Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Classic yellow cupcakes

One promise that I've made to myself is that my family and friends will never eat a birthday cake or cupcake made from a boxed mix.

It may sound snooty, but homemade cakes just taste better.  Plus, I'll be desperately trying to win back the favor of my loved ones after nights like these.

I'm sure at some point, amidst the unplanned but always expected chaos of life and a million other things to do, I'll think, "Wouldn't it be easier just to buy a mix?"  And then I'll remember this recipe... and how the little work that goes into it is soooooooooooooooooooo worth it.

This recipe makes an incredible moist cake (or cupcakes, in this case).  In fact, my favorite compliment on this recipe has been how flavorful and rich the cupcake actually is -- that it "tastes like vanilla and not cardboard with icing."  How kind :)

Check back tomorrow for the recipe for my favorite basic frosting!

Yellow Butter Cupcakes
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook)
--makes 24 regular cupcakes

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
[if you don't have cake flour, the conversion is 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup MINUS 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour... look for a post later explaining this, but just trust me for the time being]
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two standard 12-cup muffins pans with liners, set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder and salt; save for later.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (the volume actually increases and the color becomes paler), about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides occasionally.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla.  With mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, half of the milk, another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the milk, and the final third of the flour mixture; beat until combined after each addition.  (By breaking up the addition of the flour, you're keeping the cupcakes from becoming too tough or dry later.)

Using a #40 ice cream scoop, fill each regular cupcake liner with two scoops, and each mini cupcake liner with one scoop.  If using another method, just fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full.  Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  (Check mini cupcakes starting at 15 minutes.) 

[For layer cake variation, coat two 9" round cake pans with nonstick spray, divide batters between the two pans.  Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake tester inserted in center of each cake comes out clean.  Cool 20 minutes on wire rack, invert pans to remove cakes, cool completely with top sides up.  Level, layer, and frost accordingly.]

Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Carefully remove cupcakes from pan and replace them on the wire rack alone to cool completely, top sides up.

Spread or pipe frosting of choice on top of each cupcake.  Decorate with spinkles, if desired.  Store in airtight container for up to 3 days.  If I weren't making these to take to work, I would've eaten at least 3 mini cupcakes already.  Finally, arrange in ridiculous positions you'd only find in family photos hanging in the mall:

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