Cupcakes may not be at the height of dessert trendiness anymore (read: now you have to wait in long lines for other treats), but they will always be beloved. They’re nostalgic, miniature, and can be made to suit any tastes and styles. It’s best to just accept it: They’re adorable, and that makes them nearly irresistible. But unlike puff pastry, pâte à choux, or pie dough, I rarely get questions about how to nail a perfect cupcake recipe, step by step. Instead, I get flooded with questions about how to make cupcakes look a certain way.

Here’s what you need to know (or skip straight to the recipe!):

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