Sunday, 15 June 2008

Vanilla cupcakes

I am happy. My kitchen currently smells of warm vanilla. My mission, if I choose to accept it, is to make the cupcakes as vanilla-y as possible.

Twelve little cupcakes ready for transit:

The CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) and CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) have both made it very clear that they are partial to Swiss meringue buttercream. They did this subtly with statements such as “I wouldn’t bother with any other kind of buttercream” and “this is the best buttercream ever – nothing else comes close”. I can take a hint.

Look at the yummy, sweet, sticky Swiss meringue buttercream – so smooth and light:

Sometimes it’s nice to strip things back to really simple, basic flavours. That’s what I’ve tried to do here – so often the vanilla cupcake is the foundation for a fancy flavoured buttercream or icing that we forget just how lovely it is when it’s allowed to be the star of the show.

You can see the vanilla seeds from the vanilla infused sugar in the finished sponge:

For the cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar – I used vanilla infused caster sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk (whole or semi skimmed)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the buttercream:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar – I used vanilla infused caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases.
- Start by making the cupcakes. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour, milk and vanilla to the bowl and beat until the mixture is well combined and smooth.
- Spoon the mixture into the paper cases.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 17 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. The cupcakes can be made a day in advance and stored, when cool, in an airtight container. I made the buttercream on the day I wanted it.
- Make the buttercream. Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and stir constantly to stop the egg from cooking.
- After 5-10 minutes the sugar should have dissolved. You will know whether this has happened by looking at the back of the spoon – if you can see any sugar crystals the mix needs more heating and stirring.
- When no crystals are visible, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk the meringue mixture until it has puffed up and cooled.
- Add the butter and vanilla to the meringue and continue to whisk. The mixture will collapse initially but don’t panic; keep whisking and it will form a smooth, fluffy buttercream.
- Pipe on to the cupcakes and decorate as you wish.
- The finished cupcakes will keep for a couple of days at room temperature. Not that they’ll have the chance!
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Hippolyra said...

If you ever make these again and need a tester please let me know!

So pretty, I really need to get over my fear of meringue buttercream. I am currently mildly obsessed with cupcakes - both eating and baking them!

Dee said...

Simply stunning!
Truth is, I'm a little scared of meringue buttercream. I'm still got my baking training wheels on, and meringue buttercream seems so intimidating :(

The Caked Crusader said...

Thanks for both of your comments. There's nothing scary about swiss meringue buttercream at all - you don't even need a sugar thermometer for it. What you do need is a good electric whisk as your arm might fall off doing it by hand!
Please try it - you'll be so thrilled with the results

Margaret said...

I love vanilla. These cupcakes remind me of a Mr Whippy icecream which I was always very fond of.
You have iced them beautifully.