Friday, December 2, 2011

Cupcake Amateur: One Woman's Journey To Find (and Make) The Perfect Vanilla Frosting

I had this great idea that cupcakes would be my "thing".  The one thing that I'd be really great at when it came to baking... maybe I spoke too soon.

So, my latest invention was Cranberry Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting (OK, maybe it's not an invention but, I did come up with the idea without looking at a recipe book or perusing online... Kudos to me!) .  The Cranberry Vanilla part was easy but, the frosting?  Not so much.

I had decided to start by making the frosting first because, if it came out a little too thin, I could set it in the refrigerator for a bit while baking the cupcakes.  Even though I "invented" the cupcake recipe, the Vanilla frosting recipe, I did not. I got one from a crappy bakebook I bought at Barnes & Noble on the bargain rack.  Mistake #1.

Tell me what's wrong with this recipe's ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

See what I see? Where's the wet ingredients? No milk or heavy cream or even water... Ridiculous! And, of course, I didn't realize it until I'd already start mixing together. I tried adding milk but, in the end, it was too runny. Mistake #2.

I finally decided to go with a tweaked version of a recipe I used on an earlier cupcake. However, at first, it wasn't so great. I had put it in the fridge to set but let it set too long. When I took it out and whipped it some, it was still too firm and turned out like this...

My husband was walking through the kitchen while I was still fuming and said "Is that mashed potatoes?". As much as I tried to give him the evil-eye, there was no denying that it DID look like mashed potatoes and I ended up laughing hysterically!

So, I ended up adding a little extra milk, warming it on the stove and just letting it set in the fridge for a few minutes. When I finally took it out, it was perfect!  I added it to a freezer storage bag, clipped the corner and piped the icing smoothly onto the cupcake.  You gotta love those storage bags :)

Cake (makes 24 cupcakes):

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, beaten
3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream (Tip: Sour cream is a GREAT add to all cupcake mixes. Makes them super moist!)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup frozen cranberries, thawed and minced in food processor

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with liners.
2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.
3.  Next add your eggs, butter, vanilla and milk. Using a hand mixer (or Stand Mixer, if you're lucky enough to have one. GRRR I do not... yet!), beat on medium speed until well blended.
4.  In a food processor, pulse your cranberries until minced. Add to cupcake batter and mix together evenly.
5.  Pour batter into cupcake liners until half full. (Tip: Put the batter into a large freezer storage bag and cut the corner tip. Piping the mixture into the liners is way less messy!)
6.  Bake cupcakes for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Vanilla Frosting:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1.  In a medium saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and heavy cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.
2.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl and beat on high speed until cool. Add the butter and beat until completely blended. Add the vanilla and continue mixing until all is well combined. If the frosting is too thin, set in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set. If it's too thick, cook on stove on medium heat, add a little bit of milk and continue stirring until you reach a smooth consistency.

Happy Baking

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