I love trying new things in baking! I especially like trying new things when they work out in the end. This weekend, I made a Cupcake Pull-Apart Cake for the first time, for my adorable niece's ladybug themed FIRST BIRTHDAY PARTY! If you don't know what a Cupcake Pull-Apart Cake is (which I didn't either until recently) - the concept is to make a cake out of cupcakes, so that they're still easy to serve (no knives to cut the cake needed) but decorate it as one big cake so you still get the look of a real cake. So when it comes time to serve, all you have to do is walk up and take a cupcake. Clever!
While looking at others' cupcake pull-apart cakes to figure out how to do this, I found a bunch of different ways to make them. Some people arranged cupcake liners reallllll close together in a cake pan and filled the liners much higher than you would with usual cupcakes. When they bake, the batter puffs up and touches. So, it is still individual cupcakes but they are connected at the top. Its frosted and decorated together as one cake. This technique made me nervous for a few reasons. What if you fill the liners TOO much and instead of just gently connecting at the top, it oozes all the way down the sides and you have a cupcake cake blog mess. Orrr, even if done correctly, if they're connected at the top, I thought it would make easy pull-apart a little bit less easy.
Another technique is to just make cupcakes as you normally would, then arrange them close together on a pan, and frost all together as one big cake. I found this video at Betty Crocker, and thought it looked do-able!
For the recipe, I chose a 1-year-old friendly no sugar added cupcake from Amy Berman, Executive Pastry Chef & Co-Owner of Vanilla Bake Shop. The only sweetness in these cupcakes comes from the addition of bananas and apple juice concentrate. Perfect for the little ones who aren't used to the Sugar-Loadedness of regular cupcakes! They were nice and moist due to the bananas and sturdy because of the rolled oats. Tasted like banana bread! I also used Amy's Cream Cheese frosting recipe (not quite no-sugar-added). You can see both recipes here at Holidash or here at Celebrations.com. So, Low Sugar 1st Birthday Banana & Apple Juice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting it was!
I made the full batch of cupcakes, which made about 18-20 cupcakes, but I only used 17 in the arrangement.
After they were fully cooled, I arranged them like so. I did it like this rather than a regular rectangular cake shape so that the lines of cupcakes could kind of interlock, reducing the amount of space in between them.
After arranging them on the pan, I filled a piping bag with frosting and put an enormously generous amount on each cupcake. I repeat you NEED to use A LOT of frosting to get this to work. In order for it to not fall down in to the cracks, there needs a real thick layer of frosting (you can always scrape some off before baby gets it). So I piped a giant dollop on top of each one. Then, I went in with my offset spatula and gently coaxed the dollops to touch each other. Then we smoothed it all out and decorated.
The lady bug and letters were made with fondant, and the dot border is M&Ms. What do you think?