iPad App Review: Dueling Cupcakes - Two essential apps for the cupcake enthusiast
Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, published by Culinate, Inc
Food Network Cupcakes! by Food Network
Reviewed by Guy Dayen
The most unexpected surprise in baking the last few years has got to be the amazing rise in popularity of the humble cupcake. Cupcakes broke out of grandma's kitchen, and appeared in specialty bakeries all over America. What used to be a run-of-the-mill bakery treat sold by the dozen in plain white cartons is now an upscale one-of-a-kind creation, rife with exotic flavors and decorated in a myriad of creative ways.
Two recent apps strive to bring the cupcake back to the kitchen, teaching the home cook to produce cupcake masterpieces to rival those put out by professional bakers in stores or on TV. Each app has its strong points, and there is a place for both on every home baker's iPad.
Hello, Cupcake!, by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, combines projects from two of their cookbooks: Hello, Cupcake! and What's New, Cupcake? Those books were among the first to guide the home cupcake decorator through a variety of creative projects for an assortment of special occasions.
So, if one has those two books books, is it worth shelling out more money for the app? In a word, yes, especially for the less experienced decorator. The Hello, Cupcake! iPad app features complete cupcake-making instructions and there is stop-motion animation of each step to guide you. Being able to see the decorations done step-by-step is incredibly helpful. It's very easy to replay each step, so reviewing the demonstration a few times before attempting the project is, pardon the expression, a piece of cake. It should be noted that the app comes with less than ten projects; more can be bought as in-app purchases. Each new purchase gets stored in a cupcake pan; it's a neat way to present the project collection. When it comes to the number of projects available, there is certainly less content than is to be found in the two paper books, but it is in the multimedia content that the app shines.
There are photos of the ingredients in each recipe, so you can quickly see what you need to have in order to get each recipe done. The stop-motion animations are well-done, and really show exactly what needs to be done; the breakdown of each step makes it a breeze to follow along, and really gives a huge confidence boost to budding decorators. It's perfect for all ages, too, so it's a great activity to do with kids. There are also videos that teach the very basic decorating and frosting techniques that every decorator should know. Every video is included in the app, so there is no wait for loading time. The videos play very well, with no stutters. Hello, Cupcake is a pleasure to watch, because the videos are creative and entertaining, and the two hosts, Tack and Richardson are very personable. Advanced decorators won't find anything new here, and might do well to skip this app, but for the beginner or intermediate decorator, there is a lot of inspiration to be found.
The focus of Food Network Cupcakes! is more on recipes for cupcakes than on decoration. The app does include a frosting guide and a decorating guide, and there are certainly many examples of cupcake decorating presented for inspiration. However, the meat of this app is certainly in the varied collection of recipes: Vanilla Cupcakes, Chocolate Cupcakes, Fruit-filled Cupcakes, Cupcake Centerpieces and Hall-of-Fame Cupcakes. There is even a section entitled Cupcakes for Dinner ! I found that one particularly interesting because it is so different from the typical cupcake recipe collection. In all, there are over a hundred recipes included in the app; more than enough to keep the home baker happily busy for quite a while. In addition, each cupcake page has a featured tip about baking or decorating; another welcome bonus for less-experienced bakers.
I should note that the section entitled Cupcake Wars only contains six recipes. My wife found this very disappointing, since this app is advertised on the show. She was hoping for many more recipes from the Food Network hit show; perhaps this will be increased in a future update. Fans of the show should be aware that most of the recipes come from other sources, including popular Food Network personalities like Sandra Lee, Alton Brown and Paula Deen.
One issue my wife and I had with this app were the repeated ads for Pillsbury products. These show up in almost every section. Since this is a paid app, we both found it unpleasant. One ad, maybe, would have been OK, but the fact that it comes back over and over is just too much. While this app does resemble an electronic magazine more than anything else, it still seems overkill to have these ads be so prevalent. They are much more intrusive than they need to be.
The content in Food Network Cupcakes is accessed through the Get Baking page. That's where the home baker can get to the different recipe categories, as well as access a section on tools & resources, a page of video links to the basics of piping and frosting, and also a recipe index sorted by recipe or by chef. I should say that the videos do not reside in-app and need to be loaded each time, so there is a wait time each time you look at one. It's not a major quibble, but it can be a hold-up in slow-connection situations. There is a Welcome Cupcakes! intro page that provides a very good overview of app navigation and contents. I recommend that bakers using the Food Network Cupcake app for the first time spend a few minutes reading the page; it presents the framework and interface for the app very clearly. It will make new users very comfortable in navigating the app and getting to the desired content quickly.
All in all, my wife and I were very impressed with both apps. The photography is beautiful; the recipes and projects are varied; and both apps offer loads of inspiration for the home baker and decorator. These two offerings complement each other very well, and each deserves a place on your iPad if you are at all interested in cupcake baking and decorating.
However, if you have to choose just one, then the individual focus of each app should be the deciding factor: Hello Cupcake! will be the darling of people interested in fun and creative decorating, while Food Network Cupcakes! will be more suitable for people who want the cake itself to be the star and are interested in experimenting with a mix of classic and innovative recipes.
For less than the price of a traditional paper cookbook, home bakers and decorators can get two wonderful and inspirational apps. Get them both, and get baking! You will not be disappointed.
Release Date: Apr 25, 2012
Buy App: Hello Cupcake!
Food Network Cupcakes!:
Seller: Television Food Network
Release Date: Apr 19, 2012
Buy App: Food Network Cupcakes!
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