I made: Classic birthday cupcakes

I have this long list of “classic desserts” to practice.  Basically in the event that I ever make it onto a baking reality show, I’ll have at least a few classic recipes under my belt.  One of these is the traditional yellow birthday cake with chocolate frosting.  Unfortunately there just aren’t really a TON of occasions where it makes sense to bake someone a full on cake; cupcakes are a lot more appropriate, so that’s what I went for.

I used, again, a Kitchn recipe, which was good for the cake part itself.  I have some quibbles with the frosting (see more commentary below).

First, the cake!  Pretty simple:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and prep cake pans (or cupcake liners, in my case).
  • Cream 8 tbsp room temp butter with 1.5 cups granulated sugar, for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add 3 large eggs until mixed.
  • Combine dry ingredients: 2 1/4 cups flour, 1 tsp fine salt, 3.5 tsp baking powder, and mix into butter/sugar mixture.  Then add 1 1/4 cups milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract.  (I used buttermilk.)
  • Beat for about 3 minutes, scraping down as needed.
  • Fill the cake/cupcake pans and bake 25-30 minutes for round cakes, less for cupcakes (maybe 18? It’s been a while… I don’t remember how long I baked them.)
  • Cool for 15 minutes then remove from pans to finish cooling.

Next, the frosting:

  • Beat together 1.5 sticks room temp butter, 2 tbsp mayo, and 1/3 cup Rich Chocolate Ovaltine powder until mixed, about 1 minute.
  • Add 2.5 cups powdered sugar, about 1/2 cups at a time, until fully mixed.
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp fine salt.
  • The recipe also suggests adding 2 oz melted chocolate (optional).  I didn’t do this and I regret it.
  • Beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Frost cakes/cupcakes when cooled.


  • The cake recipe is good and tastes good.  I think I overfilled the cupcakes.  There’s a LOT of baking powder in this recipe and with the substitution of buttermilk, they rose a lot.  I had spillover on almost every cupcake and they came out messily as a result (but a tasty mess).
  • The frosting recipe is weird.  I don’t know if other people like Ovaltine more than me or what, but I found it off-putting and strange.
  • Also, there’s not nearly enough frosting.  At least for cupcakes.  I ran out and had to mix up a last-minute batch of cream cheese frosting to finish almost half of them.
  • The good news: I finally figured out which frosting tip got the effect I desired, which is something I’ve been working on through trial-and-error for months!  I’m still learning about using frosting/decorating tips, but I’m glad I figured this problem out.  (It’s the biggest size closed star tip, by the way.)  I also used again the trick where you mix a few different sprinkle types together, for a fun, more customized look.
  • Not gonna lie, I also wanted to make cupcakes specifically to use my cool new traveling cake/cupcake carrier.  Check it out.



  • Definitely a usable cake/cupcake recipe, although be careful about the rise.
  • I probably wouldn’t bother redoing the frosting normally, but I do have this whole thing of Ovaltine now, so I guess I might as well try again, to get the proportions right.  I would try mixing in the melted chocolate as suggested.  Also maybe only use half the amount of Ovaltine recommended and replace the other half with cocoa powder?
  • Also, double the frosting recipe.