Vanilla cupcakes. They’re twee, overexposed and no good for my diet, but I’ve always wanted to know how to bake them well. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the fact that cupcakes always make people go WOAH. Everyone always loves a cupcake cook.
I also blame Sex and the City a little bit… and The Hummingbird Bakery has a lot to answer for.
So I added ‘learn how to bake and frost amazing cupcakes’ to my (now complete!!) Life List. It took about three months of cooking and decorating a batch of cupcakes each week – but it’s done. I’ve cooked Chocolate Cupcakes, Vanilla Cupcakes (my favourite), and Red Velvet Cupcakes. I’ve decorated birthday cupcakes for me, Elfie, my friends and my parent’s friends. I’ve played with pink, lilac, blue, red, green and black icing. I’ve learnt that there is nothing as annoying as icing sugar when it’s in a fine layer all over my kitchen. I have fed my one-year-old daughter sugar more times than is probably advisable.
But I can now make a damn fine cupcake in under an hour.
Some of the 48 cupcakes I baked for Elfie’s birthday
Elfie’s birthday tower
Heavy Metal cupcakes baked for my friend Rupert’s birthday
I can’t remember who I made these for. Possibly myself.
Donna’s birthday cupcakes
Donna’s birthday cupcakes.
- 120g plain flour
- 110g caster sugar
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 40g unsalted butter, at room temperature (or use salted and omit the pinch of salt)
- 120ml whole milk
- 1 egg
- tsp quality vanilla extract
- 180g icing sugar, sifted
- 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 25ml whole milk
- a couple of drops of quality vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) Gas 3.
- Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.
- Whisk the egg, vanilla extract and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
- Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched.
- A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the vanilla frosting on top and decorate.
- For the vanilla frosting:
- Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
- Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
- Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.