Begin at the very beginning – Vanilla Cupcakes (and chocolate buttercream)

The Treats Truck has published her first baking cookbook.  Having never made her recipes before, I decided to start with the basics, as this would give me a good sense of how to doctor up future recipe experiments.  The first recipe in the cake/cupcake section was “Our Favorite Vanilla Cake”, so I gave it a whirl.  Before baking, I compared it to two other vanilla recipes I had stashed away.  The first was from Cupcakes! by Elinor Klivans which I remembered I hadn’t liked, even though other recipes in there were great.  The second had been published nearly three years ago in The Atlantic Monthly “Classic Butter Cupcakes” by Flo Braker, which I hadn’t baked yet (that’s on the agenda for today – just need to make a grocery store run first).  The differences were notable in print, but I had to experiment with taste.  Kim’s cupcakes were easy to bake, but the result wasn’t good.  The cupcakes were too dense, had a pale yellow color, but didn’t brown, making it hard to tell when they were done, and worst of all, tasted eggy.  I only baked six of them and now I’m trying to figure out what to do with the leftover batter.  How can it be doctored to improve the texture and flavor?

Interestingly, the frosting turned out pretty well.  I started with Kim’s recipe, but cut it in half because I was suspicious.  I know the bakers’ debate between butter and shortening for buttercream.  I understand the argument that shortening is a less-expensive filler, that butter is better, but I don’t agree.  It’s been my experience that butter only buttercreams aren’t as tasty.  I have a theory though.  My home baking experiences leave me limited to ingredients available at the supermarket, which means Crisco shortening is my only option.  I know one baker who uses Westin Cake Shortening (and butter) and has wonderful buttercream.  Anyway, I used half a stick of butter and two cups of confectioners’ sugar (Kim’s recipe called for 3 cups, but it was already too sweet for me).  I added the vanilla and the milk (soy instead of whole as I live with someone who is lactose intolerant).  He liked it, but I didn’t.  Too sweet, too buttery…just not right.  So I doctored…I turned to Kim’s recipe for chocolate buttercream, figuring that would pair with the vanilla cupcakes better anyway.  I didn’t have heavy cream, so I melted some E. Guittard dark chocolate (72%) with some half and half and added that.  I whipped it in my Kitchaid stand mixer for about 4-5 minutes till it was light and fluffy, then followed Kim’s suggestion to refrigerate it.  It was delicious!  Who knew that the frosting would be the star of the show?

*Update added July 5, 2012:
These cupcakes were vastly improved with my own clever experiment.  I filled the cupcake cup only halfway, then layered in some of the chocolate ganache frosting, then filled the rest of the cup with batter.  The chocolate melted during baking and swirled throughout the cupcake, essentially making a marble cupcake.  The chocolate disguised the egginess and the texture was much smoother.



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Gone to the hips…


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