Simple, but definitely not basic, this is my go to cupcake recipe for birthday celebrations, it’s simply the best vanilla cupcake I’ve ever tasted.
Now, this is not my usual health foodie, super food, gluten free, hidden avocado type of recipe. What this is, is a celebration cake and we all deserve a little celebration every once in a while. Although, not a health food by any means, you still won’t find in here anything artificial or super processed (save the white flour), I use whole foods and organic ingredients and I promise you that makes a difference! This is not my recipe, I did not develop it and believe it or not I have not modified the recipe in any way, shape or form. With that said, I’m choosing to share it with you here in the month of May (birthday month for both of my kids, my mom & sister-in-law, phew that’s a lot of celebrating!) because I think it’s the type of basic that every person, and most especially every parent should have in their repertoire. Yes, making these cupcakes takes slightly more effort than opening up a box mix, but the effort is minimal and the results are worth it.
I’m also including my all time favorite frosting recipe. For anyone who’s a fan of red velvet, you will love this cream cheese based frosting, so delicious! Even though I cook all the time and bake a lot of muffins and cookies, I really don’t consider myself a baker. A baker follows the rules, I like to improvise, modify, change on a whim pretty much every recipe I encounter. I have been working on a variation of this cream cheese frosting for years and my results have mostly been less than outstanding and sometimes even colossal failures. As a lover of healthy food and a conscious eater, the amount of sugar and butter called for in most frosting recipes makes me cringe and let’s not even mention shortening, no, don’t even talk about it. So I have tried and failed over and over again to make a frosting that’s a little bit healthier than the norm, my results are usually pretty tasty (I mean we are still talking butter, cream cheese and sugar here and sometimes a little mascarpone and/or heavy cream!), but also pretty disastrous. My frostings are usually too runny and my most recent effort for Evan’s 7th birthday was just a horrific lumpy mess (luckily it was just the celebration for our family of four!). I have to say the lumpy frosting was my worst yet, it started out great, but than Colin said it was a little too buttery tasting than I made a colossal error and I knew it as it was happening and I just couldn’t stop myself…note to all never, ever, ever add cold cream cheese to your frosting mix, never! Enough said.
So, for Evan’s classroom birthday celebration today, I made my perfect go to vanilla cupcakes and I used my dad’s perfect frosting recipe, no modifications whatsoever. Evan was really concerned about the frosting and told me “please, mommy do not use the lumpy frosting for my class, I’m afraid everyone will hate it and stop going to your blog”. He is always honest and will always tell you how he feels, just ask Colin’s sister Megan what happens when you buy the wrong color Angry Bird’s blanket for the kid who loved nothing but blue for two years, until he suddenly switched to now favorite color red and no one informed the aunt, it was a priceless moment of honesty no one in our family will forget! I got the point, so I let Evan do a taste test of the frosting this morning before school, he gave me the thumbs up with a big smile on his face, told me it was perfect and that he was so proud of me for making the best cupcakes ever and now finally the best frosting! This was a happy mom moment to say the least.
I would be remiss if I didn’t state here and now, that my dad is an amazing baker who treats us to some of the tastiest, most beautiful, whimsical and creative desserts ever, if he gives you a recipe for frosting or any other dessert, you do not change a thing and you and everyone around you will be doing a happy dance. Enough said, now on to the recipe…
The Best Vanilla Cupcakes
with Poppy’s Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting
Author: Jen Jones of SweetGreenKitchen.com
Recipe credits –
Cupcake recipe from Cook’s County Magazine “Easy Birthday Cupcakes” – very slightly modified
My dad’s frosting recipe
Makes 24 cupcakes
3 cups unbleached all purpose Organic flour
1 teaspoon Baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 extra large organic eggs – at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups organic cane sugar
12 tablespoons ( 1 ½ sticks ) unsalted organic butter – melted and cooled slightly or very, very soft left on the counter on a hot summer day
1 ¼ cups organic buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound ( 2 8 ounce packages ) organic cream cheese – NOT low fat or Neufchatel
1 ½ sticks unsalted organic butter
2 ½ – 3 cups powdered sugar – adjust to taste
A good splash of pure vanilla extract
food coloring or 1 – 2 Tablespoons of jam (not too much or the frosting will be too runny)
**** NOTE – cream cheese and butter MUST be softened at room temperature – do NOT use cold ingredients or melted butter.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two standard cupcake/muffin tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Next pour sugar into whisked eggs, continuing to whisk the mixture as you pour the sugar. Slowly, whisk in the melted or very soft butter into the sugar and eggs. Once the butter is incorporated, whisk in the buttermilk.
Next, add the flour mix to the wet ingredients, by first whisking in 1/3 of the flour until it’s mostly incorporated, then do the same with the next 1/3. Lastly, add in the remaining flour and mix to fully combine without over mixing. This will be a nice thick batter.
Using a spring loaded ice cream scoop (or a small measuring cup), fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
Bake in a 325 F oven with the two tins side by side on the center rack for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 5 minutes on a wire rack. After 5 minutes, turn out the cupcakes onto the wire rack to cool completely, about an hour, before frosting.
In a large glass bowl add the softened cream cheese and butter and mix together with a hand held electric mixer. Mix in the vanilla. Then slowly mix in powdered sugar about a cup at a time. With the powdered sugar, start the mixer on the lowest setting and then gradually increase the speed until it is incorporated. Taste as you go and stop adding sugar once the frosting is sweet enough for you. IF you wish to color your frosting, add in the food coloring now. Continue to mix the frosting until it’s lighter and fluffy.
If you plan to make the frosting ahead of time, cover and store in the fridge until ready to use, taking it out of the fridge about 10-15 minutes before frosting the cupcakes and remix to lighten it up again.
Frosting can be applied directly to the cooled cupcakes with a palette or for more flourish, piped on.
* Recipe Notes:
True confessions, even though I said I didn’t modify the cupcake recipe at all, I did make some very minor, slight changes –
Original recipe calls for cake flour, I just use unbleached all purpose.
Original recipe calls for large eggs, I always buy extra-large so that’s what I use, no problems detected.
The original recipe also does not call for organic ingredients, but that’s what I use and I really think it makes a difference, especially the sugar, organic cane sugar just tastes better to me than bleached white sugar.
Another note on sugar, as I made this recent batch of cupcakes I discovered at nearly midnight that I did not have enough sugar (this almost never ever happens to me, since I’m a little crazy and always have an extra bag or box of pretty much everything in my pantry at all times!). So what to do…I subbed in organic brown sugar for about 1/3 of the sugar and the cupcakes came out just as perfect as they always do.