Today I learned the real difference between cupcakes and muffins. I can certainly tell the difference between cupcakes and muffins once I have one in my mouth (if there is any question to begin with), but I never took the time to actually define them individually. This is what I've learned.
Cupcakes are typically frosted and decorated, though this is not necessary. An unfrosted cupcake is still a cupcake. It does not equate to a muffin simply because it is naked. Cupcakes are also stuffed to the gills with butter and sugarsugarsugar (you know, like cake). Cupcakes are simply individual portions of cake and are typically eaten for dessert or a sweet treat and not breakfast (unless you happen to be me). Cupcakes have a high ratio of sugar and fat.
Muffins, on the other hand, are a form of quick bread, not cake. Muffins generally have a very small amount of butter (if any) and very little sugar. Although muffins can be topped with a glaze or crumble, this does not make them cupcakes, even if it may make them slightly more unhealthy. Muffins are typically eaten at breakfast or tea time. You would rarely find muffins being served at a birthday party or wedding (could you even imagine?). Muffins have a very low ratio of sugar and fat, making them healthier than cupcakes which is why it is okay to eat them for breakfast.
But, if you ask me, I think my local grocery stores could do with a bit of a lesson. Am I honestly supposed to believe a double chocolate chocolate chip muffin is really a muffin? Are rich and cakey banana nut muffins (with half a pound of buttery crumble topping) not cupcakes? Do they really have a low fat/sugar content? I have doubts. So my lesson for you is to be careful and watchful of the differences. Since few people are actually aware of the differences (most people believe that an unfrosted cupcake classifies as a muffin), you might be stuffing yourself with cupcakes for breakfast. Chances are that if you didn't make that muffin yourself, it may not be a muffin after all.
These cranberry chocolate chip cupcakes are a play on the concept of sweet and tart. The bitter cranberries are contrasted well against the sweetness of the chocolate chips. These have a texture similar to a muffin rather than a cake, but there is enough sugar and chocolate so you can't pretend they are terribly healthy. However, the cupcakes themselves are rather light and will leave you wanting just a little bit more.
Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcakes by Susanna Tee
Yields 12 cupcakes
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with baking cups.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well blended. Stir in the milk. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the batter. Gently fold in the cranberries and chocolate chips.
Spoon the batter evenly between the baking cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.