The humble little blueberry is a welcome ingredient in most desserts. They’re delicious in anything from pancakes, tarts, and ice creams, to clafoutis, cakes, and muffins. Let’s face it, though, they’re probably most popular in muffin form! But what about blueberry cupcakes? Is there a difference between a blueberry muffin and a blueberry cupcake? First, let’s stop and consider the origins of the blueberry. Then we’ll see whether there really is a difference between a muffin and a cupcake.
Blueberries are native to North America, growing particularly well in the USA’s Pacific North-West region, and Canada’s Atlantic region. We refer to cultivated varieties as highbush blueberries while we call wild berries lowbush blueberries. It’s actually a distinguishing feature of the fruit to grow in both forms. Interestingly, Canada is home to five of the lowbush berries, which like to grow on forest floors and close to swamps. These have been a favourite of First Nations peoples well before colonisation. They’d smoke the blueberries for winter use, and make their own blueberry puddings, and cough syrups.
According to 2015 numbers, Canada’s blueberry market was worth more than $200 million. It also accounted for 29% of all the fruit produced that year. This made it the largest fruit crop for the nation, something Nova Scotians could really get behind; especially when you consider the wild blueberry is the official berry of their province. What’s more, the town of Oxford is known as the wild blueberry capital of Canada!
They’re close relatives to the European bilberry, which grow either singularly or paired, instead of in clusters like their North American counterparts. Bilberries have more evergreen leaves and being darker, they’re almost black when ripe. Higher in anthocyanin, the inside of the bilberries can be red or purple too. So they’re really great at staining hands, mouths, and clothes. Like blueberries, they work well in jams, fools, and pies. Apparently, during WWII the RAF pilots would eat bilberry jam to improve their night vision! Sadly, there’s no clinical evidence to back the claim the berries can improve eyesight, though.
Late summer and early autumn are the best times to harvest blueberries in Canada before adding them to your various blueberry desserts. This is where we consider the various differences between a muffin and a cupcake. A distinguishing factor is the icing; muffins never have this while cupcakes always do. What’s more, cupcakes are often sweeter and never crunchy on the top, but muffins can sometimes be savoury and are almost always brown on top.
User SAJ14SAJ in the cooking section of StackExchange makes a great point:
“From a technical point of view, muffins are made by the muffin method, making them small quickbreads. In the muffin method, the wet ingredients are combined in one bowl; and the dry ingredients are combined in another bowl. Then the two are quickly incorporated together with minimal mixing to avoid gluten development. This gives muffins a somewhat coarse crumb.
Cupcakes are small cakes, and are made by one of the traditional cake methods such as the creaming method, the reverse creaming method, the genoise method, the chiffon method, and so on. They tend to have a finer crumb than muffins.”
Whatever your preferences and the difference between a muffin and a cupcake, I’m sure you can agree they are better with the addition of blueberries!