October 26, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes

It's almost Halloween again, and you know what that means. SUGAR! Preferably in the form of cupcakes. Last year, I showed you all how to make chocolate cupcakes that looked like brains and gingerbread cupcakes that looked like mummies. College dorms aren't exactly the best cupcake-decorating centers, BUT I do have an amazing recipe for old-fashioned vanilla cupcakes that you can use as a base for Halloween decorating fun (or any other occasion).

This is a pretty standard cupcake recipe. There's your dry ingredients: flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. I use flour and cornstarch to mimic cake flour; if you have cake flour, just use 1 1/4 cups instead of the flour and the cornstarch. It makes a lighter, fluffier cupcake with a more delicate crumb, as my 9th grade biology experiment determined. As for the wet ingredients, I use eggs, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. I'm convinced 99% of all good cupcakes have buttermilk, and this recipe is no exception. I just use plain vanilla extract, but a vanilla bean would give the cupcakes an extra punch of flavor. All you have to do is cut the bean in half from top to bottom, scrape out the seeds, and stir them into the batter. It tastes so much better, although I usually only use vanilla beans for special occasions since they can be a little pricey.

You can decorate these cupcakes however you want. You can use canned frosting or homemade buttercream, which is surprisingly easy to make but also uses an obscene amount of butter. Another one of my favorite ways to decorate cakes and cupcakes is modeling chocolate. It's like fondant but easier to make, and you can roll it and shape it however you want. Just melt some chocolate or those melting candies that mimic chocolate, mix it with some corn syrup, and knead it until it's doughy.

The pictures here are from when I made birthday cupcakes with the vanilla cupcake recipe and some modeling chocolate. I used plain white candy melts and dyed them various colors, then I used cookie cutters to cut them into flowers and other shapes. I've found that pasta rollers are perfect for rolling sheets of modeling chocolate to cover things with or to cut out shapes. For Halloween, you can roll orange balls of modeling chocolate into pumpkins, cut out ghosts, black cats, or other shapes, or make a witch hat out of a cone-shaped piece and a flat circle. Really, you can make just about anything for Halloween or anything else you feel like baking for.

1 Cup + 2 T Flour
2 T Cornstarch
1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Cup Oil
1/2 Cup Buttermilk

Heat oven to 350F and line a muffin tin with paper cups.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the vanilla and the oil. Stir in a third of the flour, then whisk in half the buttermilk. Repeat, then whisk in the remaining flour.

Scoop the dough into the prepared cups and bake for 10-12 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 14
Recipe Adapted from Natasha's Kitchen

Modeling Chocolate:
14 oz Chocolate or Candy Melts
1/3 Cup Corn Syrup

Heat the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave until melted, stirring occasionally. Add the corn syrup and knead until doughy, about 5 minutes. Dye with food coloring if desired (gel food coloring, not the droppers of liquid, work best) and shape.

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