Erin McDowell’s 8 Best Cupcake Recipes for an Extra-Special, Extra-Fun Dessert

Cupcakes are a constant for me, not a baking trend. As someone who bakes a lot, I never tire of making them – they’re easy to make, and I always get excited about eating them. They are also a lot of fun to dress up, get creative with, and make extra sp…

Cupcakes are a constant for me, not a baking trend. As someone who bakes a lot, I never tire of making them - they’re easy to make, and I always get excited about eating them. They are also a lot of fun to dress up, get creative with, and make extra special. I find that I’m not alone in my love for cupcakes, too— I have elicited my fair share of gasps and smiles walking into a room carrying a colorful box of cupcakes. (Seriously - move over bouquet of flowers—give me a box o’ cupcakes.) And if cupcakes are meant to be baked, gifted, and/or eaten by the dozen, I’m coming in hot with a bunch of recipes to keep you in tiny cakes for all occasions. My newest episode of Bake it Up a Notch dives deep into all things cupcakes—from super simple to over-the-top, I’ve got your cupcake to-bake list covered.

1. Basic Vanilla & Chocolate Cupcakes

These are my go-to cupcakes: an easy base recipe that can be made in vanilla or chocolate. These rise a “just-right” amount, to get a beautiful little cakey dome with a super moist crumb that’s a perfect match for any frosting or other finishes you can dream up! Be sure to check out this article I wrote back in 2015 about cupcakes, too—it has lots of ideas and techniques for making your best, plus creative ideas for making them look super beautiful, too. What’s that? Super in-depth coverage on cupcakes from me over five years ago on this same site? Just a perfect example of the cupcake constant.

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How to Make Donuts From Scratch (Like You Know What You’re Doing)

Doughnuts, for me, represent absolute perfection. Don’t get me wrong: Pie is my number one; cake is near the top of my list; and I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like. But doughnuts…there isn’t much in this world that&rsq…

Doughnuts, for me, represent absolute perfection. Don’t get me wrong: Pie is my number one; cake is near the top of my list; and I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like. But doughnuts…there isn’t much in this world that’s better than a good—no, a GREAT—doughnut. Sure, they can be doused in sugary glaze and topped generously with sprinkles, but the dough itself isn’t too sweet‚it’s just yeasty and light and fluffy and perfect. It’s the ideal canvas for endless variations to suit your whims. 

The real reason doughnuts are so wonderful to me is the connection they have to my past. My grandmother lived in a house built by my great-great-great grandparents: a real little house on the prairie in the middle of nowhere, Kansas. When my grandma was a kid, it was her grandma’s house; same for my dad; and luckily, for me too. Along with the wonderful history of the place itself, the house was home to a lot of our own food history. One day, my grandma pulled out a pretty little yellow tin recipe box. The paint was chipped, but it was lovely and chock-full of my great-great grandma’s recipes. This includes the tattered old card that contained the handwritten recipe for these doughnuts. When a recipe is good, it stands the test of time—and these doughnuts do just that. 

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6 Macaron Recipes for the Perfect Parisian Treat

Macarons, the incredibly beautiful Parisian cookie, are perhaps equally known for their impossibly smooth surface, delicate raised “foot,” and irresistibly chewy texture. As a baker, I see macarons as a bit of a rite of passage. Learning to execute the…

Macarons, the incredibly beautiful Parisian cookie, are perhaps equally known for their impossibly smooth surface, delicate raised “foot,” and irresistibly chewy texture. As a baker, I see macarons as a bit of a rite of passage. Learning to execute these fluttery friends is a great test of a variety of baking skills: whipping a meringue, piping the perfect round, and getting the bake just right. But I also see them as an incredible opportunity to get creative. At their core, macarons are a simple cookie with a fairly short ingredient list: just almond flour, egg whites, and sugar. And since they are made with almond flour, they are naturally gluten-free. Best of all, the short ingredient list means that the cookie itself is neutral in flavor—meaning you can easily add a variety of different fillings and finishes to take your macarons to the next level.

In my newest episode of Bake it Up A Notch, I try to show off some of the many incredible things this cookie can do. While lots of macaron recipes play with adding different colors and filings, I want to encourage home bakers to also experiment with an array of sizes, presentations, and finishes, too! From the classic mini sandwich cookies to giant macarons decorated with royal icing, to a towering, sliceable layer “cake,” there’s a whole lot of ways to embark on your own macaron adventure. Here are the recipes to get you started.

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Yeasted Puff Pastry Is the Long, Satisfying Baking Project You Need Now

This original article was written to detail the process of specifically making my croissant loaf and rolls from homemade yeasted puff pastry. For the March episode of Bake it Up a Notch, we took a deep dive into all things yeasted puff, and I wanted to…

This original article was written to detail the process of specifically making my croissant loaf and rolls from homemade yeasted puff pastry. For the March episode of Bake it Up a Notch, we took a deep dive into all things yeasted puff, and I wanted to update the article to discuss the broader scope of this process—one of my favorite pastry doughs.


