Friday, February 13, 2009

Cupcake of the Month: Vanilla Cupcakes


Aaaah... the kitchen is finally clean and now I can get on to blogging. My daughter chose this month's cupcake flavor because I was making these sweets for her first grade Valentine Party at school. I started making the cupcakes and used Amy Sedaris's Vanilla Cupcake recipe from epicurious.com. They were baked at 375 degrees and I think next time I would bake them at 350. The flavor was delicious and moist, but they were a little brown and ugly on top. Maybe that's how cupcakes got into the habit of being iced? Anyway, I then baked another vanilla cupcake recipe from the Hello, Cupcake cookbook. Their recipe was ok, but I decided there was not enough vanilla flavor (it only called for half the vanilla extract that the other recipes called for). For the sake of research, I then decided to try another recipe from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle. This recipe called for cake flour and only egg whites and also a little lemon zest, so they were very white with a very subtle lemon flavor. I might have been tempted to try a fourth recipe (which I found on the King Arthur bag of cake flour), but I was then out of cake flour - and this was getting a little ridiculous anyway! I couldn't decide on a clear winner, but felt the Hello,Cupcakes recipe was not nearly vanilla enough. Maybe vanilla is just a little too plain for me, but the treat girl claimed they were the best she's ever had - and she's a cupcake aficionado so I'll take that as the highest compliment! - although I can't be sure which cupcakes of the three she got. The buttercream recipe came from Fine Cooking. I'm my biggest critic and still think there must be a better buttercream out there and I will find it yet! Anyone out there know of the perfect recipe for a meringue buttercream (NOT "American" Buttercream)? If you have a great recipe please let me know!

Basic White Cupcakes
Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle
Makes 2 9-inch cake layers or about 24 cupcakes

3 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large egg whites
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups whole milk

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cupcake pan with cupcake liners, or grease and flour the cake pans.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl with a whisk and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at med-high speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed until light, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the flour mixture at low speed in three additions, alternating with milk in two additions and mixing just until the flour is incorporated. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cupcake liner 2/3 full.
Bake for about 20 minutes (25-30 minutes for cake pans), until lightly browned around the edges. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. If making cake layers, invert the cakes onto cooling racks and cool upside down completely.

Buttercream Frosting
by Katherine Seeley/Fine Cooking

This basic vanilla buttercream can be flavored in an almost endless variety of ways; see Variations below.
Yields 7-1/2 to 8 cups enough to fill and frost a 9-inch four-layer cake or about 5 dozen cupcakes

5 large egg whites
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 lb., 4 oz. (2-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whisk on medium-high speed until foamy. Sprinkle in 6 Tbs. of the sugar and beat on high speed to medium peaks (the whites should be smooth, full, and shiny, and the peaks should curl a little). Turn off the mixer.

Combine the remaining 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar and the corn syrup in a medium (3-quart) saucepan over medium high heat, stirring briefly to dissolve the sugar. Continue to cook just until the mixture comes to a rolling boil.

Immediately remove the syrup from the heat, turn the mixer onto medium-high speed, and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a steady stream, being very careful not to let the syrup hit the whisk.

Reduce the speed to medium and continue whisking until the whites are barely warm, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the butter 1 Tbs. at a time. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

Variations
In place of vanilla, add one of the following flavorings at low speed to prevent splattering, then increase speed to medium to blend.

Lemon: 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest.
Orange:1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. freshly squeezed orange juice, 1/4 cup finely grated orange zest (from about 3 large oranges).
Strawberry or Raspberry: 3/4 cup berry purée (purée the fruit in a blender and strain).
Liqueur: 2 Tbs. liqueur (such as Frangelico, Grand Marnier, Baileys, Kahlua, Chambord), more to taste.
Chocolate: 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted.
Coffee: 1-1/2 Tbs. instant espresso dissolved in 1 Tbs. boiling water.

From Fine Cooking 78, pp. 68
April 1, 2006

3 comments:

  1. Oh!! what a pretty, pretty post!! Thank you so much for the recipes!!! I've read them twice...but I'm feeling a smidge overwhelmed...I've never bought cake flour...I don't have a sifter either...If I make a cake how do I prepare the pan??.....oh..and I don't have a pastry bag.where would I get one of those???...but I have to say I LOVED the frosting ...much better than at Dozen cupcake shop.. Can I trade you something for a private lesson?? :) Thanks again Miss!!!

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  2. oh.......and did you notice my new little picture??? :)

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  3. I wish I could have had a side-by-side tasting...oh, just because I'm a pig. Loved the one I got though I don't know which one it was!

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