Big Kids in the Kitchen: let them eat cupcakes

It had humble beginnings in the 18th century as cake simply baked in small cups, at most a traditional accessory to children's birthday parties.

Today, the cupcake - as eye-catching as it is palate-pleasing - is one of the most popular desserts for children and adults alike, and now a multimillion-dollar industry.

Creating the perfect cupcake is a fine art though, and with the rise in popularity in these sweet treats over recent years, more and more are seeking the tricks of the trade.

Answering that demand is Chifley Wollongong's executive chef, Peter Washbourne, whose Big Kids in the Kitchen cooking class series begins in January with a focus on learning how to make cupcakes and that other popular sweet, the macaron.

"[Cupcakes] have become very trendy foods. People like to be on the cutting edge of something new and different," he says.

"It was our most popular class last year, so we had to bring it back again."

Washbourne says the ongoing rise in interest has been largely because of the extent that people can be creative with making cupcakes.

"The options for creativity in flavour and presentation are endless," he says.

"People can try so many different things, there's hundreds of varieties of fillings and tastes, and thousands of colour combinations.

"Cupcakes make you smile, they have their own personality.

"They're much more individual, and pretty in their own little unit. It's much more personalised than, say, a cut piece of cake.

"Any person with a passion or interest for decorating loves cupcakes, because all sorts of things can be made and they easily look original.

"You've got different types of icing and different garnishings you can play with ... nonpareils, cream, edible coloured dust, marzipan, and royal icing to make all kinds of creations."

Another popular sweet treat, the macaron has all the appeal of cupcakes but greater sophistication, style and novelty.

The sandwich-like French meringue-based snacks were invented in the 17th century by the Italians to serve with their coffee, but Washbourne says they were brought back onto the scene by patissier and television favourite Adriano Zumbo two years ago.

From hamburger and popcorn cupcakes to lollipop macarons and everything in between, the sweet side of life is about to get sweeter, with Washbourne predicting a new rise in interest in another Zumbo favourite, the croquembouche.

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