Cake. A lot of people say that it’s a vehicle for icing. Sometimes that’s true, I think. However, if you’re going to take the time to bake a cake yourself, the result should be able to stand on it’s own.
My mission was simple: make a really good cake. I decided to start out with a basic vanilla cake. Well, a small batch of vanilla cupcakes. An entire cake is too much for my family.
I started with the often praised recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes in The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I scaled it back to make just six cupcakes, and tinkered with the ingredients quite a bit. My final recipe doesn’t look much like Magnolia’s, but I did glean an excellent piece of information from the book: cream your butter and sugar A LOT. I know it’s obvious, but it’s something that I’ve skimped on before.
The cupcakes are very moist. They aren’t too sweet, but they are surprisingly rich. I compare the richness to that of a yellow cake, just without all the egg yolks. They’re the perfect canvas for any icing, so use your favorite.
Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 15-20 minutes
Yields: 6 cupcakes
2/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cream
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar
– Prepare your ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the cream, milk, and vanilla.
– Make the batter: Using a hand-mixer, whip the butter for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, and cream until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, just until incorporated. Now, switch to a whisk to add the dry ingredients in three installments, alternating with the wet ingredients. (Add in this order: dry-wet-dry-wet-dry.) After each installment, stir just until combined. Batter will be thick.
– Bake: Line a muffin tin with six liners. Distribute batter evenly between the liners; it should fill them about 3/4 of the way. Bake in a preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire rack before frosting.
– When creaming the butter and sugar, you do not need to worry about over-mixing. In fact, you should probably mix more than you think you need to! The creamed butter and sugar should be almost white in color.
– Now, when adding the wet and dry ingredients, you DO need to worry about over-mixing. That’s why you switch from an electrical mixer to hand-power.
– These puff up in the oven, but the tops flatten after a couple minutes. So if you get flat tops, you didn’t do anything wrong.