Cupcakes used to be so simple. You could slap some canned vanilla frosting and sprinkles on a couple of tiny cakes and not have any reason to feel like you weren't pushing the envelope. But in the past few years, things have gotten complicated, and bakeries like Crabapple in Australia, Sprinkles in L.A. and Magnolia in New York have put the gourmet cupcake on the culinary map. Once just a vehicle for delivering a sugary frosting payload to the bloodstream, cupcakes are now a sophisticated, diverse set of desserts in their own right.
Fortunately, unique cupcake decorating techniques are not out of reach for ordinary kitcheneers and weekend bakers. It's easy to create elegant and delicious cupcakes at home without years of training or recipes more complicated than the instructions on a box of cake mix. In this article, we'll take a look at 10 sophisticated cupcake recipes and ideas for decorating that go beyond chocolate jimmies and toothpick flags.