Big Top Cupcake review: This gimmick takes the cake

The Product: Big Top Cupcake bakeware
The Price: Online $19.95, plus $6.95 shipping and handling
The Claims: Bakes giant cupcake 25 times bigger than a normal cupcake
Buy-O-Meter Rating: 4 out of 5


Ladies and gentleman and children of all ages, meet Big Top Cupcake bakeware.

The Big Top Cupcake is either a gigantic cupcake or smallish cake, depending on how you look at it.

But whatever your perspective, the Big Top Cupcake bakeware cooks up a fast and easy showstopper perfect for kids' birthday parties or school bake sales.

I'm a silicone bakeware virgin: My cupboard is filled with aluminum and glass bakeware, and I never saw the need to add to the clutter. I'm also nervous about the health risks -- real or imagined -- tied to cooking in plastic.

Silicone, in fact, is rubber made from silicon (main component of sand) and oxygen, a main component of air. We can argue forever about the possible heath risks of silicone bakeware, but Health Canada (the federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health) says, "Silicone rubber does not react with food or beverages, or produce any hazardous fumes" -- so I'm good to go.

It's hard to imagine baking in anything easier than the Big Top Cupcake set, which consists of bottom and top molds and an insert that produces a small well: fill with pudding or whipped cream, and you've got a stuffed cake.

Obviously, Big Top Cupcake is not being marketed to the Bon Appetit, bake-from-scratch crowd. Directions tell you to use one box of cake mix for a smallish cake and two boxes for a bigger Big Top.

Spray the bakeware with cooking spray, pour in the mix, place on cookie sheet and bake.

The cooling cake slips from the molds effortlessly. To assemble, even out the layers, and plop the top on the bottom. Big Top's infomercials claim the cake is 25 times bigger than a normal cupcake, but it looks more like 17.5 times to me.

Decorating a Big Top Cupcake is fun for all ages. Because it's a cupcake on steroids, you can merely swirl some icing into a peak and you're done. Want to fuss a little more, shake on some sprinkles or M&Ms. And if you really want to show off, roll and cut some pastel-colored fondant and make the Big Top look like a real big top. (In my case, the leaning Tower of Lisa.)

The only tricky part to making a Big Top Cupcake is figuring out the baking time. Sometimes the tops bake faster than the bottoms; sometimes not. So you'll have to experiment.

Party warning: The one-box Big Top is shrimpy, so plan on baking a few for a 6-year-old's birthday. And don't risk a "decorate the Big Top" party activity. You'll have to bake a zillion of these to keep the kids busy.

If you want to play that party game, bake real cupcakes.


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