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The Delicious Appreciations of Pick Yin

Not exactly predictable.
Has enough brains for codes
(but can be completely clueless on other more important matters).
Likes her Joe (and her man?) black, her chocolate dark and her food spicy.
“Quam bene vivas refert, non quam diu.” — Seneca

Total Posts   191      Last Updated   23 November 2015 12:00 PM (GMT +8)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes

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 see taste for myself what the fuss about this cupcake was all about.

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 knee-weakening urge to sink my teeth into just one of those inviting bundles of still-warm vanilla joy obligation-to-provide-only-the-best-quality-to-your-customer 'situation', I contacted the buyer and got her permission to try one for the sake of all her potential consumers and she.

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.

30 Comments on Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes

Delicate cup cakes and lovely frosting!

Posted by Anonymous Sanjeeta KK, at Feb 2, 2012, 10:57:00 AM  

Ooh they look delicious. I've never tried that recipe (or eaten a Magnolia cupcake) but I think I might have to try. The icing technique looks great - I like that it means you don't have as much frosting, I don't like heaps of it.

Posted by Anonymous Emma @ Poires au Chocolat, at Feb 2, 2012, 10:58:00 AM  

Haha I just saw the mention of me -- thanks! I still insist you did a great job! I've seen that video before and tried it multiple times to no avail. Just gave up and spread it haphazardly on top. These look and SOUND AMAZING. I was pretty disappointed in their red velvet recipe after this review I guess I have to give them another chance with the vanilla cake.

Posted by Anonymous Xiaolu @ 6, at Feb 2, 2012, 10:58:00 AM  

very lovely photos- a heartfelt comment. x shayma

Posted by Anonymous Shayma, at Feb 2, 2012, 10:58:00 AM  

Sanjeeta: Thank you!

Emma: This is the first recipe I tried from the book. Another friend swears by their red velvet cake and devil's food cake. I will try those as well, despite many bad reviews online.

Xioalu: I'm going to get a fatter spatula and see if I can do it like them in that video, even the lady who's doing it laughed when someone commented she made it look so easy! On the red velvet, I have to try making it myself. Your recipe though, looks good as well, am sure your business is going great with so many to choose from.

shayma: Thanks, enjoy your holiday!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 10:59:00 AM  

I like Magnolia vanilla cupcakes. A good basic recipe. I think your cakes look lovely. :)

Posted by Anonymous, at Feb 2, 2012, 10:59:00 AM  

Lovely cupcakes! And congrats on your first cupcake sale! Very nice photos captured and I adore the cake stand lots!!! Well done!

Posted by Anonymous Mrs Ergül, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:00:00 AM  

You really nailed these, they look just like the ones at the bakery. I'm a fan of their cupcakes.

Posted by Anonymous Sylvie, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:00:00 AM  

Anh: Thanks dear, this recipe is a definite keeper. I can't wait to try your dark chocolate cookies.

Mrs Ergul: Cake stand from Shermay, a gift from a good friend. Thank you for your kind words.

Sylvie: Thank you. Now I'm tempted to make the next batch with other pastel frosting, more excuse to practice my weak swirling skills.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:01:00 AM  

Magnolia's recipe has been my go-to for cupcakes for about 3 years. I scrape a whole vanilla bean and divide it between my batter and the buttercream. Many people say they taste like a sugar cookie. I've tried without success to master the swirling technique and have never seen that video before - thanks for posting it!

Posted by Anonymous Linda, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:01:00 AM  

Your cupcakes look so soft and fluffy! They kind of look like sponge cakes. I can't wait to try this recipe out.

Posted by Anonymous kirbie, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:02:00 AM  

Linda: Good luck with trying out the swirling. Magnolia does it so well, I'll attempt it next on a whole cake and see how that goes.

