Sunday, August 14, 2011

Searching for the Perfect Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Vanilla cupcakes -  classic, basic, simple.....
If you spend any time looking through cupcake blogs ( as I do ), you will find that there are numerous quests going on for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe!  It seems like it would be simple, but there are many variables that go into a basic vanilla recipe, and everyone seems to have different expectations for what makes a "perfect" vanilla cake!

Since I was baking Neapolitan cupcakes this week, which start with a vanilla cupcake filled with strawberry filling and then topped with chocolate buttercream, I looked through numerous recipes and chose one that sounded good.
Double Vanilla Cupcakes - found at Simply Recipes.

I have been baking cupcakes for about 9 months now, and have made vanilla cupcakes a couple of other times. But I hadn't been completely happy with them.  Some recipes are dry.  Some are flavorless.  Some are heavy and "cornbread-y".   Some are so tender that they crumble and fall apart when you take off the cupcake paper.

These Double Vanilla Cupcakes were delicious!  Just the right sweetness with a strong vanilla taste, moist, fluffy -  beautiful!  I don't have any vanilla beans, but I do have Nielson-Massey vanilla bean paste, so I used that along with the vanilla extract. The recipe only made 12 cupcakes, and I needed to make 7 dozen.  At a glance, it seemed like the recipe should double easily.

Not so.

The batter seemed fine, but the cupcakes exploded in the oven.  At some point as they baked, the batter flowed up and over the top of the cupcake pan, and the cupcakes didn't cook all the way through, making a soggy, gloppy mess. I have no idea why, except that perhaps the ingredients didn't mix thoroughly in the larger amounts. Thinking that perhaps I had measured some ingredient incorrectly, I tried the double recipe again, and the same thing happened.  Into the trash.
So I decided to try another recipe that seemed similar, but made a larger amount of cupcakes. That recipe produced cupcakes with a "muffin top",  and the edges broke as I tried to take them out of the pan, making them not very pretty, and the texture was too soft.  That batch went into the trash can along with the failed exploded cupcakes. 
A third recipes yielded unsatisfactory results as well, with big airholes in the cake and a dry texture.  ugh.

So I went back to the original Double Vanilla Recipe, and made it as written for 12 cupcakes, and they came out perfectly.  If anyone has success doubling this recipe, I'd love to hear about it.  It doesn't make sense to me, but after two failed attempts  I'm sticking with the small batch version.

Double Vanilla Cupcakes

1 1/2 c. + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temp
1 c. sugar
1 egg + 2 egg whites, room temp
1/2 c. milk, room temp
1/4 c. sour cream, room temp
1 1/2  tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter for 3 min. at medium speed.  Slowly add the sugar and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice.  Add egg and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl and add the egg whites, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds each.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste.

With mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mixture and combine, then add 1/2 the milk mixture, stirring just to combine. Add 1/3 flour mixture, mix, then the rest of the milk mixture, mix, and finally the remaining flour mixture. It is important not to overmix the batter once the flour is added, so stir just until smooth and combined.

Divide the batter into 12 cupcake papers in a muffin tin, and bake for 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees, until slightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean.  Cool for about 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack.
Fill and frost.
Makes 12.

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