August 25, 2013

Birthday Vanilla Cupcakes

So I've been neglecting this blog for months. No, I’m not sick nor even giving birth. It occurred to me that I love to write down recipes on the kitchen paper towel, bake and frost, eat, share and make a couple jump of joy. And then I started to go for a hunt where the heck the paper towel is? Let‘s just suspect that I've simply threw them away together with those old newspapers I used for easy clean-up. Yep, it happened all the time.

This past week I decided to throw a small birthday party for a good friend of mine. As much as I wanted to celebrate her birthday, I selfishly also wanted to throw the party so I could make a cake or dozen of cupcakes. And eat! Isn't it fun sharing sweet treats with others?
The thing is, I had a quite hard time to decide what cake/cupcakes to make for her. She is one of those girls who find anything sweet is almost impossible to eat. I asked her (without letting her know about my plan) a couple weeks before, what type of cake she like the mostA simple moist chocolate cake with chocolate ganache. I went down to town a couple of times to get my favorite brand cocoa powder for my kitchen stock (I baked a lot you know) but oh how possibly can you get baking supplies in this festive month? Empty shelves! Sigh.

Nothing could stop me, though. I decided to go simple vanilla cupcakes topped with my favorite fluffy cooked frosting. Since I knew that I would want to include something less sweet for her, I chose for the frosting which is so smooth, fluffy, less sweet but incredibly delicious. Turned out, she did eat the whole cupcake (she rarely did this) and my other friends exclaimed that the frosting is delicious and less sweet (where can you get this in the bakery?). I always opt this incredible frosting to frost my cakes and cupcakes and I think I've made this frosting really often since my first try. Perhaps, I will never look back!
Though the cake itself is not my go-to recipe so far, I baked these Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes for countless times before because I just love the texture and the simplicity of them. I hate to wait for my butter to soften, so why don't you just use oil instead? It does, of course lends a moist, fluffy texture to the cake with nice crumbs. Enjoy!

Birthday Vanilla Cupcakes
Yield: 14-15 standard cupcakes, or two 6-inch round cakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)
For the frosting:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup unsalted or regular butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons strawberry extract, optional
Food coloring of choice, optional
Sanding sugar to decorate
For the cupcakes:
1.       Preheat oven to 350F (180C).
2.      In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
3.      In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.  Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds.  Add vanilla and oil, beat.
4.      Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture.  Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk.  Beat until just combined.  Scrap down the side of the bowl.
5.      The batter will be thin.   Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners.  Fill liners about 2/3 full.
6.      Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes.
7.      Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.
For the frosting:
1.       Place milk into a medium saucepan. Add flour to the milk and whisk together.
2.      Cook over medium high heat, stirring continuously, until it becomes a very thick smooth paste. This can take 3-4 minutes.
3.      Remove from heat and let cool completely in the fridge.
4.      Beat the cooled flour/milk mixture with vanilla on high speed for 4 minutes. It will become a smooth paste again.
5.      In a separate bowl or mixing bowl combine the sugar and softened butter together with an electric mixer. Blend on high for 4 minutes.
6.      Strain the flour/milk mixture into the butter/sugar mixture and beat on high speed with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until super fluffy.

Assembly of the Birthday Vanilla Cupcakes:
1.       Take aside a small portion of the frosting and add coloring. Put into a small piping bag, set aside. Add strawberry extract to another and mix until fully combined.
2.      Using a small icing spatula, gently spread and swirl the strawberry frosting on top of each cupcake, smoothing out the tops.
3.      Put a generous amount of sanding sugar in a small bowl. Take a cupcake and carefully sprinkle the sides with sanding sugar, making sure to let the excess to fall back into the bowl.
4.      Cut off the tip of the filled piping bag and dot each cupcake with desired alphabets or shapes.

[Cupcake recipe adapted from Glorious Treats, Frosting recipe loosely adapted from Our Best Bites]

SweetyToothy Notes:
  •  If you don’t have an access to cake flour, you can simply make your own by replacing 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour from 1 cup all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch/corn flour. Sift 2-3 times and use.
  • The frosting is enough to frost 12 cupcakes with high swirls, but you would want to half the recipe if you wish to just spread them on like I did.
  •  Keep frosted cupcakes at room temperature, covered (but not in an airtight container) up to 2 days. The frosting will not get crusted like some other buttercreams.

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