Monday, June 27, 2011
Two things were established when I produced my first ever batch of cupcakes for sale last week - I would eat my client's request and send them a couple of cupcakes short. Having been told this, you'd probably forget about ever commissioning any baked goods from me but I had good reasons to deliver my friend 58 cupcakes instead of the 60 I promised. Despite being thought of as the baker/cake lady/dessert girl amongst friends with much (uninformed) confidence in my many follies around flour, butter and sugar, I've really only ever made this cupcake and several other cupcake-convertible cakes. With such a limited repertoire I decided to venture a little and convinced my uninitiated customer to accept this new-to-me white cake to make up one half of her order.
Known to be the most popular cupcake at New York City's Magnolia Bakery, the recipe was already next in line on my baking schedule. A straight forward creaming-method cake with some good old vanilla is sometimes just what we need, away from hours of slaving over separating eggs, melting chocolate or whipping meringues. Not that I'd never entertain this sort of madness even when faced with the prospect of coughing up 60 cupcakes; considering that I've done all those things and more to make just one cake, but I really wanted to
Having already made 33 of another first-time cupcake attempt and eaten one for quality control, I expected to bake the rest of the 28 out of this recipe, happily ignoring the fact that the yield stated only about 24. As I counted the results of my handiwork I realized that I was not only already missing one cupcake - if I were to test one from this batch I'd no longer be the cupcake lady to my client but more of a cupcake monster. After a few minutes of agonizing over the
Only I ended up eating just a quarter. It was so good, Vijay demanded the rest of our test cupcake after taking his first bite. Fluffy, moist, buttery and filling our entire flat with the sweet scent of vanilla, I could see why this is Magnolia's best selling. As I stared at the crumbs on my cupcake liner and then proceeded to slowly lick every last bit of them off, I briefly entertained thoughts of calling the client in sadness to report some made up story of how I accidentally dropped all of the them onto my kitchen floor or how the taste test turned out really bad to avoid having to deliver any of them at all. Luckily for her though, I came to my senses and loved her enough to reluctantly resign myself to the reality that I wouldn't be able to continue my bliss unless I baked another batch.
Which I would've done on a heartbeat, if only, oh if only cupcakes can look this adorable without being dressed up with some form of frosting. At this point I'll come clean and tell you the other reason I was so excited to make this. As a sucker for all things pretty I wanted to try out this no-piping-swirl technique seen on many of Magnolia's cakes and some other places. It covers the cake with just enough frosting and provides a flat surface for my intended embellishments of crushed pistachios and dried cherries. After some maverick moves on the first cupcake though, I had to improvise with the help of a piping bag. My narrow spatula wasn't enough to produce a neat plonk of a blob of frosting on the cupcakes. Fiddling around too much just made a mess so I piped the buttercream on with a huge round tip before making the swirl with my inadequate spatula. I think a bit of practice and a light touch would get this mastered, as Xiaolu and I suspected, though for a beginner like me, it took me twice as long to ice these babies compared to the other half of the cupcakes with just the standard star tip swirl.
Speaking of which, in case you're still wondering when I'll ever get to that other half of this transaction, I think it would be best to tell you about them some other time. This is because they were made from an equally famous cake (trust me, the fan club for this non-human performer is viral), one that would threaten to steal the limelight away from this unassuming yet amazing vanilla cake.
Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted barely from Allysa Torey and Jennifer Appel's The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, Recipes from the World-Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey's Home Kitchen
Yields about 24 cupcakes
Note: I added vanilla paste for more flavor but I believe it'll be as good without. I didn't use Magnolia's classic not-really-a-buttercream frosting paired with this cupcake because it wouldn't have held up well in our weather and would really be too sweet for most people - just the thought of using 6-8 cups of sugar for one frosting recipe made my head hurt. Also, I didn't want to chill the cupcakes unnecessarily to keep them from drying out - as Magnolia recommended themselves. I went with this Swiss meringue buttercream from my birthday cake last year - one portion should ice about 20 cupcakes. Feel free to try this as well (Deb's recipe has a higher butter ratio) or go with your own favorite buttercream recipe. If you would like to make a layer cake instead of cupcakes, divide the batter between two 9-inch round cake pans and bake the layers for 30 to 40 minutes.
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (1+ cup self-rising flour = 1 cup sifted all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt)
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated/castor sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two standard 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk, vanilla extract and vanilla paste. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, taking care not to overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the mixing bowl to make sure all the ingredients are well blended.
Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full (I filled mine slightly more to get higher cupcakes but still got 27 cupcakes!). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
Do ahead: Cupcakes can be made up to 2 days before, store covered between layers of parchment at room temperature. Swiss meringue buttercream can be made ahead and refrigerated till needed. Bring to room temperature and whip to a smooth consistency before frosting.
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