Thursday, 12 April 2012

Perfectly Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

A good vanilla cupcake is the pastry equivalent of a little black dress: it's perfect for every occasion. Birthday party? Vanilla cupcakes! Baby-shower? Vanilla cupcakes! Easter lunch? Vanilla cupcakes! Girls night in? Vanilla cupcakes!

O.K., I'll admit that when PMS-ing, chocolate cupcake is more de rigueur, but for pretty much everything else, vanilla cupcakes work.

I strongly object to anyone calling vanilla cupcakes (or little black dresses) boring! When did vanilla get such a bad rep as dull and conventional? I'll take classic, creamy vanilla ice cream drizzled with a shot of limoncello or maple syrup any day over ridiculous and overly sweet flavors. Same with cupcakes: I prefer Audrey Hepburn to Lady Gaga, even in pastry-metaphors.

Classics never get old, and as Leonardo Da Vinci himself said: "Simplicity is the greatest elegance". Anyone who enjoys baking needs a basic vanilla cupcake recipe they can play with, use to test out various icing experiments, or get ready in a jiffy when unexpected reasons to pig out suddenly arise.

I sneaked this recipe off, since I had such a success in February with the red velvet recipe I found on that site. I wanted a no-muss no-fuss vanilla cupcakes recipe, that I could make with stuff I already had at home (not in the mood to hunt down non-self-rising-cake flour, thank you very much, Ms. Stewart)... and I really wanted to use my new stand mixer again!!

Yes, I recently gave myself a big and shiny present, in the shape of a giant KitchenAid stand mixer. It's beautiful and so efficient that I feel completely lazy using it to bake, because I have nothing left to do besides measuring ingredients. I love it to bits and I intend to use my Easter break to try my hand at making some home-made bread!

But enough about my toy, let's get back to the cupcakes:

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick), room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg , room temperature
2 large egg yolks , room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tin with paper liners. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I can't get enough of cream cheese frosting, so I whipped up a batch to crown my lovely classic vanilla cakes with!

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.

A lot of my coworkers have their birthday in early April, so I baked a double batch and got 24 innocent-looking, but devilishly delicious little white cakes! The flourishes of the icing seemed decoration enough for my little creations, so I left them plain; their moist, sweet crumb was all the ornament they needed!


  1. Just what I was looking and hoping for! Thanks for the awesome recipe. :)

  2. You're welcome! I hope you enjoy them! Stay tuned; I've gt another cupcake recipe due this week... :)