Thursday, March 7, 2013

Homemade funfetti cupcakes

Birthdays have always been a very big deal in our family.  Some years there were parties with friends, but most years were spent just the four of us having a ball at home.

From a young age, I remember days beginning with breakfast in bed and cards on the tray, flowers from Mom and Dad, favorite foods for lunch and dinner, and being spoiled rotten with presents.  And there was cake. Of course, there was cake!  With ice cream or, as my dad still calls it "commode" (in reference to the phrase a la mode, if you will).  My mom always made our birthday cakes.  I can picture the 9-by-11-inch glass dish now.

The days leading up to our birthdays were filled with anticipation and almost as much fun as the day itself.  She'd ask whether the birthday celebrant wanted yellow or chocolate a few days before the occasion.  On the day of, we'd hear the familiar buzz of the electric mixer and knew that meant we were mere hours away from sugary bliss.

Despite it being obvious what Mom was doing, we were always shoo-ed out of the kitchen during the process... and we loved her for it!  She'd even go so far as to cover and hide the decorated cake somewhere so we couldn't sneak a peek until the appropriate time.  I can recall only a few times in my entire life when I saw a cake cooling on the counter, for myself, my sister or dad.  It was as if the cakes just magically appeared!

I shouldn't make us out to be saints for staying out of the kitchen so easily.  I will speak for all of us when I say that the main reason we obliged was because Mom would reward us with one of the mixer beaters after she'd finished making her irresistable icing.  Yes, please! 

To this day, I still love my birthday, possibly more and more each year, and treat everyone else's birthdays with the same enthusiasm and fervor.  As Matt's birthday approached this year, I peppered him with so many questions regarding his special day.

When should we celebrate?  How about Sunday since you coach on Tuesday?  What do you want for dinner?  Do you want me to cook or do you want to go out?  Where do you want to go?  Do you want it to be just the two of us?  Do you want to invite friends?  Who should we invite?  What do you want for dessert?  Pie?  Cookies?  Cake?

And, to all of those questions, Matt had just one simple response: "Whatever is fine.  I don't really care about my birthday."  Gasp.  "But, birthdays are a big deal!  Your birthday is a big deal to me!"  "Oh, sure.  You know what I like."  I do, indeed; the man has simple tastes: vanilla cake with vanilla icing.

But I wanted it to be a little more special.  And a little different (so I could blog about it, perhaps?).  And that's exactly what these cupcakes are.  A little special and a little different but still with a classic vanilla taste -- homemade funfetti cupcakes!

I've never encountered a cake mix that ignites such excitement in almost everyone, and I can't blame them. What's more exciting fun that a delicious cake littered with rainbow-colored sprinkles topping with icing and even more sprinkles?

With a few additional (and easy!) steps, you can have fluffy and moist homemade funfetti cupcakes with so, so much more flavor than the boxed variety!

Plus, when you make your own, you can add as many sprinkles and as much icing as you wish.  And you can be the one who decides whether the birthday boy (or girl) is permitted to enter the kitchen. Or you can keep those icing-laden beaters all to yourself.  I promise I won't tattle on you; it can be our little secret.

I'd advise you to not keep these cupcakes a secret because they will bring such joy to anyone you share them with!  I believe they might even have some magical powers because they made Matt utter a sentiment that was so unexpected and made me so happy I could cry.  "You know, I think I'm finally starting to love my birthday.  I'm already looking forward to next year."  Just goes to show that you're never too young or old to make a big deal out of your birthday :)

One year ago: Banana bread pancakes
Two years ago: Proscuitto-wrapped chicken with roasted green beans
Three years ago: Traditional yeast doughnuts

Funfetti Cupcakes
(adapted slightly from Annie's Eats recipe)
-makes 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup milk
3 egg whites
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles, plus more for decorating
1 batch of this vanilla buttercream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 Tablespoons of the milk, egg whites, and vanilla.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer on low, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until combined.  Add butter and mix on low until mixture resembles wet sand, about 30 seconds.  Add remaining 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons milk and mix on medium for about 90 seconds. Add egg mixture in 2 additions, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, scraping down bowl as needed.  Fold in sprinkles.

Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 way full.  Bake for about 18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare the buttercream.  When they've cooled completely, frost cupcakes as desired using a pastry bag (or Ziploc bag) fitted with a tip or simply with a knife for a more rustic look.  Top with additional sprinkles and enjoy!

Storage note: Cupcakes can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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