The next post from our Disney Food for Families Columnist, Erin Foster, focuses on one of my favorite things: cupcakes! Erin and her daughters did some experimenting to answer a question asked by a reader in a recent comment… . Here we go!
My daughters and I have been long fascinated not only with the taste of the food at Disney restaurants (yum), but also with the incredible presentation of many of the dishes — particularly the desserts. Over the years, we’ve
borrowed stolen several Disney dessert presentations and adapted them for our own parties and celebrations. When we saw the recent post here about the new mini cupcakes being sold at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we knew that this was an idea just begging to be tried at home.
This is the Disney version of the mini cupcake; our goal was to see if we could make these as a sweet treat to bring to some upcoming holiday parties or perhaps give them as a little personal add-on to some holiday tips.
The most challenging part of our experiment was determining how exactly to bake the cupcakes. There was some speculation in the comments section of the original Disney Food Blog cupcakes post about what type of paper was used, whether cupcake tins were needed, etc.
After a consultation with my father, a research and development scientist in the paper and food packaging industry, I felt confident that I wouldn’t burn the house down by putting paper in the oven and decided to focus on what, to the untrained eye, seemed to be those little paper cups that you pump ketchup into at fast food restaurants. (For those of you in the know, these are the cups they use at the toppings bars at Cosmic Ray’s, Casey’s, and other WDW counter service venues.)
A brief online search lead me to a source for the little cups, which I now know are “Solo brand souffle portion cups.” I got mine at webrestaurantstore.com, but there may be local suppliers near you. The Solo souffle cups come in a variety of sizes. I chose to try the one ounce and two ounce versions. I also tried the Wilton brand candy and nut cups available at my local Michael’s craft store, which look nearly identical to the Solo cups, but have a shiny coating inside the cup. And we tried a traditionally-shaped mini cupcake liner.
You can get a sense of just how small these little cups are by using the quarter for reference. Left to right, the cups are the traditional liner, the one ounce Solo cup, the Wilton nut cup, and the two ounce Solo cup. They are all perfect for little one to two bite morsels.
For purposes of experimentation, the cake batter we used was plain old Duncan Hines French Vanilla from the box. Obviously you can use other flavors or your own secret family recipe, but we wanted something simple to test the baking method.
To figure out which baking medium would work best, we tried each of the cups, both plain and misted with supermarket cooking spray. We filled the traditional liner, the one ounce and the Wilton cups with exactly 1 teaspoon of batter and the two ounce cups with two teaspoons of batter. We baked them until just golden, which ended up being about 13 minutes, or slightly less than the box suggested for normally sized cupcakes
Of the variations we tried, the cutest and cleanest was the one ounce Solo cup, unsprayed. The presentation was neat and professional.
By contrast, the cups that we sprayed with cooking oil came out greasy and a bit dirty looking. Also, the cupcakes were no more difficult to remove from the unsprayed cups than they were from the sprayed ones.
The Wilton cups with the internal shiny coating worked equally as well as the regular paper cups, but they are more expensive. I also wondered about the health aspect of eating from the baked coating. There did not appear to be any plastic transfer from the cup to the food, but better safe than sorry.
Once we figured out which type of baking method worked best, we set up an assembly line to fill the cups. My rough estimate is that you could get about 75 of these tiny cupcakes from one box of batter.
After going through a few rounds of baking, we learned that by far the best looking cupcakes were the ones in which we had absolutely no batter touch the inner sides of the cups. Precise filling made for a much more photogenic finished product. We ended up using a tiny ice cream scoop to help with batter transfer.
Once the baked cakes cooled, we got to the fun part — decorating. We initially tried spreading on the icing with a knife. This was a serviceable option, but the cupcake didn’t quite get the slick look or “wow factor” that the Disney cupcakes had. Then we tried using a Wilton Dessert Decorator, this was super easy and made masterful Disney-looking swirls. I’m sure that anyone who is talented with a pastry bag could achieve similar results with that.
Once you have the frosted cupcake base, you can obviously embellish these bite-sized treats to fit any occasion you might have at home. Here are some of the suggestions:
Our experiment in recreating Disney’s fabulous treat idea at home was a smashing success. We’ll be bringing trays of these not-too-sinful treats to our holiday visits this year. They really are just one wonderful bite each. Bon appetite! (And thanks for the idea, Mickey.)