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Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

February 3, 2011

Now that we’ve discussed food politics and the passions surrounding the meat industry, let’s talk about something a little less controversial. It’s like those times in college when you took a really hard test and then celebrated by reading fashion magazines and watching mindless television.

You know you’ve been there.

For years, I’ve been baking and decorating cakes for weddings and special occasions. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I’ve been doing it all wrong. Sorry, anyone I’ve made a cake for. I should have been using this buttercream. It’s everything it should be: smooth, creamy, lighter-than-air.

It’s slightly more time-intensive than butter and powdered sugar-based icings, but the extra ten minutes is worth it. Instead of causing you to struggle for that smooth, satiny finish atop a cake or cupcake, the process with this buttercream seems almost effortless.

And after your’re done photographing your cupcakes, you can spill them all over your computer, table and floor. Oh wait, that’s just me?

Since my mission was to experiment with the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I stuck with a trusted favorite for the cupcake base. I love this recipe for its ease and adaptability. And when decorating larger cakes, I have found it holds up well when stacking and transporting.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Recipe and tutorial courtesy of Whisk Kid 

*5 egg whites
*1 cup granulated sugar
*2 sticks butter
*1 tsp. vanilla extract
*Blue food coloring (optional)


*While I could easily give you the recipe, since I didn’t do anything to change the original that Whisk Kid posted, I would feel wrong not simply directing you to her website. Her tutorial is fantastic, with step by step instructions that walk you through the more dicey parts of making Swiss Meringue Buttercream. You can find the tutorial HERE
Additionally, this summer I made a very similar buttercream recipe to fill my first attempt at macarons. You can find that recipe HERE.
Happy Baking!

Magnolia Bakery’s Vanilla Cupcakes

May 2, 2010

The first time I tasted a Magnolia Bakery cupcake was in the fall of 2008 while I was in New York for The Rachael Ray Show. For those not familiar with Magnolia Bakery, it gained wide-spread recognition outside of NYC when Carrie Bradshaw, aka Sarah Jessica Parker, on Sex and the City declared the bakery her favorite place for a mini-cake fix. Being a devoted SATC fan, I was determined to play Carrie Bradshaw for the day (er…5 minutes) despite the cold, wind, and rain.

There are multiple Magnolia locations, but only the original on Bleeker Street would do for me. The shop was little, and unassuming with standing room only and a line outside the door that seemed to shout, “delicious cupcakes inside!” Delicious cupcakes indeed. I can still vividly remember my fist bite while walking and window shopping. The light, fluffy, perfectly balanced vanilla cake with a seriously sweet buttercream had me swooning. And while New Yorkers seem to have very strong opinions on what cupcakes are the best in the city, my outsider’s vote goes to Magnolia.

Soon after returning home from New York I Googled the recipe for Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcakes and was shocked and delighted that it was both available online and unblieveably easy. I’ve been making these cupcakes ever since, to the delight of many. And this week at work I was gifted with something from one of my co-workers: The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. Reason enough to make a couple dozen cupcakes, even if I have already been making the cupcakes for over a year.

*1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
*1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
*1 cup (2 sticks) butter
*2 cups sugar
*4 large eggs
*1 cup milk (I like to use buttermilk)
*1 tsp. vanilla extract

Buttercream Icing:
*1 cup (2 sticks) butter
*7 cups powdered sugar
*1/4 cup milk, cream, or half and half
*2 tsp. vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)

*Preheat oven to 350*F. 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, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
*Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. 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 two-thirds full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

*Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

For Buttercream:
*Beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute.
*Add in 4 cups of the powdered sugar and the 1/4 cup milk. Beat on medium high speed for 3-5 minutes until creamy. Add in the remaining powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until all the ingredients are well-combined and buttercream is fluffy and creamy.
*Pipe or spread the buttercream on top of the cupcakes when cupcakes are completely cool. Top with decorator’s sugar or sprinkles, if desired.

Happy Baking!
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