Vanilla Cupcakes

I did not grow up celebrating Halloween, and it is not my favourite day of the year. But  I didn’t want to disappoint my 6 year old son who thinks of Halloween as a holiday. I don’t like skulls, skeletons, spiders or anything like that. What to do? So I opted for cupcakes with carved pumpkin themed wrappers. And I am happy to say, his holiday cravings were satisfied. The cupcakes are soft and buttery, and the buttercream wonderfully fluffy.

Over time, I have tried every possible recipe for buttercream. The American buttercream is really well suited for piping decorations like flowers or even borders but is too heavy and slightly grainy for using as topping or filling. Tastewise, my favourite buttercream is probably the German buttercream – I will share my recipe another time – and for piping, my favourite would be the Italian meringue buttercream, which is quite stable. Both also freeze really well. On the other had, the butter flavour is quite strong in both of them and I have found that children generally prefer a less buttery taste.

The buttercream I made today is the old classic recipe of whipped frosting. It is also called cooked frosting or Ermine buttercream. It doesn’t taste as buttery as a meringue-based buttercream, yet it also doesn’t have the graininess of the American buttercream because it doesn’t contain icing sugar. Because part of it is cooked, it needs to be started ahead of time.

Perfect vanilla cupcakes (makes about 16 cupcakes)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
2 eggs
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2/3 cup milk

Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. If you don’t have vanilla sugar, substitute for 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add together with the milk until just combined.
Bake for about 20 minutes, checking for with a cake tester or toothpick for doneness. Just a few extra minutes will result in a dry cake. Cool completely on a wirerack.


Whipped frosting (enough to frost more than 2 dozen cupcakes)

5 tbsp flour
1 cup light cream (or milk)
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla sugar

In a saucepan, whisk the flour and cream until well mixed. Cook over medium heat until it forms a paste. Be careful not to get any lumps. If you do, use an immersion blender to smooth out the lumps. Cover the paste with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.
In a stand mixer, beat the sugar, butter and salt until light and fluffy. Add the cold paste and beat until the sugar is dissolved and you have a nice cream resembling whipped cream.
Use right away.

Note: Butter-based cupcakes are always best eaten at room temperature because butter hardens while refrigerated. So if you keep them in the fridge, take them out about 30 minutes before eating.


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