Lately I have been obsessed with cupcakes! I can't believe it's taken me this long to experiment with them. They really are the perfect dessert since you can mix and match as many flavors as your heart desires and never eat the same cupcake ever again - ever! The combinations are endless! I predict many flavor combos in the near future...PB&J cupcakes, cookies and cream, chocolate on chocolate, filled with more chocolate :D
To begin making your sinful creations, you will need to find your favorite cupcake flavor base. Meaning, a tried and true chocolate cupcake, lemon cupcake, or in this case - a vanilla cupcake. The texture and flavor of this cake was spot on and my search for the perfect vanilla cupcake is officially over. The vanilla bean made a huge difference in flavor and the cake itself was light, moist and not too dense. These were so good you could literally pop them into your mouth without any frosting - which we did but had to restrain ourselves after a while since it was getting a little dangerous. My oh my was the cake batter delicious! Anyway, back to the cupcakes.
Since the vanilla flavor is pretty mild, it serves as the perfect canvas to top with any flavored frosting. I chose a salted caramel topping and the salty frosting mixed with the sweet hint of vanilla made for a lovely cupcake.
Hopefully I've inspired you to make your own creations and the sweet aroma of vanilla and cupcakes will fill your home during this holiday season. Happy baking :)
Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting
Makes 15 cupcakes
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups cake flour (6 oz)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups sugar
2.5 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tbs buttermilk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.) Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix just until combined.
Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners – SPRAY LINERS WITH NONSTICK SPRAY, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 12 wells.) For mini cupcakes, fill each with a little over 1 tablespoon batter. Bake 18-20 minutes (or 8-10 for minis), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
Source: adapted from Annie's Eats and Confections of a Foodie Bride, who adapted it from The Well-Decorated Cake
Salted Caramel Buttercream
makes enough to frost 12 cupcakes
Adapted from Crispy Waffle blog
For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch sea salt
1. Wet a pastry brush and brush the sides of the inside of a small saucepan with a bit of water. (You do this so the sugar does not crystallize making your caramel sauce gritty) Add the sugar and pour the water over it. With the heat on low, swirl the pan around until the sugar has nearly dissolved. Be careful not to let it boil — if it starts getting too hot, remove it from the burner for a few seconds, continuing to swirl.
2. Once the sugar has mostly dissolved, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil and stir pan frequently until it becomes dark amber (think the color of a penny). (Be careful — you want it to be dark, but it can go from dark to burning in seconds.) Take it off the heat immediately.
3. Slowly pour in the cream, stirring with a wooden spoon. Again, be careful as the caramel will start splattering, and will splatter even more if you add the cream too fast. Whisk until combined and smooth and set aside to store and only use half for diesel’s cupcakes
Recipe adapted from How to eat a cupcake blog
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temperature *
1 cup confectioners sugar
In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160°F on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes (It always takes about 5 minutes for me). Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more. Add the caramel drizzle (I added about 3/4 cup) and beat until combined (or almost combined for a swirling effect), scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add confectioners sugar and mix until thoroughly combined. Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream.
*You do not want your butter to be too soft. Ideally if you made a indentation into the butter with your finger you would be able to see it and not be too melted. If your butter is too soft then the frosting will not be the right consistency.