“Cupcakes Forever: Delicious recipes for cupcakes with love from LOLA.” Photography by Peter Cassidy. Ryland Peters & Small. $14.95.

Serendipity is a big factor when I decide what to bake on any given weekend. Flipping through “Cupcakes Forever,” a charming, small cookbook dedicated to cupcakes, I found myself smiling at pictures of whimsical, appealing, simple cupcakes. Then bingo – on the last page was a photo and recipe for Black Bottom Cupcakes. The treats had a little puddle of freshly made blueberry compote nestled in the frosting, and since I’d just gone blueberry picking, and I had a couple of bricks of cream cheese, and a full tin of cocoa powder … well, that’s how it goes in my kitchen.

First a note about trends. I abhor them. I’m very much a tried-and-true kind of cook. I watched askance as cupcake mania spread across bakeries near and far and dominated the food pages of multiple magazines over the last few years.


Those cupcakes looked like they required a degree in architecture to make them. The designs were over-wrought, there were too many flavors and they were labor and time-intensive.

A far cry from the cupcakes I grew up with, which were simply cakes topped with buttercream frosting and then dipped upside down into a small bowl of sprinkles. Ta da.


But “Cupcakes Forever: Delicious recipes for cupcakes with love from LOLA,” was a return to simple cupcakes.

The Rhubarb and Custard Cupcake, based on the author’s memory of a retro sweet candy in Britain, has the cake, a swirl of buttercream frosting, and small piece of red rhubarb for decoration. (You can’t see the filling of custard and rhubarb compote.)

The Chocolate Chili Cupcake is topped with a sliver of a red chili, nestled atop a spicy and decadent ganache (with a cream cheese core…).

The adorable Snowman Cupcake uses white chocolate confectionary balls as the snowman’s head and a little strip of red licorice for a scarf – so cute, and easy.

Nothing intimidating about these cupcakes.

There is a nod to all the dietary concerns people have these days. So you can find recipes in this cookbook for people who don’t eat eggs, dairy or sugar.


There’s also a very helpful primer at the beginning that goes over necessary baking equipment, tips on proper baking techniques and how to frost a cupcake like a pro. (I’ll try a piping bag next time – I’m your basic offset spatula kind of gal…)

One thing did trip me up. Since this book was published in England, where LOLA’s is a line of cupcake bakeries, it offered both metric and U.S. measures. But it recommended using muffin tins, not cupcake tins, to bake in.

In my house there are two types of tins. Regular and large. The regular is for cupcakes and small muffins, and the large is for gargantuan muffins and big popovers.

I couldn’t figure out which to use, and an Internet search was no help. The cookbook did give the dimensions of the cupcake liners, which corresponded to regular-size cupcakes. So I chose the regular-size tin.


The recipe was supposed to make 12 cupcakes and I had enough batter for 17. Clearly, I chose the wrong-size pan.


I also was just a little shy of the amount of cream cheese I needed to complete the recipe, so I made a 3/4-size batch of frosting. It worked just fine.

And finally, I had liquid vanilla, not vanilla bean paste, on hand, so that’s what I used.

Despite my tin mistake and the substitutions, the cupcakes were delicious. The cake was spongy, the cheesecake filling was cool yet dense and the frosting and blueberry compote sublime. All the flavors worked together.

My neighbors, who helped me judge and consume the cupcakes, pronounced them rich and delicious. One, who accuses me of “bake and release” tactics, said they were perfect.

It’s nice when serendipity has such a splendid ending.

Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:


[email protected]


Makes 12

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder


3 eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 1/2 sticks of butter (3/4 cup), melted


3.5 ounces of full-fat cream cheese


1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1 egg

2.5 ounces white chocolate, melted


1 cup blueberries


2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste


1 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

14 ounces full-fat cream cheese

Muffin pan, lined with 12 paper liners

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by making the cheesecake core. Beat together the cream cheese and sugar in a small bowl with a wooden spoon. Add the vanilla bean paste and egg, and mix, then pour in the melted white chocolate, and stir to combine. Set aside until needed.

For the cupcakes, sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a mixing bowl and set aside.


Place the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use a hand-held mixer) and beat the mixture at medium-to-high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.

If using a stand mixer, switch to paddle attachment. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the batter along with the milk, mixing at low speed to combine. Add the melted butter and beat to blend. Do not over-mix.

Spoon 2 teaspoons of the cheesecake filling into the bottom of each cupcake liner, then divide the cake mixture, filling each liner to almost two-thirds full. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until risen and a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the compote, place all ingredients into a small saucepan and gently heat to allow the berries to soften and their juices to run. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until the compote is slightly thickened and the consistency of a soft jam/jelly. Set aside to cool.

To make the cream cheese icing, place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or a hand mixer) and beat until smooth and soft. Add the vanilla bean paste and sift in the confectioners’ sugar. Add the cream cheese and beat at medium to high speed for about 30 seconds, until smooth and glossy. Do not over-mix.

Spoon the cream cheese icing into a piping/pastry bag and a pipe a swirl on the top each cupcake. Alternatively, spread the icing onto each cupcake using a palette knife or metal spatula.

Top each cupcake with a teaspoonful of the blueberry compote.

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