Springtime Cupcakes

springtime cupcakesButtercream frosting requires simple ingredients, but it takes some time to achieve the perfect texture and flavor. I’ve been working on buttercream for years now, and I think I’ve found the perfect recipe, especially for cupcakes. My buttercream requires both vanilla and almond extracts, which I think gives the best flavor. It also requires patience; each step takes a few minutes, and you can’t rush it, or you won’t get a nice, fluffy texture.

These springtime cupcakes were a big hit in the office for St. Patrick’s Day today, and they would also make a great addition to an Easter brunch, a baby shower, or Mother’s Day tea. This recipe would be great any time of year, though.

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sour milk*

Basic Buttercream Frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • Dash of salt
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • Green food coloring

*To make sour milk, place 1/2 tablespoon vinegar in a glass measuring cup; add enough milk to equal 1/2 cup total. Stir; set aside for 5 minutes before using.

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe makes 21 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared regular-sized cupcake liners, filling half full.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately remove cupcakes to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

To make the buttercream, place butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down your bowl, add salt, and beat for another minute.

Scrape down your bowl, then add powdered sugar all at once; cover your mixer with a kitchen towel, and beat on low speed until the sugar is completely incorporated into the butter – this will take several minutes, probably about 4-5.

Once all the sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add extracts, and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, then increase the speed to medium and beat for another 2-3 minutes until the texture is light and fluffy.

Add green food coloring a few drops at a time to create a light, spring green shade.

Fit a 14-inch pastry bag with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto cupcakes. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days for optimal freshness.

Note: this buttercream recipe will frost at least 24 cupcakes, as long as you don’t go too overboard with your piping.

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Color Swirl Cupcakes

swirled cupcakeExperienced bakers like to challenge themselves…and these color swirl cupcakes were certainly a challenge! These cupcakes are destined for an 8-year-old girl’s rock star-themed birthday party, and I certainly hope they’re a hit.

I originally planned to use three separate piping bags set into one large bag for the color swirl look, but the other day at the craft store I saw the Wilton Color Swirl decorating kit and I thought…why not? Next time, I’ll probably go with the bags-in-bag technique, because the kit was a bit difficult to use, especially for a first-time color-swirler like me. If you’re trying this technique, bear in mind that you’ll need to apply steady, even pressure to three separate bags of frosting all at once, which can make piping a swirl a challenge. In the photo below, you can see that I piped both swirls and blobs of frosting, and the blobs were infinitely easier (and just as cute, in my opinion).

Ingredients

White Almond Cupcakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 3/4 sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk our sour milk*

*To make sour milk, place 1 1/3 tablespoons vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 1/3 total cups. Stir, then let stand for 5 minutes before using.

Color Swirl Buttercream

  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • Magenta gel food coloring
  • Teal gel food coloring
  • Lemon yellow gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners; this recipe makes about 32 cupcakes, so if you only have two tins like me, you’ll need to let one cool and re-line it for your last batch.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat shortening and sugar together until creamy. Add vanilla and beat until combined, then add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively, starting and ending with the flour, beating until just combined after each addition.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared tins, filling no more than half-full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until tops are light golden and a cake tester inserted in the middle of a few cupcakes comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

For the frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add salt and beat another minute.

Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. I cover my mixer with a kitchen towel during this process to avoid a powdered sugar mess on my counter.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine for about 2 minutes. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until frosting reaches a fluffy consistency.

If using the Wilton kit described above, put the kit together and fill each bag with a different color, securing the end of each bag with a twist tie. Using steady, even pressure, pipe blobs or swirls of frosting onto each cupcake.

If using the bags-in-bag technique, fill 12-inch piping bags with a different color, securing the end of each bag with a twist tie. Fit an 18-inch piping bag with your desired tip and place the three bags inside. Using steady, even pressure, pipe blobs or swirls of frosting onto each cupcake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

swirled cupcakes dozenHere’s a dozen color swirl cupcakes! Check out the different piping techniques; the blobs, shown in the first and third columns, were much easier than the swirls, shown in the second and fourth columns. 

Almond Buttercream

burnt almond torteAlmond buttercream is a great go-to frosting because it pairs well with a range of other flavors, from chocolate or vanilla to lemon or orange. The recipe below plays a big role in burnt almond torte, which you see here on the left.

If you don’t have heavy cream, you can substitute regular milk to thin your frosting and help make it fluffy. Remember, always add liquids sparingly, especially when working with frostings. You can always add more, but you can never take it away.

This recipe can enerously gfrost one single-layer 8 x 8 square, 8-inch round, or about 18 cupcakes. You can easily double it for a two-layer cake, sheet cake, or two dozen cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute, then add salt and beat another minute.

Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

Add heavy cream and beat for about 2 minutes until fluffy.

Chocolate Buttercream

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes people tell me they don’t like frosting, that they really like the cake better. I’ve never understood this. I mean, what is cake if not a vehicle for frosting? Why would someone choose plain cake, without the accompanying combination of butter or shortening and powdered sugar and flavorings?

Because I prefer opposites in baking–in that yellow or white cake is, to my palate, most pleasing when paired with chocolate frosting–I believe this chocolate buttercream to be an excellent companion for yellow, white, or almond cakes or cupcakes. Chocolate fans will enjoy it with chocolate cake, too. This recipe yields more than enough for 24 cupcakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

In a large bowl, sift together powdered sugar and cocoa powder; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter for about one minute. Add salt and beat for another 30 seconds.

Add powdered sugar and cocoa and beat on low speed to incorporate as much sugar into the butter as you can.  I cover my mixing bowl with a kitchen towel during this step to prevent a sugar storm.

Add three tablespoons milk and two teaspoons vanilla extract; beat for three minutes.

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add the final teaspoon vanilla extract, then beat for another minute.

Vanilla Buttercream

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla buttercream is the little black dress of the baking world.  It goes with everything, from a chocolate birthday cake to a strawberry-filled almond wedding cake.  You cannot go wrong with this smooth, mellow, just-sweet-enough frosting.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 to 3 ¼ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Place butter in a mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes using the paddle attachment.

Add 3 cups powdered sugar.  With your mixer on low, incorporate the powdered sugar into the butter.  (Hint: I find that placing a kitchen towel over the mixer during this stage prevents a powdered sugar blizzard.)

Increase speed and add 1 tablespoon vanilla, salt, and milk.

Beat for 3 minutes, then taste.  If you’d like a stronger vanilla flavor, add the second tablespoon of vanilla, along with the additional ¼ cup of powdered sugar.  Beat until combined.

For thinner buttercream, add additional milk, one tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.