Play Dough: Cupcake Cost Comparison + Recipe

There are at least two advantages to do-it-yourself baking: first, you save money and second, you eat better. Don’t believe us? Check out our cost comparison below. The proof is, as they say, is in the pudding.

What: Dark Chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting
Where: Sweet (Harvard Square and Back Bay)
Cost: $3.25 each, $36 per dozen

What: Chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting
Where: Kick*ss Cupcakes (Somerville)
Cost: $2.75 each, $33 per dozen

What: Chocolate cupcake with either light chocolate or dark chocolate buttercream frosting
Where: Blue Frog Bakery (Jamaica Plain)
Cost: $2 each, $24 per dozen

What: Chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting
Where: Formaggio Kitchen (Cambridge
Cost: $2.25 each, $27 per dozen

What: Chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting
Where: Made at home
Cost: $.60 each, $7.25 per dozen

Recipe for chocolate cupcakes
Courtesy of Marilynn and Sheila Brass (authors of Heirloom Baking and Heirloom Cooking with the Brass Sisters). Recipe appears as Mama’s Chocolate Velvet Cake, from Heirloom Baking With The Brass Sisters, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2006, page 273.

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup milk
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces bitter chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons hot water|
2 ¼ cups cake flour, sifted
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Yield: 48 two-inch cupcakes

  1. Place oven rack in middle position. Pre-heat oven to 350º F. Prepare 2 pans of 24 cupcakes each by placing a fluted paper liner in each section.
  2. Add lemon juice to milk, stir, and set aside to sour, about 15 minutes.
  3. Combine baking soda, chocolate, and hot water in a small bowl, stirring briskly. Let cool slightly. (The mixture will become very stiff but will combine with batter.)
  4. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.
  5. Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until soft and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and blend in. Add chocolate mixture and combine. Add vanilla to soured milk. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with milk to batter.
  6. Using a disposable plastic piping bag fitted with an Ateco 805 round tube, pipe batter into each section of the pans, filling them 2/3 full. Tap pan gently on counter to remove any bubbles in batter. Place pan in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until tester inserted in middle of cupcake comes out clean with no crumbs attached.

Recipe for chocolate buttercream frosting
Courtesy of Marilynn and Sheila Brass

4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 one-ounce squares unsweetened or bitter chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
¼ cup water

  1. Place butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk for two minutes. Add sugar one cup at a time, beating well. Add one tablespoon water to batter after two cups of sugar have been added and combine. Add vanilla, salt and melted chocolate and mix well. Add remaining two cups of sugar and combine. Add remaining water one tablespoon at a time, and beat at high speed until fluffy. If necessary, add an additional tablespoon of water.
  2. Add frosting to disposable plastic piping bag fitted with a Wilton 8B swirl tube. Pipe large swirl of butter cream on top of each cupcake and allow to set. Store cupcakes under covered cake dome in refrigerator until ready to serve. Cupcakes may also be stored in the refrigerator on a plate loosely covered with wax paper after they have chilled for 15 minutes. When transporting cupcakes, they may be placed in original cupcake pan.

Sweet Tips:

  1. Vinegar maybe substituted for lemon juice in the cake recipe.
  2. When piping butter cream, you can use a plastic food storage bag with one end cut off. Piping tube can be fitted into open end.
  3. Butter cream can be made with half butter and half vegetable shortening to better hold its shape. Cupcakes decorated with butter cream made with all butter will have to be refrigerated until 10 minutes before serving. If not, the butter cream will soften and lose its shape because of the high butter content.
Ingredient Cost per Unit Amount Needed / dozen Cost for Amount Needed
Butter $2.99 / lb 4 sticks (1 pound) total $2.99
Sugar $2.59 / 5 lb 1 ½ cups $.90
Eggs $2.99 dozen 2 $.50
Baking powder $1.99 / 10 oz 2 ½ teaspoons $.05
Salt $.70 / 25 oz 1 1/8 teaspoon $.04
Whole milk $2.69 / half gal 1 cup total $.30
Vanilla $3.20 / 2 oz 3 teaspoons total $.54
Confectioner’s sugar $2.29 / 2 lb 4 cups $1.75
Lemon juice $.67 / each 1 tablespoon $.34
Baking soda $.89 / 16 oz ¼ teaspoon $.04
Bitter chocolate $2.79 / 8 oz 7 ounces total $2.44
Cake flour $2.79 / 2 ½ lbs 2 ¼ cups $1.50
Total $11.39 / dozen. $.95 each

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