"Frost, Swirl, Sprinkle" One Woman's Search for the perfect cupcake..Not unlike Elizabeth Gilbert's journey to self-awareness in "Eat Pray Love", I recently had a journey of self-indulgence when I committed to trying cupcakes from as many bakeries as possible during my recent holiday to Edmonton and Calgary.You see, cupcakes are the rage right now! Every bakery or cake decorator out there is creating cupcakes by the dozen. Why? What is the appeal? Is it because they are small? Is it because they are so darned cute? Is it because they can have cool names like Razzle Dazzle, Smartie Cake, Berry Lovely and Passionista (source Whimsical Cake Studio Inc. Edmonton) You bet that's why! So, I took it upon myself to travel to as many cupcake shops as possible during my vacation to learn a wee bit more about these tiny delights.The famous swirl: You have all seen them, the cupcake topped with swirls of delicious buttercream icing. This is known as the "1M Swirl" and is fairly easy to do. The secret to this technique is once you pipe the first swirl on the cupcake, you stop and yes..you pipe a SECOND smaller swirl on top of the first swirl! This creates a unbelievably sweet cake to icing ratio. The trick is to have a good buttercream recipe. The "other" one: I don't have a name for the other popular cupcake frosting piping style. All I can compare it to is the Safeway bakery cupcake. You achieve this look by using a 2A Wilton Tip, which has a large round opening. This allows you to get a large amount of icing on your cupcake. The basic technique is the same, starting on the outside, pipe in a circular motion until you reach the center. Once again, when finished, you will have a tremendous amount of icing on the cupcake.The frosting: You have quite a few choices when it comes to the frosting. You can make Buttercream, Fluffy (using egg whites), Fondant, Chocolate Ganache, Cream Cheese or Royal (used for cookies). I prefer buttercream, but be careful! I have tasted some pretty awful buttercream icing which coated my mouth with an oily, shortening like feeling. Obviously, they didn't use enough butter. Martha Stewart has a great buttercream recipe. Fondant is expensive to buy, but you can make it at home using.marshmallows and icing sugar! Tastes very good and is a much less expensive way to be able to enjoy fondant. I will post links to both recipes on my facebook page, The Green Eyed Event Planner.Colouring, tinting, etc.: There are many ways to colour your icing. You can use liquid colouring (at your local supermarket), paste colours, powdered colours and gel colours. The liquid colouring doesn't give you as vivid of a colour and it can dilute your icing slightly. I use the gel colours and believe me, a little goes a long way. For example, I recently make cupcakes and wanted a very vintage inspired yellow icing. I used yellow gel colour and they ended up like..Big Bird!Sprinkles: Michael's has pretty much everything you need in the sprinkle department, but so does your local grocery store. Be creative, I just made cupcakes and put fuzzy peaches on the top.So, did I identify a favourite cupcake? I won't name all of them because they were all pretty darn good. Whimsical Cupcake Studio in Edmonton was the most welcoming, and I loved the display case. The shop smelled heavenly! Definitely worth visiting in Edmonton (she is located very close to the High Level Diner on 109th). The other shop that stood out in my mind was Crave in Calgary. They were almost sold out when I arrived but we managed to purchase 6 cupcakes. They packaged my cupcakes up for transport and tied a beautiful chocolate brown ribbon around the box, which made me feel pretty darn special. There are a few Crave shops in Calgary, but the one we visited was in Kensington. By the way the cupcakes from either of the shops were delicious.Try your hand at creating a cupcake for your next occasion. You won't believe how much fun you will have!Judy Kucharuk is owner of Footprint Management Systems Inc. and specializes in Green Meetings and Events. For more info log onto www.managefootprint.com or check out her Facebook page, the "Green Eyed Event Planner"