Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Lemon Buttercream

Sometimes, I forget why I love baking.

I get so caught up in all the hustle and bustle of the day that I just...forget. I forget what butter and sugar look like mixed together. I forget what it's like to feel dough kneaded between my fingers. I forget what it's like to spread homemade icing on a cake, or pressing down buttery delicious graham cracker crumbs into a springform pan. I forget the heat of the oven, the smell of freshly baked cinnamon apple muffins, the first bite into a homemade cookie...

I forget all of the things that are so important to me. That keep me calm, balanced, and happy.

Baking has always been my get-away vacation from the norm. It's time I spend alone in a kitchen with nothing but frantic ideas. It's relaxing, for the most part. And even when it's not -- even when you take a task on so great that you end up curled into a ball on the kitchen floor with icing in your hair and a mess on the counters... you still feel like you conquered the world once that awesome dessert you spent 5 hours to perfect is on your table ready to be served, its demanding presence drawing everyone in.

They ooh, and ahh, and smile, and become happy with each bite. Therefore, making you happy in the process. Because not only did you totally kick that recipes BUTT, but you made people smile and forget their problems.

Baking is a gift. And I need to find more time in my life to do it.

That's why I forced myself in the kitchen yesterday. Though I dreaded the pile of dishes that would follow, I proceeded with confidence. I thought up a recipe. I mixed it all together. I baked them at 350F. And then I frosted them.

Thus, the birth of Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Lemon Buttercream.

And despite the natural light outside not doing well for my little starter DSLR, I went ahead and posted anyway.

'Cause honestly? These cupcakes could make anyones day ten times better.

I've never actually used real vanilla bean in a recipe before, so I was excited when I did for this one. I practically jumped around the room, showing everyone my vanilla bean.

I must've sounded like some kind of Ina Garten obsessed freakshow.

"Look! LOOK! It's a VANILLA BEAN. A REAL VANILLA BEAN! Oh my God. It's the pod and everything! Holy crap! I've only seen this on the teevee!"

Sadly, no one seemed as enthralled by it as I was.

Whatever. Don't judge me.

Anyway, I'm glad I mixed this into the buttercream. It added a fantastic vanilla flavor that I just loved. I used just a little bit of lemon, not enough to overpower it. I didn't want to get rid of that vanilla bean flavor. But you can definitely taste undertones of it. And when your teeth hit the perfect, fluffy vanilla cupcake underneath, you will be in spring HEAVEN.

It's really great to make for any spring-time get together, for church or just for friends coming over for a bit. I highly recommend eating it outside with a pitcher of lemonade while it's nice and sunny...preferably by a pool :) (If you don't have a pool, that's ok -- i'm sure those weird neighbors across the street wont mind you using theirs.)

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Lemon Buttercream


Vanilla Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter (8tbsp), room temperature (VERY important!)
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream or full-fat yogurt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Vanilla Bean Lemon Buttercream
1 vanilla bean
1 large lemon (or 2 small)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 sticks butter (16tbsp), room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place cupcake liners in a 12pc cupcake pan or spray with nonstick spray or bakers spray.

2. In an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or hand mixer), combine the flour, sugar and baking powder together. Add in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream/yogurt, and mix for 30 seconds (or 1 minute for hand mixer) until the dough is smooth with no clumps, making sure to scrape down the sides.

3. Disperse batter evenly into cupcake pan. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until tops are pale golden and a toothpick through the middle cupcake comes out clean. Once done, leave to cool on a wire wrack.

4. Meanwhile, make the frosting. To a bowl, add the butter, vanilla extract, the zest of 1 large lemon, and the juice of the same lemon. Mix together briefly to combine. Using a sharp knife, cut down the middle of the vanilla bean and scrape the beans inside out and into the mixing bowl. Mix again until the beans are incorporated into the butter. Add 3-4 cups gradually to the bowl until your frosting has the consistency you like, checking for taste after each addition (make sure it's not TOO sweet!)

5. Once cupcakes are cooled COMPLETELY, frost cupcakes as you desire (I just swirled them on with a knife... I'm simple.)


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