“I am 3!” said my daughter, Nia, as she raised her little fingers and counted upto three. Yes, my babygirl just turned three! I don’t know where the last three years have gone and it’s hard to believe that she’s grown up into a girlie girl who loves getting dressed, going shopping, talking incessantly all the time and even cooking tirelessly in her own little kitchen spinning out delicacies for mommy, daddy and anyone who comes over. (I secretly pray she becomes a cooking show host one day!)
This birthday was certainly different than her previous birthdays. She actually understood that the day was something special and that it was all about her. So we decided to have two parties! One at school and one at home and she had a blast at both. With all the gifts that she received, she was one very happy birthday girl! To make it even more special Mommy decided to bake her birthday cake. While I usually try to put as much distance myself and the oven, since my bake-a-thon this past holiday, I have been growing more and more confident.
So what’s more challenging (and incredibly stressful) than making your own daughter’s birthday cake?! - making her a birthday cupcake
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
“Mmmm I love cupcakes” says Nia all the time. They are her all-time favorite! So, I decided to do a “Cupcake Birthday” for Nia! And why not?! Cupcakes are so adorable; they are the perfect treat to inspire a cute and fun birthday party for girls of any age! Also, cupcakes are so little… should be easy to make right? – Wrong! Cupcakes are deceptively tricky and to make my culinary challenge even more challenging, I decided to make them from scratch (yes, no box mix!) But I have a tried-and-tested pound cake recipe up my sleeve; I decided to use it just tweaked it a wee bit. The resultant cupcakes were naturally more cake-like, slightly richer and denser, yet decadent with the buttery goodness. Finally, the frosting – to make them look nice and pretty. Given that strawberry is her favorite fruit and everything (yes, everything!) has to be pink, I piped strawberry buttercream spirals on all those cupcakes and then decorated them with vibrant pink sugar and snow flakes (in the spirit of the season ) in a festive palette.
Now at the judge’s table: The night before, I secretly gave Nia one cupcake to nibble at, praying and hoping….. and she said “Mommy, I love it”!!!
Of course you don’t need to wait for a birthday to try these cute cupcakes; they’re great for any occassion! Any day is a good day for making my vanilla bean cupcakes with the sweet-tart strawberry butter cream frosting. To make a lighter version, try substituting reduced fat or whipped cream cheese or strawberry flavored cream cheese instead of butter for the frosting. But, let me warn you, you may very quickly get addicted!
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Makes 20-24 cupcakes
2 sticks or 1 cup (1/2 lb or 200 g) unsalted sweet cream butter, softened
1 ¼ cups sugar
¼ cup light /heavy cream
1/2 vanilla pod, beans removed or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
24 cupcake liners
butter or PAM for baking spray (optional)
Standard 1/2 cup Muffin Pan – 12 cup; 16″x11.25″
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the muffin pan with individual cupcake liners.
Butter or spray the top of the muffin pan with PAM for baking spray.
Cream the butter and the sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer or using a hand mixer on low speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
Seperate egg whites and keep aside.
Using a paring knife slit open the vanilla bean pod and scrape the seeds out. In a separate mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks with the vanilla seeds (or extract if using) and cream until light and frothy. With the electric mixer on medium-low, gradually add the egg yolk mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and mix for about a couple of mins.
In another bowl, whisk togehter flour and baking powder.
With the electric mixer on medium speed, alternately add the flour mixture, a third at a time, and the egg whites, a third at a time, to the butter and egg mixture, beating for 2 minutes between each addition.
Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.
Bake in the oven (middle rack) for 20-22 mins or till the cakes is golden brown and the toothpick comes out clean after inserting in the center. If not, bake another 2-4 minutes, and check again.
Remove the muffin pan from the oven and let it sit for a couple of mins. Take the cupcakes out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Repeat the procedure for the second batch of cupcakes.
Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
For 24 cupcakes
2 sticks or 1 cup (1/2 lb or 200 g) unsalted sweet cream butter, softened at room temperature (For a lighter version, substitute reduced fat or whipped cream cheese or strawberry flavored cream cheese)
3 cups powdered or confectioners sugar (I purposely added less sugar to give the frosting a more sweet-tart flavor. Feel free to add more sugar, if you like your frosting sweeter)
1-2 tbsp heavy/light whipping cream (Add more cream, if needed, to make the frosting into a smooth consistency)
3/4 cup of strawberry preserves/jam (Alternatively, add your favorite jam or food coloring available at craft stores like Michaels, A.C. Moore)
colored and decorating sugars or your favorite sprinkles (available at Wholefoods)
Prepare butter cream by using electric mixer to whisk the soft butter with sifted confectioners sugar until creamy. Add strawberry preserves or jam along with the cream to loosen up the mixture and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 min or so, adding more cream if needed till you get a smooth “spreadable” consistency.
Prepare the confectioner/pastry paper or disposal (ziploc/glad) bag by snipping off the tip and fitting it with your choice of piping tip. Transfer the prepared butter cream into it and squeeze out on the top of your cupcakes.
Sprinkle with decorating sugar.
These cupcakes can be made 24-48 hours in advance and refrigerated.
Serve chilled or leave it on the counter at room temperature for about half hour before serving.