If you couldn’t already tell from my first two posts, I love dessert. Along with the bad habits of nail biting, procrastination, and worrying, I inherited a major sweet tooth from my dad. The man could polish off a bag of Oreos or a pint of Haagan Dazs in one sitting. When we went out to eat, he would always order dessert—usually something fruity, like a tart or key lime pie. In this way, he was quite unlike the rest of us in the family, who would always select the richest chocolate option on the dessert tray.
I’ve never really learned to cook—thank goodness I married a man who loves to—but I have always enjoyed baking. I like the preciseness of it. In cooking, you can kind of fudge measurements, add a pinch of this or that “to taste” or substitute ingredients. But baking is an exact science. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that freely pouring baking powder into cake batter will make a mess in the oven when the batter overflows from your pan. Leaving the mixer on for just a few seconds too long while whipping cream will leave you with butter. I still remember the time that my mom and I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies using baking soda instead of baking powder, and ended up with bitter, flat discs. Yuck.
I like knowing exactly how much of an ingredient I need to use and exactly how long a batch of brownies need to stay in the oven. I like seeing the ingredients go into the oven raw, and come out warm and sweet smelling. When we got married last year, visions of the deep fryer and pots and pans we had included on our registry danced in my husband’s head and I lusted after a (pink!) Kitchen Aid mixer, baking sheets, and a glass cake dome.
Now, this weekend, I have a wedding shower to attend in which we are supposed to share a favorite recipe with the bride. What to choose? I thought about maybe picking something Italian—like Sunday gravy or meatballs. But, none of that stuff has ever been written down in my family, so I wouldn’t know the first place to start!
Remembering how excited I was to receive my new baking gadgets, I opted to go with a sweet instead. For the bride’s gift, I chose a cupcake pan and display tree (from my idol’s kitchen gadget collection) from her registry and will be sharing the cupcake recipe that I used for Valentine’s Day this year.
I had never made cupcakes from scratch before, and the whole process took me about four hours in the kitchen, but the end result was worth it. The vanilla cake recipe, from the famous Magnolia Bakery, was perfect. The cake was springy and moist when you bit into it and a little vanilla went a long way. I am convinced that I will never find a better chocolate buttercream icing than this one from Williams-Sonoma. I piped it on to the cupcakes with a pastry bag, an activity which I found so relaxing. I still cannot believe all of the confectioners’ sugar that went into the recipe—I think 6 cups worked out to roughly a full box and a quarter of another. I won’t lie—I ate the leftovers by the spoonful after the cupcakes were all iced. My teeth felt like they were going to rot out and I had a sugar headache after that, but the sweetness is definitely minimized when it’s paired with the cake.
Hopefully, this recipe will set the newlyweds on a path to a sweet life together!
Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcakes
Recipe posted on the Food Network website
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
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
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
Quick Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen
8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
6 cups confectioners’ sugar
16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
6 Tbs. milk, plus more, if needed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
Put the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler set over but not touching simmering water in the bottom pan. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Let cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, the 6 Tbs. milk, the vanilla and salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, then reduce the speed to low. Add the chocolate and beat until combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 1 minute more.
If the frosting is dry, add more milk, 1 tsp. at a time, until it is creamy but still holds peaks. Makes about 4 1/2 cups.