Friday, December 30, 2016

"My Favorite" Vanilla Cupcakes

"My Favorite" Vanilla Cupcakes - made December 17, 2016, modified from Cookies & Cups
This was the original title of the cupcakes on Cookies & Cups' blog but I had to put them in quotes for myself as I don't know that they're my favorite. Having a favorite is always so subjective. And I honestly don't know if I made these properly or not. I am hit or miss with making cupcakes successfully. And by successfully, I mean with the soft fluffy (but not cake-mix cakey) texture that's part of what denotes (to me) an excellent cupcake.
There are several important factors to making fluffy cupcakes. The amount of flour is critical. When recipes give only volume measurements and not weight measurements, it's hard to get it exactly right since there are different ways of measuring flour. You can sift first then spoon into the measuring cup, resulting in less flour than if you did the dip-and-scoop method. You're not supposed to scoop the flour then pack it down or else you'll end up with too much flour and chances are higher that your cupcakes will be dense.

How much you mix the batter is also critical. Too little and not enough air will be incorporated into the batter. Too much and you beat too many air pockets into the batter which collapse upon baking. Not to mention you risk developing the gluten in the flour and the cupcakes will become tough and chewy. Good in bread, not good in cupcakes.
Baking time is also important. If you bake it too long, your cupcakes will be dry. If you underbake it, your cupcakes will be dense. The latter is often my problem and I think it was that this time too. I swear the toothpick came out clean when I tested the cupcakes but with some cakes and cupcakes, that doesn't mean the baked goods are done. They weren't raw but they probably could've used another minute in the oven for a lighter texture.
For the most part, though, the flavor was really good and the texture was almost as fluffy as I wanted. Make sure you use real vanilla extract. Adding seeds from a vanilla bean or an extra teaspoon of vanilla bean paste wouldn't hurt either. Oh, and this makes 2 dozen cupcakes so if you don't need that many, you can easily halve the recipe for an even dozen.
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, room temperature, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, optional but recommended
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the cake flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix briefly.
  3. With mixer on low, drop in butter, a few cubes at a time, until butter in all in and mix resembles coarse sand.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, on low speed, mixing only until just incorporated.
  5. Slowly pour in milk and vanilla. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes until batter is smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
  6. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 15-20 minutes until centers are set and toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting. I did a simple vanilla frosting: 4 tablespoons butter beaten until soft and creamy then add powdered sugar and whole milk until you achieve the desired consistency.

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