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The Dessert Nerd | Vanilla Cupcakes

By Heather Dyer

This is no ordinary vanilla cake.  This is a butter cake, babycakes.  The cake recipe, which I first saw in The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, infuses butter into every tiny bit of this batter, and you will be so thankful that it does.  I took a batch of these to my daughter’s college volleyball team, and after the game one of the girls tasted one and went around to all of her teammates and said, “I work at a bakery, so I know this stuff, and THIS is the best cupcake you will ever eat.”  Vanilla and butter are the stars of the show here, so go for pure vanilla extract and high quality butter.

The tricky part of this cake is knowing when it’s done.  Watch it carefully in the oven because if you see it browning, it’s probably overbaked.  Set your timer on the early side of the baking time and use a cake tester.  If the tester comes out clean your cake is finished.  If it doesn’t, set the timer again for 2 or 3 minutes and test again.

Vanilla cake

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ pound unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, softened
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place liners in cupcake pans and set aside.

In a measuring cup combine milk and vanilla, and set aside.

Mix both of the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large stand mixer for 2-3 minutes, until combined.  HERE IS THE MAGIC:  As the mixer runs, add the chunks of butter a few at a time until the mixture looks like wet sand.

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Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they incorporate completely before you put the next one in.  Slowly add the milk/vanilla combination and mix until the batter comes together uniformly.

Fill the cupcake liners no more than 2/3 full.  Trust me on this, I am a serial over-filler and it never turns out well.

Bake for 20 minutes or so, testing carefully toward the end of the baking time.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

Vanilla frosting

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-4 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • Pinch of sea salt or kosher salt

Instructions:

Place the butter in the bowl of a mixer, and beat until it’s smooth.  Scrape down the bowl and add 2 cups of the sugar.  Mix to combine.  Add 2 more cups of sugar and mix again.  Add the last cup and mix again.  Add in 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream and mix.  If the frosting is too stiff add another 1-2 Tablespoons.  Add vanilla and a tiny pinch of salt.  Scrape down the bowl and mix one last time to make sure it’s all combined.

Use a piping bag, a knife or small spatula and frost all the cupcakes.

Chill the finished cupcakes in the refrigerator for 20 minutes and then serve to volleyball players or other fine people!

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