Friday, September 7, 2012

The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Bar None

My quest for the best ever vanilla cupcake began two months before Kimby's bridal shower. I decided to add fondant decorated cupcakes to the dessert list, which included my signature fruit-filled sponge cake. My inspiration was Cousin Yoonie's exquisite fondant decorated cupcakes, which are *almost* too beautiful to eat (see one lovely creation HERE). Thanks for all your help and advice Yoon, this blog post is dedicated to you.

Recipe Testing
I first tested three promising recipes and then chose the best - this was Stef's Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake. My cousin's kindly-provided recipe was incredibly buttery and flavorful, but denser than the Ultimate. Julie Hanson's Very Vanilla Cupcake was also dense and not as tasty. The Ultimate was very light and airy, less buttery (as it had half oil half butter). I believe the secret of it's lightness lies in the 'reverse creaming' method. My quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake ended with the Ultimate.

Very Important 
  • The first time I made it, it had 'tunnels' going through the cupcake. This meant my gas oven got too hot, which it tends to do if I let it go for too long. For the next three batches, I was careful to keep temperature at 350 degrees F and each batch was good.
  • All the ingredients MUST be at room temperature for this to work.
  • Use a good quality vanilla bean, and pure vanilla extract. This is a vanilla cupcake after all. :) I love the premium bourbon-Madagascar vanilla bean by J.R. Mushroom & Specialities. At less than $1 per bean, these are value for money.

(makes 16 cupcakes)
1 cup sugar (225 g)
1 vanilla bean
1 3/4 cups flour (175 g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter (57 g)
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream (75 g)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (60 ml)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk (160 ml)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar and vanilla bean seeds.
  3. In the stand mixer bowl with paddle beater attached, put flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Mix on speed 2 for 3 minutes.
  4. Add butter. Mix for another 3 minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk eggs, cream, oil and vanilla till combined.
  6. Add the egg mixture all in one go to the flour mix. Mix till well combined (1 minute). Scrape down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
  7. Add milk to the batter and mix till very smooth (3 minutes). No lumps! Batter will be thin-ish.
  8. Transfer batter to jug for easy pouring into cupcake liners. 
  9. Fill liners half full and no more. 
  10. Bake 14 minutes or until test skewer comes out clean. Test every minute after minute 14 until skewer comes out clean. 
I love these with swiss meringue buttercream (SMB), which are not as sweet and which contain protein from the egg whites. SMB is also addictive and you could be sucking silky luscious spoonfuls down before you even realise it!

Vanilla cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream piped roses and topped with fondant butterflies

Making Ahead
The cupcakes can be made up to 3 days ahead, and kept in an airtight container so they don't dry out. They can also apparently be frozen for up to a month, but I haven't tried that.

Have you a favorite cupcake recipe to share? I am always on the lookout for favorite / family recipes and would love love love to try yours out. Please do leave a comment!

xo Gracie

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  1. I'm so glad that you loved it! I hoping to have the ultimate chocolate cupcake recipe done soon so that you can try that one too!

    1. Stef, thanks for your comment! Our entire family is absolutely bananas over the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes! Gosh, I thought I had found the Ultimate Choc Cupcake in your Better-Than-Sex cuppies too - I can't imagine anything being able to top that!

  2. Grace, any idea why my cupcakes would shrink when out of the oven? I baked them in the same cases as you.


    1. Hi Jade, thanks for your question! My cupcakes do shrink a teeny little bit after taking out of the oven, but it is isn't significant. How did the cupcakes taste - were they light and moist? If your cupcakes tasted a little on the dry side, it is possible that they were over baked. Overbaking can result in shrinking. If your cupcakes tasted too wet, they might have needed a little more time in the oven. Underbaking can also result in shrinking.

    2. Morning Grace. I did twice ytd. The first time was a little underbaked, so I added a bit more time the second round, still the same. Both times yield light and moist texture. Yours look very good, almost didn't shrink. Mine shrink from the side and top. When in the oven, they reach the rim. After cooling, they were 1cm from the rim. So sad, coz I really love the texture. Did you beat the eggs for very long or just till all wet ingredients were mixed? I'm trying to see where I could have gone wrong. Maybe my ingredients fr fridge (sour cream, milk) didn't "rest" long enough.


    3. Hi again Jade! Hmm, 1 cm shrinkage is quite a lot of shrinkage. Well, to start, your cold ingredients (eggs, milk, sour cream) should definitely be at room temperature. The egg + sour cream + oil mixture is whisked with a hand whisk until well combined (but no need to be frothy or aerated). Then when added to the dry ingredients, I also mix until smooth - no lumps. Same thing when I add the milk, the batter must be mixed until smooth. It is quite liquidy. I would also check to make sure exact amounts of the baking powder and baking soda are added so that the cupcakes don't 'over-rise' then deflate later. Well, at least the texture of your cupcakes was light and moist - and I am sure they were DELICIOUS! Please do keep me posted and I really hope for your next batch to be a success rewarding your patience and effort!

    4. Thanks Grace. I will definitely try again...after I finish the current ones. ;) My batter was liquidy too, which was why I couldn't identify the cause. Just one more question (sorry for so many qns). Do you use a KA mixer? When mixing the liquid ingredients into the dry ones, which speed do you use? I use speed 1, max 3. If all else is the same as what I did, I think it would be my oven.


    5. Jade hats off for your perseverance! Yes I do use the kitchen aid but I find I need to scrape down the bowl sides and bottom to make sure it's all properly mixed. To be sure, I usually finish off with my hand whisk. I don't delay and quickly fill the cup liners and put into the oven so the batter doesn't sit out too long. Also I don't let the oven get too hot (preheat too long) because that can cause tunnels in the cupcakes. I'm very sure you'll figure it out soon and am definitely keen to find out too. :)

  3. Thks for sharing the recipe. However, what type of flour you used as it dint indicate type of flour?

    1. Thanks for your question! I have used all purpose flour and also organic all purpose flour with good results. Would love to know how yours turns out!


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