Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just Plain Good Cupcakes

Today's recipe is one of my all-time favorite cupcake recipes. It's originally from the book Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos. I've made this recipe countless times, and the recipe as is was good, but through experimenting, I've found that two small tweaks I made to the recipe make it excellent. This recipe and my post on the yellow cupcakes are my two absolute favorite vanilla cake recipes. I find that vanilla cake is much trickier to make homemade because sometimes a recipe can be kind of dry, not flavorful enough, or sometimes it can even end up tasting like cornbread. But these cupcakes are wonderfully moist, have a nice and noticeable vanilla flavor, certainly taste like a cupcake, and really are just plain good. They're actually so moist that a little bit of the cupcake always sticks to my silicone liners!

The changes I made to the recipe to make it great were super simple. Subtract just a tiny bit of flour and up the vanilla. As I said, the cupcakes were good as is, but each time I made them I found them to be a little dense and the vanilla flavor wasn't as strong as I wanted it to be. I find that when you're working with just vanilla as a flavor, you really can't be shy when it comes to the vanilla extract. You have to add in a good bit otherwise the flavor just won't be noticeable enough. So I doubled the vanilla and subtracted a little less than 2 tablespoons of flour, and they were absolutely perfect. I really encourage you to try out the recipe. It only makes four, but you can certainly double it or quadruple it if you like. Plus, it's a super quick and easy recipe. You don't need electric mixer or anything. I whip them together with a sturdy whisk just fine.

Just Plain Good Cupcakes (adapted from Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos)
Makes 4 cupcakes

  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and evenly swept
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (You can just use the sour milk trick that I always use. Place a 1/4 tablespoon [you can eyeball a half of 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon] of lemon juice or vinegar in a 1/4 cup measuring cup. Fill the rest of the way with milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes before using)
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 4 muffin cups with liners.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the melted butter to the flour mixture and stir until pasty and moist.
  3. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk (or sour milk) and baking soda. Stir to mix. Stir in the egg yolk and vanilla. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a sturdy whisk until well combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among the 4 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
You can frost them with whatever frosting you like. Mine are frosted with one of my favorites: French Silk frosting. (Just halve the recipe there to make enough for the four cupcakes.)

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