Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to the Basics: A Classic Vanilla Cupcake with a Twist

Happy Monday!  This weekend was all about these cupcakes...

About a celebrating a good friends engagement with, of course, champagne...

About trips to the farmers market that still have plenty of summer veggies...

About waking up early...Good morning DC!

...for the Nations Triathlon.  I need to admit that I did not complete the whole thing, but had a great time participating with "Team Academy 2" as the runner.

Plus, it is so much fun watching all of the triathletes coming through transition.

And then the best part about living in Old Town Alexandria and pulling yourself out of bed for a morning run.  Good morning sun!

So, lets talk about these cupcakes.  The request was for them to simply be pink, and I really had the urge to keep things simple, but jam packed with flavor.  These are simply some of the best vanilla cupcakes.  Although these cupcakes take a bit more time than regular vanilla cupcakes, they are just completely worth the time and effort.  The vanilla bean and browned butter just give these cupcakes this warm intense vanilla nutty flavor, and they come out light and fluffy the way you want a vanilla cupcake to be.  Then the simple, creamy vanilla frosting just ties the cupcake together, rounding out the flavor nicely.  If you have the extra time, they are definitely worth a try!  Enjoy!

Getting it all laid out.  Is it sad that I was really excited to use these cupcake liners???

Note:  You can definitely take the time to brown the butter and let re-harden the day before.  Just let it come back to room temperature before using.

Browned butter, sugar, eggs...

Time for the dry ingredients...

Layer one of three for the frosting.  The bottom layer was white, then a darker pink, then a swirls of light pink to top it all off.

Browned Butter Cake(recipe adapted from Food & Wine)
*makes 2 dozen cupcakes
3 sticks unsalted butter (12 ounces), plus more for greasing the pans
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk, at room temperature

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting(recipe from Magnolia Bakery)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6-8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

2.  In a medium saucepan, melt the 3 sticks of butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until foamy, about 5 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the milk solids turn brown and the butter smells nutty, about 4 minutes longer. Scrape the melted butter and browned bits into a large heatproof bowl. Let cool on the counter for 20 minutes then place in the refrigerator to re-harden. (This step can be done the day before)

3.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour with the baking powder and salt.

4.  Once butter is slightly hardened remove from the refrigerator, (if the butter completely hardens, just let it come back to room temperature) scrape into a large mixing bowl, and let sit on the counter for 10 minutes to come to room temperature. 

5.  Then whisk in the sugar and vanilla seeds until well combined.  Next, beat in the egg yolks followed by the whole eggs, one at a time until completely incorporated. 

6.  Next, whisk in the dry ingredients and milk in 3 alternating additions, scraping down the side and bottom of the bowl as necessary, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

7.  Pour the cake batter into the prepared muffin pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.  Remove from oven, then remove the cupcakes from the pans.

8.  To prepare the frosting, cream the butter using a hand mixer in a large bowl.  One the butter is creamed add in 4 cups of the powdered sugar, the milk and vanilla.  Mix on medium speed for 3-5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes).  You may not need to add all of the sugar.  If desired ad a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.  Then generously frost the cupcakes.  Enjoy!

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