A celebration always calls for a little something sweet. Or so, at least, I think. Over Memorial Day weekend, Jeremy and I travelled up to the D.C. area to visit his brother and family. My sister-in-law’s birthday was the night before we went up, so we wanted to do something for her birthday. We decided that baking cupcakes would be fun; they have two boys who would naturally been keen on sugar, and who doesn’t like a cupcake? I mulled over the various flavor possibilities before deciding that vanilla would be the way to go. Vanilla is a universal pleasure.
Brightly colored and festive, these cupcakes are a a crowd pleaser. They are deeply vanilla and very tender. The frosting is rich, but the tang of the cream cheese helps balance the sugar. To make these a little more special than the everyday vanilla cupcake, I made a rich, vanilla cream cheese frosting to top them. These make a great basic cupcake to add to your arsenal. While the frosting is certainly delicious with them, they are sweet enough to pair with a glaze, a fruit topping, or a different icing. They really are perfect to take to your next event.
When making cupcakes, it’s very important to make sure you bring your butter and eggs to room temperature. This allows them to incorporate into the dough as smoothly, without lumps from unmixed butter or stringy bits of raw egg. This may seem a difficult request if you are in a hurry, but there are shortcuts!
To bring butter to room temperature quickly: Place the butter between two sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the butter out until it is almost paper thin. Set aside for five to ten minutes.
To bring eggs to room temperature quickly: Fill a bowl with very warm, but not hot water (about the temperature of bath water). If the water is too hot, the eggs will cook, so don’t be over-zealous. Drop the eggs into the bowl of water. Let them sit for about five minutes. When you reach into the water and the eggs and the water are about the same temperature– they shouldn’t feel markedly cool to the touch– they’re ready.
A note on the colored frosting: The SIL’s favorite team and alma mater is the University of Florida, so team color icing was great way to personalize these cupcakes. First, I divided the frosting in half. I used a scant 1/4 tsp of Wilton icing color pastes in royal blue and orange. I beat the icing well until the color was fully combined.
Vanilla Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting
for the cupcakes
- 3/4 C butter (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 1/2 C sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 C flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 C milk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp lemon extract
for the frosting
- 1/2 C butter (1 stick)
- 8 oz cream cheese (1 block)
- 3 C confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350º. Bring the butter and the eggs to room temperature before mixing. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using a hand mixer. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Then, stir in all of the dry ingredients until just combined. Slowly pour in the milk and the extracts while beating constantly. Line two muffin tins with cupcake papers. Fill 2/3 of each space with batter. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the cupcakes are lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the tins to racks to cool. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting. Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter, the cream cheese, the confectioner’s sugar, and the vanilla extract. Add sugar to bring frosting to the appropriate consistency. Likewise, if the frosting is too stiff, a splash of milk can be mixed in to thin it.
To apply the frosting, use a decorator’s bag to pipe on the frosting. Make sure you don’t overfill the bag. Half a cup is about all that should go in. If you use a measuring cup to fill the bag, and you cuff it over your hand while you fill it, refilling isn’t much trouble. Plus, it will keep your icing from oozing out the top of the bag. Use a Wilton 1M star tip to achieve the look pictured. Starting in the center of each cupcake, swirl the icing in a tight spiral until the top is covered.
Since these cupcakes use cream cheese frosting, keep them refrigerated until you serve them, then bring them up to room temperature before eating.
Makes 18 cupcakes.
UPDATE: Lately I have been substituting 1/2 C of oil for 1/2 C of the butter and adding it after the eggs. I have also switched to cake flour (2 1/2 C plus 5 T) and sifting the dry ingredients together. This makes for a very soft, fluffy, moist cupcake.