Since my birthday is this month, it's been a weird experience to have a normally celebratory time of the year for me coincide with the start of the pandemic (last year) and the one-year milestone observations (this year). Though I'm not a huge birthday person, it has felt really strange to celebrate on my own for two years in a row now, forgoing my preferred method of celebrating: sharing a meal with friends and enjoying some delicious gluten and dairy-free sweets.
Feeling uninspired and riding another wave of quarantine burnout, I was totally going to forgo any celebration this year until my mom surprised me with a intriguing cupcake kit from PastryBase. Cutely packaged and promising cupcakes that tasted as good as they looked (while being gluten-free and vegan!), the kit proved to be the perfect pick-me-up, and fantastic real world application of the Great British Bake Off skills I hope I've learned in binging all the seasons this past year.
What's fantastic is the kit comes with everything you need to make the unicorn cupcakes, from the foundations (cake/icing mix) to the smallest detail (toothpicks, cutouts, and glue dots for the decor). The only thing you need to have on hand to add in is butter and milk (or the vegan substitutes).
The cakes themselves came together super quick, and I used oil and almond milk for the liquid ingredients. In the oven, they needed to stay in a little longer than the cook time called for, but came out a beautiful golden brown in their cheerful rainbow cupcake wrappers. Though super tempting to get started on decorating right away, it's important that they cool completely before the next phase, so I forced myself to go out and run a few errands to ensure they were ready for prime time and getting all dressed up.
I have to admit that preparing the frosting was a little intimidating since I have not made frosting from scratch very often. I had nothing to fear however, because it came together quite well with a Earth Balance "butter" base with a splash of almond milk and the frosting mix. Here, my electric hand mixer did most of the heavy lifting and soon rendered the liquid, fat, and powder into a creamy, yet fluffy buttercream.
The best part of a vegan, gluten-free mix? It's totally safe to taste test (well, lick the beaters) as you go to get a feel for the consistency and flavor. Perks of baking just for myself? I think so!
Using a spatula, I scooped the frosting into the included piping bag, which took me a minute to get the hang of, and sort of made a mess (not a problem though, all in the name of cupcakes!). Take it from my initial misstep- be sure to have one hand on the open end so the frosting doesn't squirt out the back! I found that the frosting was not as stiff as I'd like, and probably would have refridgerated it a little before applying to let it firm up a tad.
Now comes the fun part: decor! This is truly where PastryBase's LillyBean mix elevated a cake and frosting mix into a next-level people pleaser. To dress up the cupcakes, sprinkle on a shimmery gold decorating sugar and naturally-colored sprinkles. With the finishing touch of the unicorn face toothpicks, a simple batch of cupcakes magically transforms into a herd of magical beings!
Now time for the ultimate question: how do these cupcakes measure up taste-wise given their Instagram-perfect aesthetics? I'm pleased to report they earned top marks from me. The crumb of the cake is moist and has a rich vanilla flavoring while the thick frosting has a lovely vanilla bean flavor (you can see the flecks of the bean too!). Though definitely a sweet treat, I didn't find them overly sugary, and liked how many aspects of the cupcake sweetness (sprinkles) and texture (cake-to-frosting ratio) were customizable.
Having not stepped foot in a bakery in a year, this kit was almost the next best thing. PastryBase has totally elevated a simple cupcake into a truly showstopping sweet. It was so much fun to put them together, and were very amateur baker friendly. I wouldn't be surprised if magic is a main ingredient of the cupcake kit because they truly seemed to shine through their taste, texture, and appearance. Like the mythical beasts themselves, this cupcake mix is truly one-of-a-kind!
Speaking of ingredients, here's the full list for those who are curious. I was pleased to see that they are very allergen-friendly, though are manufactured in a facility that handles peanuts.
What's awesome is that not only has this cupcake kit from PastryBase earned my rave review, the company makes many more varieties, as well as stand along cake and frosting mixes! Click here to visit their website to learn more, and order online (or find them stocked at a store near you).
Disclaimer: This review is current to the original publication date. Updates will be noted. Ingredients and manufacturing processes can change without notice. Each product should be reviewed for individual nutritional needs. Feel free to to contact me with any questions or comments. I purchased the products independently and the review is a reflection of my personal opinion.