Photo: Magnolia Bakery

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Cupcakes with Mile-High Frosting

At New York's Magnolia Bakery, which has six shops and just opened in Chicago, icers spend anywhere from eight to 40 hours learning the perfect way to slather and swipe buttercream into submission, says chief baking officer Bobbie Lloyd. Here are the basics: Start with a flat-topped cupcake; they're easier to frost. (If you are using a boxed mix, which almost always mounds while baking, you'll want to slice off the top.) Using an icing wand (like this Duff spatula), stir the buttercream vigorously in a plastic bowl to remove air bubbles. Scoop up a teardrop-shaped 1/4 cup (which is a lot, but Lloyd says it's necessary for a deep swirl). Pat it onto the cupcake and then swipe down the edges on all sides so the frosting is shaped almost like a pyramid. Pat down the top with your wand and then spin the cupcake itself so the tip of the wand flattens the icing a bit while giving it a swirl. Finally, pull up, imparting a tiny curled edge.