I love a cupcake. Vanilla, chocolate, vegan, banana nut, red velvet -you name it, I’ve tried it. Cupcakes are a bit of a phenomenon here in NYC, where the line at Billy’s Bakery can be as long as a club in the Meatpacking District. Cupcakes are here to stay, heck, there are even whole websites devoted to them. While true devotees can argue for days which is best (Crumbs! BabyCakes!), the cupcake that started it all can be traced back to a few well-heeled ladies. While discussing Big and Aiden, Carrie and Miranda of Sex and the City devoured the mouth-watering cupcakes of Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street.
While cupcakes may be passed their half-baked heyday, they are still my #1 choice for a proper birthday celebration. When faced with the dilemma of what to make for my friend Kathryn’s 22nd, I immediately thought of those big, obscene cupcakes with their floppy frosting and obnoxious sprinkles. Perfect for the anniversary of her 21st. Mission: cupcake was about to go full throttle.
I found a recipe online from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook for their classic vanilla cake, the ideal base for pastel-colored buttercream. I had to make a special trip to the store for self-rising flour, whole milk (screw calories) and four, yes FOUR, sticks of butter (to the horror of Mo!) Paula Deen would be proud.
The actual cake can be likened to a buttery angel food – relatively average. The whipped buttercream frosting is what makes these babies worthy of Carrie Bradshaw. By beating only part of the powdered sugar and butter together, then adding the rest of the sugar, you get a smooth, fluffy frosting. A splash of milk, vanilla and a couple drops of food coloring, and you’ve got yourself a personal sized party. Sprinkles are optional, but highly encouraged.
- 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Vanilla Buttercream, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with cupcake papers.
In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Yield: enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or 1 (9-inch) layer cake