My step Mom asked me to make cupcakes for a Birthday in her office this week. This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit. They are simple and elegant. They pack a lot of flavour but are still a pretty safe decision in terms of being liked. To start, I adapted a vanilla cake recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I used the Vanilla Fudge Marble Cake but, omitted the fudge part. I also upped the vanilla. I wanted to use vanilla paste, a combination of vanilla bean and extract to give it some true vanilla flavour. I couldn’t find any, though. I did have 1.5 pods at home so, I saved those for the frosting. Here’s how I adapted the cake recipe:
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 sugar
1 Tbsp white vanilla extract (to keep the light colour, I used white vanilla)
2 3/4 cups all- purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk or sour milk. (You can sour milk by putting a Tbsp of vinegar in a measuring cup and filling it up to a cup. The ratio should be 1 Tbsp- 1 cup milk).
Preheat the oven to 325 F and line 2 cupcake tins.
Start by creaming the butter and sugar with a paddle. This process is really important for the cakes to turn out right. The butter mixture should look fluffy and should have almost tripled in volume.
Next, add the vanilla extract and 1 egg. Scrape down the bowl once combined and add the next egg.
Mix the flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a bowl. Alternately add the dry ingredients with the buttermilk and mix until combined. Scoop batter into cupcake tins to about 2/3 full. A portion scoop is a great thing to have in the kitchen, especially if you do a lot of baking. It really comes in handy here.
Bake cakes for about 20- 25 mins. They’re done when you press on the centre, lightly and the cake springs back or when a tooth pick comes out clean. Let cool.
2 12 oz containers of raspberries
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vodka, chilled
1 Tbsp corn starch
Start by cooking the berries and sugar down, for about an hour. They should break down on their own as they cook but make sure to crush any big chunks. Simmer for about 1 hour.
Next, add vanilla and stir the cornstarch into the chilled vodka. Simmer for another half hour and set aside to cool. The berries will continue to thicken as they cool.
For the frosting, I used a simple, Italian butter cream:
7 egg whites
12 oz white sugar
1lb, 6 oz butter, room temp and but into small pieces
2 Tbsp white, vanilla extract
1.5 vanilla beans
There are a few important points to make about Italian butter cream. First is that we start by making an Italian meringue. The meringue is not cooked in the oven, but by the hot sugar we will pour in it. Second, is that temperatures (you will need a candy thermometer. They are pretty cheap), are really important and so is whipping the product at the right speed. The sugar should not be powdered sugar. Make sure to use granulated.
To start, put the sugar in a small pot and add enough water to make it wet. Put it on the stove and heat over medium heat. We will add the sugar to the egg whites, beaten to soft peaks once the sugar reached 240 F or soft ball stage. The magic trick here, is once the sugar reaches 220 F, turn your mixer on and beat the egg whites on full speed. Once the sugar reaches soft ball stage, they should be soft peaks. Slowly pour the sugar into the eggs, while it is still mixing on high speed. Be careful not to get any on the bowl or the whip as the sugar will crystallize. This can take some practice. Also note, the sugar is extremely hot and will stick to skin so, handle with care.
Keep beating on high speed until the mixture is cool. You want to incorporate as much air in as possible. Once cool, turn the mixer down to a much lower speed. slowly add the butter, once chunk at a time. Once the butter is incorporated, and the butter cream has a smooth texture, you can add the vanilla beans and the extract. Make sure you keep the empty pods, as they have many uses. They are expensive so, you had may as well get your money’s worth.
To assemble, use a fruit corer or knife to cut a hole in the middle of each cake. Fill a piping bag with the raspberries and fill the inside. Fill a piping bag with a larger tip with the buttercream and frost.
These turned out great and I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we all did.