vanilla-vanilla cupcakes

I’m sneaking in one last goodie since it’s still birthday month. And because I get the feeling that you really need a cupcake right now. Everyone needs a vanilla cupcake in their repertoire. This is mine.

I’ve actually made these cupcakes twice this month. I made them a few weeks ago for my littlest homegirl’s big first birthday bash. And because I had so much fun with all of the colors and hand-tinted sprinkles, I had to make them again for myself.

I’ve made a whole lot of traditional buttercream in my time, but this is my new favorite. It’s light and creamy and sweet without being too sugary. It’s the closest thing to a European buttercream without including eggs. Nowadays, I almost exclusively use a pastry bag to pipe my buttercreams. But there’s something very fun and nostalgic about hand frosting cupcakes. I’m digging it.

The same goes for the cupcake. There are an endless number of vanilla cupcake recipes out there, but this is the one that has yet to fail me. It’s a white cake, meaning that there are no yolks in the batter. This can sometimes lead to a dry cake, but this cake manages to be moist and has a lovely crumb. It’s the kind of thing you crave when you just want a good ol’ cupcake. Plain and simple.

vanilla-vanilla cupcakes

makes 12 standard cupcakes

for the cupcakes:

adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful by Barbara Fairchild

1-1/3 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup whole milk

3 large eggs whites, room temperature

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. Set aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk milk, egg whites, sour cream, and vanilla in another medium bowl until sour cream is completely incorporated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 additions, beating on low speed. Beat until combined, being careful not to overmix.

Divide the batter equally among paper liners (about 1/3 cup each). Bake cupcakes until  a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Cool in pans on rack for 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.

for the vanilla buttercream:

from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde and Anne Walker

makes 4 cups (enough for 24 cupcakes)

1/2 vanilla bean

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4-1/2 cups powdered sugar, measured then sifted

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

gel food coloring (optional)

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the knife to carefully scrape the seeds from the pod. Add the vanilla seeds and pod to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.

Beat first on low speed, and then increase to medium-high speed and continue to beat until the frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix briefly again.

Remove the vanilla bean. If you’d like to tint the buttercream, add a drop or two of food coloring and mix well. Add more to reach the desired color. Use the frosting immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to two weeks. If made ahead, let the frosting come to room temperature before using and remix briefly using the stand mixer until it regains its light and fluffy consistency.

for the hand-tinted sprinkles:

white sprinkles

petal dust, luster dust, or powdered food coloring

Pour sprinkles into a clean, dry jar with a lid. Add a pinch of food coloring to the sprinkles. Screw on the lid and shake until the sprinkles are tinted. Add more powder to reach the desired shade.

to frost the cupcakes:

Using a spatula, spread the tops of the cupcakes with a generous dollop of buttercream, creating a swirl. Top with sprinkles if desired.