In honor of our most recent cupcake competition, the Celebrations Cupcake Crown, we’re interviewing cupcake connoisseurs across the country to find out their secrets in the kitchen.
Stefani Pollack of the site Cupcake Project is a blogger and noted experimental baker who is not afraid to take risks when it comes to cupcakes. I had the pleasure of speaking with her about all things baking and blogging!
Favorite cupcake: Whatever cupcake is currently in her kitchen!
How did Cupcake Project come about?
I started the blog in 2007, but was not baking much at all before that. Two of my good friends were getting married and they wanted cupcakes at their wedding. We all know how expensive cupcakes can be, so I offered to bake their cupcakes for them to save money. I never thought they would say yes! For the nine months leading up to their wedding, I baked them a different cupcake every week. I started the blog to track all the cupcake recipes.
I’m sure there must have been some bad baking experiences!
I’m really into experimenting with different flavors. I made a corned beef and cabbage cupcake once. It tasted like you were eating sauerkraut on your cupcake. My mother-in-law liked it, though!
Have you noticed any cupcake trends that are increasingly popular?
Booze and baking have been huge. I do a lot of adult cupcake recipes. My most popular has been my Superbowl cupcakes. They’re beer cheese cupcakes with bacon cheddar cream cheese frosting. Of course, cupcakes in a jar are popular too.
That cupcake sounds amazing! Where do you look for creative inspiration?
In the beginning, I looked up to this blog called Cupcake Bake Shop for inspiration. I loved that she pushed the limits with cupcake flavors and was very experimental. I still enjoy her blog, but she doesn’t post very often any more.
Who gets to taste all of these experimental cupcakes?
My husband, Jonathan. When I first started Cupcake Project, Jonathan was a software developer. He had never done much with photography, but he thought the photos on the site were awful so he started taking photos for me. He got really good at it and was hired by our local food magazine. Over the five years I’ve written the blog, he has gotten better and better at photography. Jonathan has now changed his career and is a professional photographer doing editorial work for local and national magazines, weddings, events, and families.
That’s such a great story! Are you working on any upcoming projects?
I’m going to start my quest for the ultimate chocolate cupcake. I previously did the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake where I enlisted the help of 50 readers (“Cupcake Project Explorers”) who tested out my recipes until we found one we loved.
Wow! How did you settle on the ultimate recipe?
It took four months, but when we finally settled on one recipe, two-thirds of the people who tried it said that it was the best they'd ever had!
What was the hardest cupcake you’ve ever tried to tackle?I know it sounds like the simplest, but the vanilla cupcake was definitely the hardest. I wanted it to be perfect - the correct level of lightness, moisture and vanilla – and it took a ton of experimentation to find the right formula.
Do you have tips for first time bakers?
I always say, “Just go for it!” Start trying things and experimenting! Try not to get frustrated if things don’t turn out amazing. You’re making cupcakes; it’s supposed to be fun! Even if they aren’t perfect, people are going to enjoy them. Remember, also, that frosting can hide lots of mistakes. Also, always bake from scratch. Some people are scared to bake from scratch and it's not that complicated once you give it a try.
Stefani Pollack is the author of the popular cupcake blog, Cupcake Project. Each week, she shares new cupcake recipes, ingredient and technique spotlights, and baking-related product giveaways. Cupcake Project has been featured in People Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens and Stefani is a regular contributor to PaulaDeen.com. Stefani lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband/official blog photographer/taster and her toddler/baker-in-training.