Do you have a local baker or bakery that is out of this world amazing? We do. Ours is the Amazing Amy from Amy’s Cupcake Shoppe out of Minnetonka, MN. She’s incredible and amazing. I’m seeing how many times I can insert the word amazing in this post without being too obnoxious. We know that the best cookies, cakes, and macarons come from her…always.
P.S. Looking for a yummy cupcake recipe? Try my Vanilla Cupcakes…always a classic, always a winner!
If you don’t get these cupcakes, I’m not paying for your wedding.
– customer of Amy’s Cupcake Shoppe. Obviously said in jest. kinda.
A little about Amy’s Cupcake Shoppe:
Amy began in 2014 and makes from-scratch cakes, macrons, cupcakes, and other treats out of her Hopkins bakery. She even appeared on Netflix’s Sugar Rush! Her amazing team now consists of 14 people…I mean, we knew her back when she was solo ;). What a ride she’s had.
We sat down and spent a few hours with Amy in her kitchen chatting about all things baking. She had about five different things going on at the time but let us chat, take pictures, and pick her brain for all sorts of tips and tricks you and I can use in OUR baking. Here are some of the best tips and tricks we ALL can take away…
Tip #1: expensive cake pans aren’t necessary
Did you hear what Amy said? I was a bit shocked, to be honest. I always had the impression that expensive pans made for better cakes. But Amy said that there’s no need for fancy pants pans! Just make sure to properly grease the ones we already have and they should work just fine. I love this tip – it saved me some bucks!
King Arthur Flour bakers companion. “It tells everything about baking.” says Amy. Yep…that’s a simple way to say that this cookbook is a big ol’ giant book full of everything and anything you might need for baking.
For the record, I didn’t have this one and promptly went and got it. It’s like a dictionary for baking and has a wide variety of recipes for different baked goods, user-friendly instructions, and the use of high-quality ingredients. I totally understand why she loved this cookbook and love it now, myself :).
Tip #3: Take your butter out the night before and don’t microwave it!
“Hard butter won’t incorporate into the sugar as well,” Amy says. So when you’re trying to whip up a fantastic buttercream, and you are using harder butter, you’ll never be as successful as you’d like.
And Amy says the microwave is not a great option, “If you microwave butter, if you melt it at all, the fats are separated and it never comes back to its original state.” So, unless you are very, very careful, the microwave can completely destroy your recipe. So try your hardest to get the butter out before you go to bed!
Tips for softening butter without the microwave (these are from me):
- Use a grater: Grate the cold butter with a cheese grater to help it soften more quickly because it exposes more surface area to the air. Your butter will soften more quickly.
- Pound it: You can soften it by pounding it with a rolling pin. Put the butter between two sheets of parchment paper and pound it until it softens up.
Tip #4: Vanilla Bean Paste
Amy uses vanilla bean paste rather than vanilla extract in her cupcakes because of the visual component the paste brings to her cupcakes. You can SEE the beans and boy oh boy do they look more delicious! Her recommendation is that when you create a vanilla recipe in which you will see the cake/cookie, use vanilla paste.
Why is vanilla bean paste better than extract?
- Flavor: Vanilla paste usually is richer and more complex than an extract because it uses the seeds AND the pod of the vanilla bean. You’ll get more flavor and aroma!
- Texture: Vanilla paste is thicker and stickier than extract which can be easier to work with. It also adds a speckled appearance to baked goods that looks yummy!
- Versatility: Vanilla paste can be used in a wider range of recipes than vanilla extract, even in custards, sauces, and frostings that extract isn’t always easy to use in. The best part is that it doesn’t cook out with high heat.
- Cost: Oddly, vanilla paste, although initially more expensive, only needs a small amount to get the great flavor and aroma which means you end up using less than vanilla extract.
Tip #5: When making recipes that are measured in grams, it is necessary to weigh your ingredients.
The difference between grams and cups or grams and pounds, etc.. can be significant. It is best to be safe and measure out your ingredients.
Why it’s important to measure ingredients that are in grams:
- Precision: Measuring is more precise than using cups and/or tablespoons. In baking, even a little bit of difference in amounts can matter. Measuring helps keep amounts accurate.
- Consistency: Because the measurements can be repeated exactly there will be consistency between batches…important for a bakery.
- Accuracy: Density is different between ingredients so measuring by volume can be wrong. Measuring in grams makes sure that each ingredient is measured properly. Different ingredients can have different densities, which means that measuring by volume (such as using cups) can lead to inaccurate measurements.
- Adaptability: Scaling recipes up or down is much more accurate when you use a measurement of weight when changing the recipes.
note: Amy also measures out her butter for her macarons (if you haven’t had the privilege of having one of her macarons…you must!)
Tip #6: Use Quality Ingredients for Flavor
This is our favorite tip of all the awesome knowledge bestowed on us. Use quality ingredients where it counts, but save where it doesn’t. Meaning…
- If you are making a chocolate cake make sure you use the BEST chocolate, but feel free to save money on other ingredients.
- A butter cake might have the BEST butter you can find.
- And vanilla bean ice cream…you guessed it, vanilla bean and cream would be super high quality.
Using this tip will help you save cash but keep great quality in your baking.
Tip #7: Be very careful not to over-bake!
Many home cooks assume that it is better to overcook baked goods than under-cook, but Amy believes just the opposite. “Err on the other side, ” Amy says. Slightly underdone cupcakes taste much better than overdone, dry, and cracked ones. “As soon as you touch the top and it springs back, it’s done.”
Tips to know if your cake is done:
- Check the color: A golden brown top means the cake is evenly cooked and probably done. If the cake is pale…it might need more time.
- Touch the top: Gently press the top of the cake with your finger. If it springs back, it is probably done. If your finger leaves a mark…it is probably not quite done.
- Insert a toothpick: You know this one. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out dry and without any batter sticking to it.
- Listen to the cake: I know it sounds odd but a cake that is done, as it cools, will make crackling sounds. So listen :)
Tip #8: Keep cake decorating simple if you are a newbie.
There are a couple of ways to decorate your cake easily. You can use any tip from Michael’s with a piping bag, or if you prefer a more traditional approach, you can simply spread frosting onto the cake with a knife.
Has she been in my kitchen? That’s how I still prefer to decorate my cupcakes!
If you want to learn some cake decorating techniques:
Tip #9: Clean as you go
“I always clean as I go…whenever I’m done baking, I always have a clean kitchen!” says Amy
- Baking from a small space means clean counters are an even greater commodity. Small spaces don’t have the luxury of not using the clean-as-you-bake mentality.
- Cleaning as you bake helps to keep your kitchen tidy and organized.
- It reduces the amount of time and effort required for cleaning up after baking so you can get right to the eating part.
- It helps prevent cross-contamination of ingredients and utensils.
- It minimizes the risk of accidents, such as burns, caused by cluttered surfaces.
Amy has her own little apprentice who is patiently learning, tasting, and trying out all the tricks of the trade. Even if we don’t have a master cupcake maker like Amy as our mother, we can still use these few tricks to enhance the taste of our treats, make our baking process more efficient, and simply have more fun and enjoyment in the kitchen.
A big GIANT thank-you to Amy from Amy’s Cupcake Shoppe for letting us tag along with her for a morning. Giant hugs and love to you lovely lady! If you are in the MN area be sure to grab some of her delicious treats, or sign-up for a macaron-making class at her website www.amyscupcakeshoppe.com . We guarantee that you will want to eat her cupcakes for all the days, in all the flavors, and in every way possible (we recommend frosting first).