Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cupcakes...The Secret Is Out!

This post has been updated, please see the note below***

So today is a recipe kind of day!  I will be posting a great base recipe followed by some variations that you can play around with or be adventurous and try your own flavours!

Basic Vanilla Cupcake Recipe - adapted from Glorious Treats - Perfect Vanilla Cupcake  

Glory's recipe is pretty darn perfect---just not for me.  As per her advice she encourages her readers to play around with the recipe to what suits them.  I did just that, and about 4 dozen vanilla variations later I've come up with a recipe that suits me perfectly.  It is slightly sweet, flavourful and has a tight crumb while being moist and tender.  

**** Please note that this is not the vanilla cake you are probably accustomed to from grocery store bakeries or commercial chain bakeries.  Those cakes...I hate to tell ya, come from a box mix.  A GIANT box mix, which is actually in a bag and can be purchased wholesale for commercial use.  You can even find it at Wholesale Club, not to mention all the curds, fillings and bavarian creams to go along with it.  This is not to say that all commercial bakeries or restaurants use this, but is quite common.  For those looking for a similar taste, texture and shelf life, you can add cake enhancer

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 tsps baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp POPCORN salt (this is a finely ground salt, not your usual table salt)
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 1/8 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract (see variations below)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature 
Preheat your oven to 350F if using light coloured muffin pans or 325F if using dark, non-stick muffin pans.  Tip:  Dark, non-stick pans tend to brown and bake faster and darker.  Wipe the top surface of your muffin pan with an oiled paper towel---you want to be sure your cupcakes don't stick if you have any spills.  I find this works better than spraying the entire pan with non-stick spray, as it can leave your cupcake liners greasy and spotted.  Oh, and if you can, use grease-proof liners; the colours remain vibrant and the pattern is still visible after baking.

In a medium bowl, sift together your flour, baking powder, buttermilk powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  

Sift your dry ingrediants to avoid nasty bits like this.
In your stand mixer, attach the paddle attachment or use the beater blades on a hand mixer, and beat eggs on medium speed until yolk and whites are mixed then add in your sugar.  Beat until thickened then add in your oil and beat until combined and the mixture is creamy. 

Eggs have been beaten and sugar has just been added.  Beat until thick.

Add your vanilla to your milk and set aside.  With the mixer on low, add half of your flour mixture until just combined.  Scrape down the sides of your bowl with a spatula then add your milk mixture and beat until just combined.  Scrap down your bowl again and add the remaining flour and beat until combined.  

Add half of your dry ingrediants, followed by wet and then finish with dry.

Your batter will be a bit loose, so pour the batter into a 4-cup measuring cup and fill the wells of your lined muffin pan 2/3 full.  Bake for 15-17 minutes if using a light coloured pan and 12-14 minutes in a dark coated pan.  

Hard to see, but there a vanilla bean specs in there.
Green Tea and Black Tea variations.
Test for doneness with a toothpick or caketester and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.  
Lavender infused cupcakes with dried lavender
F-B: Mini lavender cupcakes, black tea cupcakes and in the back are green tea cupcakes
  • Almond - substitute almond extract for the vanilla in equal amounts
  • Lemon - substitute lemon extract or emulsion for the vanilla in equal amounts and add the zest of one whole lemon
  • Lavender - substitute lavender extract for the vanilla, but use only 1 tsp OR as I like to do, bring the milk to a simmer over low heat and add 1 tablespoon of dried lavender. Remove from heat and let cool.  Chill in fridge overnight, and strain before use in your recipe.  Don't forget to omit the vanilla.
  • Matcha Green Tea - bring the milk to a simmer over low heat and add 2 tablespoons good quality green tea.  Stir until dissolved and set aside to cool.  Once cooled, it can be used in immediately.  Don't forget to omit the vanilla.
  • Chai - there are a variety of ways to add the spicy flavours of chai to this cupcake including steeping 3 bags of chai tea in the milk (warmed) for 10 minutes, OR substituting 1/2 of the milk with 1/2 instant chai tea concentrate (Oregon Cafe Chai Mix  works well) OR adding 1/2 teaspoon each of ground ginger, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground clove and 1/16 teaspoon of finely ground black pepper (feel free to omit the pepper if you don't like your chai spicy) 
Remember, this is a base recipe and can be tweaked to whatever you want it to be.  I use superfine sugar as I find that it dissolves nicely in the cake and the finished cake has a nice, light texture.   I also use fine popcorn salt for the same reason. 

As for the buttermilk powder, I found that using fresh buttermilk gave my cupcakes a slight tang which I did not care for, even though the cake was tender and moist and had a nice crumb.  The powder achieved the same great texture and moistness without the flavour.  However, you decide what works best for you.

So there you have it.  Secret is out.  Please try this recipe if you get a chance.  It really is a great scratch recipe that I would recommend to anyone.  Are you wondering why you don't see a finished cupcake with frosting?  That is because I ate them all naked.  No, I'm not naked the cupcakes were naked. Nevermind...

Anyway...I will be posting some swiss meringue buttercream frosting recipes tomorrow that accompany those gorgeous little naked cupcakes and there you will see the final results.         

Until then, Happy Baking!

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