I am more of a vanilla person than a chocolate person. It seems the girls I work with all tend to love chocolate more so to be able to have the excuse to make vanilla cupcakes, I thank you Christy. Christy is the other receptionist at the salon I work at, and I was so happy to get her birthday request for her dessert flavor.
Ever since I was a little girl I've liked chocolate, not for everything or in everything and I can go months without the slightest craving, but I love vanilla. I'd have to say the quintessential vanilla for me is Haagen-Dazs Vanilla. Have I told you about my 4-year old self conversation with my grandma? She asked if I wanted ice cream and when she pulled out the Blue Bunny, I responded, "That's not ice cream." She said, "Yes it is, honey." And I wrapped up that conversation quick by saying, "Well Grandma, it's not Haagen-Dazs." I know this reveals some snobby qualities about me, or maybe it was really that I wanted to only like what my parents liked (mainly dad on this one). But I know that it definitely says that I've had some pretty peculiar taste buds since my youth. Especially when it comes to vanilla. Back to topic...
Last year I purchased Betty Crocker's The Big Book of Cupcakes recipe book, and everything I've made out of it so far has been fantastic (so I recommend it if you happen to be looking). I mixed and matched their white cupcake recipe with a delicious looking frosting from an amaretto cupcake recipe, and voila! these turned out to be the best vanilla cupcakes I've ever eaten. Yes, I said eaten, not just made. It is most definitely the pairing of the cake and frosting. I do recognize that although they were the best to eat, I need to work on my piping skills as I usually complain about, but this is practice too right?
I know my assertions sound crazy but let me explain with a little more detail. The cake is the white cupcake recipe which is actually just "white" because the yolk is not included, and it also includes a double portion of vanilla. When the cupcakes come out of the oven the tops slightly crack with cooling making them look like sugar cookies. When you bite into it that "sugar cookie" top is slightly crunchy from the sugar rising with the fluff of the egg whites, reminiscent of fresh meringue.
The interior crumb is moist and has a big vanilla punch. The frosting is buttercream but a wee more special. The big secret is whipping cream! You mix the frosting as usual to attain a nice buttercream, but you take it one step further and add whipping cream. Beat it for another five minutes so you activate the cream to stiffness, and once it is all whipped up you'll be tempted not to eat the frosting straight from the bowl. It is very light and airy, yet holds its shape very well for piping. The texture is smooth and creamy, and balances well with the cake.
I hope the description isn't over the top, I just really want to convey that if you have any love for vanilla, you should give these a try.
Double Vanilla CupcakesAdapted from Betty Crocker's The Big Book of Cupcakes
Time: 1 hr 15 min Yield: 24 cupcakes
2 3/4 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
5 egg whites
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
1) Heat oven to 350ºF. Prepare two cupcake pans with liners.
2) In a medium bowl, add flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
3) In a large bowl, beat butter until very smooth. Add in sugar gradually, and mix until very smooth. If in doubt, mix another 2 minutes. Add in egg whites, one at a time. Mix well after each egg is added. Add in vanilla, and mix well.
4) Alternatively add in flour mixture and a little milk at a time. Beat until just mixed in and no lumps of flour remain. To make sure you don't over mix, you can mix it by hand using a spoon.
5) Using a small icecream/dough scooper, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners. Fill about 2/3 full.
6) Bake for 18 - 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Once you remove the cupcakes from the oven, let them rest in the pan for about five minutes, and then remove and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting. I like to wait about 2 hours, or overnight if it's easier.
A note on storing cupcakes: If you need to wait until overnight, place cupcakes in tupperware (at room temperature) with one corner slightly open so that excess moisture can escape. Don't refrigerate. The fridge is the perfect environment for making baked items stale. If you need to preserve them until a future use, the freezer is your best option in a triple sealed container.
Whipped Vanilla Buttercream
Adapted from Betty Crocker's The Big Book of Cupcakes
Time: 20 min Yield: Generously Frosts 24 Cupcakes
2 cups butter, softened (not melted)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup whipping cream
1) In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add in powdered sugar gradually. Mix until no lumps.
2) Add in vanilla and the whipping cream. Beat for five minutes until the frosting is very fluffy and light.
3) Spoon frosting into a piping bag fitted with star tip #1. Swirl the frosting starting from the outside, swirl around the cupcake to the middle and back out again, but not quite to the edge for the second time around. Swirl back into the middle, pressing in and release pressure as you pull out to create the tiny peak.