When I finally got around to procuring the Kitchenaid mixer (in red, of course), one of the first things that I made was the vanilla cupcake. It would be my first cupcake attempt, and I was super excited. Using the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, the first time I made it, and the multiple times afterwards, I’m always happily surprised by how soft, airy and fluffy the sponge is, and how the frosting just lovingly complements the concoction.
Since then, I’ve dabbled with various other cupcake flavours from the cookbook – pumpkin, matcha, good old chocolate. But somehow, I keep returning to the classic vanilla over and over again, and often have to stop myself from gobbling down three or more (they’re quite small!) at a go. Plus, J says it’s his favourite baked item of mine, and until baby J gets old enough to have an opinion about mommy’s home baked goods, that’s good enough for me for now.
Makes 8 small cupcakes (the original recipe says 12, but I could never manage more than 9 smallish cupcakes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
a scant ¾ cup sugar (fill the measuring cup up to just before the full level)
1½ tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup whole milk
1 large egg
¼tsp pure vanilla extract ( I use Nielsen Massey)
1 quantity Vanilla Frosting (recipe below)
sprinkles to decorate (as desired)
Use hard cupcake/muffin holders or a cupcake pan lined with soft cupcake holders
Preheat oven to 170oC
Put flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixed with a paddle attachment and beat on slow speed (I use “1” on the Kitchenaid) until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated. Do not be tempted to overbeat.
Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl (with a fork) for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated. Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula during the beating process as needed.
Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the batter is smooth. Do not overmix (this is critical for a fluffy sponge).
Spoon the batter into cupcake cases until two-thirds full, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden and the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean.
Let cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before placing on wire rack to cool completely.
Once cupcakes are completely cool, spoon the Vanilla Frosting on top and decorate as you like with sprinkles, nuts or anything pretty. I often enjoy them simply with frosting straight up on top of the cake, sans decor.
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
5 tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp whole milk
couple of drops of pure vanilla extract
Beat the sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed (I use “2” on the Kitchenaid) until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed.
Combine the milk and vanilla in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of teaspoons at a time.
Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn mixer up to high speed (“6″ on the Kitchenaid) and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.
If you decide to make the frosting beforehand and put it in the fridge for use later, you’ll need to rewhip the mixture prior to frosting cupcakes.
Note: this same recipe also builds a single 9” round cake. Baking times may vary, so make sure you check the middle of the cake with a skewer.
About Charmaine Toh
Charmaine considers gluttony the most beautiful sin, and enjoys exemplifying it as she goes about her daily activities. Luckily for her, she currently lives in Hong Kong, the purported greatest city in Asia for everything to do with food (it’s a close fight with Singapore, where she was born and bred). These days she can be found (over)eating, thinking of what and where to eat next, and attempting various recipes in her kitchen.