I could eat several, if my brain could handle that much sugar.  Really buttery and fluffy.  Proof of their goodness was in the blue frosting all over the faces of some of the kids at our block party last night–one neighbor said that her three-year-old son is picky about desserts, but that he loved his cupcake.

Here’s the cupcake recipe; decorating tips to follow.

Classic Yellow Cupcakes

from Mom’s Big Book of Baking, published in San Jose Mercury News

Makes 24 cupcakes


  • Paper muffin liners
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour (not self-rising)*
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Lightly beat eggs, milk, and vanilla in bowl.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter and mix on low speed until butter pieces are pea-sized.
  4. Pour in about 2/3 of egg mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated.  Scrape sides of bowl and mix on medium-high speed for 1 minute.  Stir in remaining egg mixture on low speed until combined.  Scrape down sides of bowl again and mix on medium-high speed again for 30 seconds.  Batter should look light and creamy.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins.  Bake until cupcakes are light golden and a toothpick inserted in center of one comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool in pan for about 5 minutes, then place cupcakes by themselves on the rack to cool completely.

Cupcakes keep, wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for up to 1 day or refrigerated for up to 3 days.

*You can also use all-purpose flour with the following substitution ratio:  for every cup of cake flour, use 7/8 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 Tbsp. cornstarch


  • paper umbrellas (also called parasol toothpicks)
  • parchment paper
  • toothpicks
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 oz. dark chocolate
  • buttercream frosting, colored blue (I used mostly butter in place of the shortening in this recipe, with much success–also used regular vanilla, not clear, because it doesn’t matter when you’re coloring the frosting anyway)

For the beach cupcakes:

Before you color the frosting blue, use a bit of white frosting to barely cover half of the cupcakes.  This helps the graham cracker crumbs stick.

Spread blue frosting liberally on the other half of the cupcake.

Sprinkle about a teaspoon of crumbs over the white part, gently pushing the crumbs into the frosting. 

Using a toothpick, “fluff” the blue frosting up to make it look like waves.

Insert a paper umbrella on the beach.  You can add other stuff too–some candy to look like a towel, or beach ball.

For the ocean cupcakes:

Cover these cupcakes with blue frosting.  Add sugar crystals if desired.

On a piece of parchment paper, draw as many shark fins and as many whale flukes as you want to make.  I drew these in pencil, and went over it in Sharpie.  *Note on the flukes:  make the base thicker than it is on real whales, since the spindly nature of the chocolate did not hold up with all the flukes (it melted and fell over).

Flip the parchment paper over, and flatten it on a plate.  Spoon just a bit of melted chocolate into the shapes on the parchment paper.  With the toothpick, spread the chocolate to the edges of the design–you just want a thin layer of chocolate to start with; too much makes it gloppy and hard to contain within the lines. 

Once you’ve spread the chocolate where it needs to go, add more melted chocolate on top–it should be of a consistency where it will spread but not run.

Refrigerate or freeze for 10 minutes or until firm.

Insert chocolate designs into the blue frosting.

These were very popular with the kids at the block party–they seemed pretty psyched about getting to choose between a shark and a whale.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Liz permalink
    August 7, 2010 8:44 pm

    I love the whale and shark! Leah would go crazy over these.

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