Yeasted puff pastry is one of those items on your “to-bake” list that may seem especially nerve-wracking: after all, it’s a dough that combines both the difficulty of an enriched yeast-raised dough with the process of lamination, where the dough goes through a series of folds to evenly incorporate butter and achieve a beautifully layered, flaky result. But the result is truly epic: this dough produces pastries that are light as air on the inside, layered and crispy on the outside.

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How to Master Pâte à Choux (For Éclairs, Gougeres & Cute Little Cream Puffs)

This original article was written to detail the process of specifically making crullers, a fried pâte à choux based pastry. For the February episode of Bake it Up a Notch, we took a deep dive into all things pâte à choux, and …

This original article was written to detail the process of specifically making crullers, a fried pâte à choux based pastry. For the February episode of Bake it Up a Notch, we took a deep dive into all things pâte à choux, and I wanted to update the article to discuss the broader scope of this process—one of my favorite pastry building blocks and baking standbys.

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The Crispy-Cheesy Legend of Mimi’s Pizza

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she’ll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way…

Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a deep-dive into deep-dish pizza—and other cheesy pies Erin loves.


It’s no secret that I love my home state, and I’m one of the few family members who’s drifted outside a 50 mile radius of our family homestead in Kansas. I’ve grown fairly used to living so far from my family, but that’s only thanks to multiple visits each year. Even so, I spend a significant part of every year searching for cures for homesickness. The only one I’ve ever found with any real power, is to head to the kitchen, and make some of my mom’s food. It rarely tastes as good as when she makes it—but there’s true comfort to be found in the familiar smells and tastes of my childhood.

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Our Resident Baking BFF’s Go-To Tools for Better Pies, Cakes, Cookies—You Name It

In Bake it Up a Notch, or Resident Baking BFF, Erin McDowell—and her trusty sidekick, Brimley, our Resident Pie Pup—shows us everything we’ll ever need to know to make our baking faster, easier, and better than ever. From equipment recommendations to i…

In Bake it Up a Notch, or Resident Baking BFF, Erin McDowell—and her trusty sidekick, Brimley, our Resident Pie Pup—shows us everything we'll ever need to know to make our baking faster, easier, and better than ever. From equipment recommendations to in-depth technique tutorials to fixes for every mishap imaginable, Erin's here to save the day (and save our cakes).


If you know someone who loves to bake, they are likely spending more time in the kitchen than ever before. This list is made up of tools I turn to time and time again, that have withstood the test of time and beyond frequent use in my home kitchen—plus a few sources of inspiration for year-round baking. Any baker would be thrilled to unwrap one of these goodies! Wishing everyone happy holidays and happy baking!

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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Erin McDowell’s New Cookbook

I baked my first pie alongside my Grandma Jeanne when I was 14 years old. It was for a church social, and she was experimenting with an olive oil crust.

I’d always loved cooking and baking, but Grandma’s country kitchen was less stressful than my moth…

I baked my first pie alongside my Grandma Jeanne when I was 14 years old. It was for a church social, and she was experimenting with an olive oil crust.

I’d always loved cooking and baking, but Grandma’s country kitchen was less stressful than my mother’s, because Grandma was more accepting of a mid-process mess. I distinctly remember the proud feeling carrying the pie into the church and serving it. Many bakers will tell you that sharing baked goods with others is their favorite part—and it quickly became mine.

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How to Make Perfect, Just-Fluffy-Enough Blini

I recently fell back in love with blini. Yes, we had been on a bit of a hiatus—I remembered them as not-always-flavorful disks, mere vessels for whatever tasty filling tops them. But true blini, made from yeast-risen buckwheat batter, are actually burs…

I recently fell back in love with blini. Yes, we had been on a bit of a hiatus—I remembered them as not-always-flavorful disks, mere vessels for whatever tasty filling tops them. But true blini, made from yeast-risen buckwheat batter, are actually bursting with flavor and have a lovely texture.

They make amazing appetizers and cocktail party fare, but larger-sized blini (read on!) can make fabulous brunches and even dinner entrées, especially with a crisp salad nearby. Want to get in on the blini action? Here’s what you need to know.

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These 16 Savory Tart Recipes Are Buttery, Flaky, Delicious

In winter, the constant desire to have something delicious baking in the oven, warming and perfuming the house, has me making a lot of savory tarts.
I love them: Add a pile of lightly dressed greens and you’ve got a meal, but cut off a sliver a few ho…

In winter, the constant desire to have something delicious baking in the oven, warming and perfuming the house, has me making a lot of savory tarts.

I love them: Add a pile of lightly dressed greens and you’ve got a meal, but cut off a sliver a few hours later and it’s a perfectly acceptable snack. And like many of my favorite baked goods, they are open to tons of possibilities, which leaves the window wide open for creative combinations.

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