Though the name snickerdoodle is most often applied to a straightforward-but-scrumptious cinnamon and sugar cookie, the recipe can be tweaked to create snickerdoodle cupcakes with much the same flavor profile. The cookie is made of just all-purpose flour, eggs, sugar, butter, cinnamon and perhaps some nutmeg, nuts or dried fruit. A cupcake version is just a few steps beyond — a blend of cake and all-purpose flour instead as well as some baking powder and a dash of salt. In place of the cookie's simple sugar and cinnamon coating, the cupcakes get a hypersweet frosting composed of ingredients like egg whites, water, corn syrup, sugar and perhaps cream cheese.
Some credit the naming of snickerdoodle to German and English colonial Americans, shortly after the Revolutionary War. That is not to say that this basic recipe has not been used for several millennia though, dating back to Roman times. With other ingredients like raisins, currants or nuts, these cookies were more widely known as "jumbles" until the name snickerdoodle started appearing in cookbooks around the turn of the 20th century. Its basic ingredients were flour, sugar, butter, eggs and cinnamon — often with baking powder or soda as well as complementary ingredients like currants, vanilla extract or even cream of tartar.
Somewhere along the line, enterprising bakers started turning these cookies into snickerdoodle cupcakes. As with most desserts, measurements are important. Though recipes vary widely, a fairly basic example is provided by chef Martha Stewart's Web site, sifting together 1.5 cup each (about 200 g) of all-purpose and cake flour, 1 tbsp. each (about 12 g) of cinnamon and baking powder, and 0.5 tsp. (about 2.5 g) of salt. Then, a mixer is used to blend 1 cup (about 30 g) of soft, unsalted butter, 1.75 cup (about 350 g) of sugar, 2 tsp. (about 10 ml) of vanilla extract and four eggs. After the mixture is airy, the flour is added slowly to the mixer, along with 1.25 cup (about 300 ml) of milk. Each ingredient is slowly incorporated in the batter, which is poured into greased muffin tins when fully blended.
Snickerdoodle cupcakes take about 20 minutes to rise and brown at 350°F (about 177°C). Just before baking, some will add cinnamon sugar to the top of the snickerdoodle cupcakes, as with their cookie cousins. Others will whip up a frosting to apply once the cupcakes have cooled.
The frosting used to coat snickerdoodle cupcakes is up to the cook and his or her expertise. A basic cupcake frosting involves dissolving sugar and some corn syrup in water over medium heat, then whisking in several egg whites until they stick firmly to the bowl. The syrup and whites are then blended vigorously and layered onto the cooled cupcakes.