Kirbie: They are very soft and fluffy. Just talking about them makes me want one now.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:03:00 AM  

I would be tempted to 'test' not one , not two ... perhaps the whole batch
Gorgeous ... *drool*

Posted by Anonymous Lisa H., at Feb 2, 2012, 11:03:00 AM  

I have been looking for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe for base recipe, you know, that would work with anything. I think I am going to make this my cupcake recipe. Thank you so much for sharing!

Posted by Anonymous Jun, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:04:00 AM  

Lisa: I really contemplated making another batch to eat. The only things that stopped me was the dishes to wash and my in laws were around.

Jun: Do try this, I think it'll make a very good yellow layered cake as well. This would definitely work with anything.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:04:00 AM  

If I made these adorable babies, I definitely would have given the client less than 58 ;p I tried Magnolia's recipe way back, and didn't really like them and wrote them off but after seeing so many raves - yours and others, I figure it's high time I tried them again. Just wondering if you thought they were overly sweet?

And I grinned when I saw your comment on the frosting bit as well - I had the same problem and spent AGES trying to get that "sloppily frosted on" look that is so signature of Magnolia. And this is even after I watched many videos of the technique! I must say yours look pretty darn good!

Posted by Anonymous Janine, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:05:00 AM  

Janine: Trust me, it was very hard looking at them with my frail self-control. I actually made the cakes a day ahead and had to deal with smelling them while they cool, while transferring them to store and while (taking forever) to ice them. I think you should give this a chance again and see if they still disappoint you like before. The cakes are not too sweet for me and I can't really stand anything that's loaded with sugar. Their frosting though, I'd skip and use another one like I did.

On the swirl, I actually cheated like I mentioned, they look better due to the initial piping I swear. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it like those girls in that video!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:05:00 AM  

wow - those are seriosly gorgeous photos!

Posted by Anonymous susan, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:09:00 AM  

Thanks Susan!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:10:00 AM  

I really love the look of this cupcake!

Posted by Anonymous Leemei, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:10:00 AM  


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Posted by Anonymous vincent, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:11:00 AM  

While looking for new (cup) cakes to bake, I remember this beautiful creation of yours! How did you get the pinkish hue in the buttercream?

Posted by Anonymous Mrs Ergül, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:11:00 AM  

Pei Lin: I used coral pink food coloring. You can easily make is natural using raspberry puree (for a stronger color) or strawberry puree (very faded pink at best).

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:11:00 AM  

Leemei: Thank you dear!

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Feb 2, 2012, 11:13:00 AM  

I tried it and they were great but the cupcake liners were so greasy :( what did you do to keep them like that!

Posted by Anonymous Mint, at Jun 1, 2012, 9:04:00 PM  

Mint: The only reason I could think of for causing your issue is butter that's a tad too soft. Try to keep it slightly colder next time you try this, especially if the surrounding weather is warm.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jun 1, 2012, 9:48:00 PM  

Thank you! The weather in sg is so warm haha :P

Posted by Anonymous Mint, at Jun 4, 2012, 6:52:00 PM  

I tried making this recipe twice. They taste great, nice smell and taste. However, my friends have commented they are kind of dry, and not moist enough. Is it due to over beating of the batter? Or is it that Ive baked them too long? Did 20 mins though. Hope toucan help cause I love these! Thanks!

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous, at Jul 21, 2012, 8:24:00 PM  

Anon: Perhaps your oven is running hot. Baking times in recipes are usually just a guideline. At the end of the day, you'll have to adjust them according to your conditions.

If you find that it's a bit dry this time, try 1-2 minutes less the next batch and see how it turns out. I also suggest using an oven thermometer if you don't already have one.

Posted by Blogger PickYin, at Jul 24, 2012, 9:23:00 AM  

This is my first time looking at your blog, but I'm DYING seeing all the gorgeous cakes and cupcakes you've created. So much talent!!!

Posted by Anonymous Alexandra @ Confessions of a Bright-Eyed Baker, at Oct 4, 2014, 8:05:00 AM  

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