Cupcakes. The perfect five bites. A cradle for a mound of fluffy buttercream. I can see why they're all the rage. After all, they're not as daunting to bake as their finicky, full-sized sister, Layer Cake. These rounds offer much more than their petite size. They're a blank canvas for the artist in every baker. A tiny puff just waiting for adornment. Over the years, I've baked dozens upon dozens of petite cakes, from spiced carrot to devil's food to Boston cream. The possibilities are endless. With a little finesse, I can turn one bowl of vanilla or chocolate batter into a butterfly: A chick, a bird's nest A gooey s'more, a cookie dough truffle A vision in coconut Devil's food filled with vanilla buttercream and glazed with chocolate ganache Warmly spiced carrot cake And a twist on Boston cream pie. But none of these are worthwhile without a delicious base. The tender crumbling cake matters just as much as the precise piping of frosting. I've come to rely on a luscious and moist yellow cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart, a cupcake connoisseur if there ever was one. It tastes of rich vanilla custard and will surely be worthy of each and every dazzling variation you can dream up. Vanilla Cupcakes (Recipe courtesy Martha Stewart) Makes 1 dozen
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or using a hand held mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time; scrape down bowl, and beat in vanilla. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat for a few seconds, just to combine. Then add 1/2 of the milk, beat for a few seconds. Add another 1/3 of flour, beat for a few seconds. Add remaining milk, beat. Then add the last 1/3 of the flour. Beat. This whole process should only take about a minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and give it one final beating to ensure that everything is well combined. Do not overbeat the batter. This will cause the cake to become dry and dense, more like a bread than a springy and light cake. Divide batter evenly among a 12-cup muffin pan lined with paper cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Bake until golden and tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once halfway if needed (I like to rotate halfway to ensure even baking for all cupcakes). I pulled them out of the oven after 18 minutes: Transfer pan to wire rack; cool completely.
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