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4:41 PM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Cupcakes: An endlessly versatile crowd-pleaser

Spring seems to bring a change in activities to picnics, parties, wedding and baby showers, graduations, and so forth, and that means people gathering for celebrations must eat! Many times portable or easily served food is desirable and that leads to the popularity of cupcakes. Almost all ages like them, they are easy to transport, fun to decorate and they taste great.

PINEAPPLE UPSIDE DOWN CUPCAKES

From Allrecipes.com

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

24 maraschino cherries

1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple

1 (18.25 oz.) package pineapple cake mix

3 eggs

1 1/3 cup pineapple juice

1/3 cup canola oil

1 tbsp. confectioners' sugar for dusting or as needed

Move oven rack into middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 24 muffin cups directly with cooking spray. Line work surface with waxed paper.

Spoon 1 tbsp. melted butter into bottom of each sprayed muffin cup. Spoon 1 tbsp. brown sugar in each muffin cup.

Press maraschino cherry into the center of the brown sugar in each cup.

Spoon heaping tbsp. of crushed pineapple over cherry and press down with back of spoon to even layer.

Mix pineapple cake mix, eggs, pineapple juice and oil in large bowl with electric mixer on low until moistened or about 30 seconds. Turn mixer to medium and mix 2 minutes. Pour pineapple cake batter into muffin cups filling to top; do not overfill. Bake in preheated oven until toothpick is clean about 20 minutes.

Allow to cool at least 5 minutes before inverting muffin cups onto waxed paper to release. Serve with pineapple and cherry sides up. Sprinkle cakes with confectioners' sugar.

NESTLE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Makes 16

2 cups (12 oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup water

FILLING:

2 packages (3 oz.

each) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Grease, spray or paper-line muffin cups.

FOR CUPCAKES:

Microwave 1/2 cup chocolate morsels in small, microwave safe bowl on high for 45 seconds. Microwave at additional 10-20 second intervals, stirring until smooth; cool to room temperature. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat sugar, oil, egg and vanilla extract in large bowl until blended. Beat in melted chocolate; gradually beat in dry ingredients alternately with water (batter will be thin).

FILLING:

Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg and salt in small bowl until creamy. Stir in 1 cup morsels.

TO ASSEMBLE: Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 1/2 full. Spoon filling by rounded tablespoon over batter. Spoon remaining batter over filling. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes clean. While still hot, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup morsels. Let stand 5 minutes or until morsels are shiny, spread to frost. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. These are nice as no additional frosting is required.

RAINBOW CUPCAKES

These are not high on the nutrition list, but kids would like to help make and then eat them!

1 package (2-layer size) white cake mix

1/4 cup Kool-Aid type sugar-sweetened soft drink mix plus 1 tbsp.

for frosting.

1 (16 oz.) container prepared rainbow frosting

Prepare and bake cake mix as directed on package for cupcakes, adding soft drink mix before beating. Frost cupcakes with frosting after cooking. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Rainbow Frosting: Stir 1 tbsp. Kool-Aid type soft drink mix any flavor, into 1 container (16 oz.)

ready-to-spread vanilla frosting until well blended.

VANILLA BUTTERMILK CUPCAKES

Makes only 12 in case you want less than cake mixes. Very light.

From Parade magazine

1 1/2 cup flour

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. each baking soda and salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcakes liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. One by one mix in eggs, the egg yolk and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, mixing until smooth. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool. Top with your favorite frosting.

COCONUT CUPCAKES WITH ICE CREAM

Make ahead and have in freezer until ready to serve.

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup whole milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut, divided

Your choice good quality ice cream

Preheat oven to 350. Coat cups (nonstick preferably) with cooking spray. Place paper cupcake liners in cups. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Mix milk and vanilla in glass measuring cup. Beat sugar and butter in bowl with electric mixer on high until mix is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks one at a time. Reduce mixer speed to low, in three additions, alternating with two additions of milk, add the flour. Using clean, dry beaters, whip egg whites in a small, clean, dry bowl with mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into batter. Mix in 1 cup coconut. Divide the batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until tops of cupcakes are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on wire rack. Heat small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1/3 cup coconut. Cook, stirring occasionally until coconut is lightly toasted, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool. Horizontally slice tops off cooled cupcakes. Place 1 scoop ice cream on each cupcake bottom and replace tops. Freeze until ready to serve.

Make the most of the versatility of cupcakes by using a from-scratch cake recipe or a box cake and your favorite frosting or topping, and all the fun ways to decorate with candies, edible flowers, etc. The possibilities never end!