2. Follow the cake mix instructions, substituting 1 cup buttermilk for whatever amount of water is called for and using 4 eggs regardless of instructions. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes more.
3. Spoon half of the batter into a large zipper-closed plastic bag, press out the air, and seal. Snip a 1/4-inch corner from the bag. Fill the paper liners two-thirds full of batter. Repeat with the rest of the batter and another bag.
4. Bake until golden (if using a light-colored mix) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 15 to 25 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pans, place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely before icing with your favorite frosting.
Per cupcake (yellow cake, made with 1/3 cup vegetable oil): 135 calories; 6g fat; 1g saturated fat; 35mg cholesterol; 2g protein; 18g carbohydrate; 10g sugar; no fiber; 165mg sodium; 40mg calcium.
Adapted from "What's New, Cupcake?" by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson (Houghton Mifflin, 2010)
Vanilla buttercream frosting
Yield: Enough for 15 to 20 standard cupcakes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup 2 percent milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Food coloring, optional
1. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, milk, vanilla and half of the sugar until smooth. Gradually add the remainder of the sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
2. For colored frosting, start with one drop of food coloring and beat thoroughly, which will result in a pale pastel color. Add one drop at a time, beating after each addition, to reach the desired shade.
Per serving (based on 20): 120 calories; 1.5g fat; 1g saturated fat; 5mg cholesterol; no protein; 26g carbohydrate; 25g sugar; no fiber; no sodium; no calcium.
Adapted from "Cupcakes From the Primrose Bakery" by Martha Swift and Lisa Thomas (Kyle Books, 2009)
Cream cheese frosting
Yield: Enough for 24 standard cupcakes