Normally I think most things vanilla-flavored are pretty boring, and not something I'd go out of my way to eat. But yesterday, when I was deciding what kind of cupcakes to make, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla filling and buttercream just sounded perfect. I'm still playing around with my favorite cake recipe to use when making cupcakes, but this one is nice and simple and good.
Cupcakes (Vanilla Buttermilk Cake)
adapted from Joy of Cooking
makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes plus 2 extra large (baked in ramekins)
2 1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 stick unsalted butter)
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line cupcake tins with paper liners.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
Beat the butter in a stand mixer until creamy, then add the sugar and beat 3-5 minutes, until very light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and mix well, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, and beat until smooth.
Add half the buttermilk, and beat until smooth.
Repeat with flour mixture, the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour mixture.
Fill the cupcake tins nearly to the top, then bake for 20-25 minutes (longer for the larger cupcakes), or until a thin knife inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
When cool, use a serrated knife to cut out the center of each cupcake, so you have a place to put the filling. (The cutout pieces are great to snack on while you finish the pastry cream and frosting.
Vanilla cream filling
adapted from The Secrets of Baking by Sherry Yard
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
a 2" piece of vanilla bean
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tbsp butter, softened
Bring a milk, half the sugar, and the scraped-out seeds of the vanilla bean (plus the pod) to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Sift together the rest of the sugar, the cornstarch, and the salt onto a piece of parchment.
Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl, add the sifted dry ingredients, and whisk until fluffy.
Gradually pour the simmering milk mixture in to the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then transfer back into the saucepan (on medium heat), and whisk until the mixture boils.
Continue whisking for about 3 minutes, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding.
Pour through a strainer into a bowl, and beat in the butter.
Press plastic wrap onto the top of the pastry cream and chill.
When cool, put the pastry cream into a large piping bag, and pipe into the center of each cupcake.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup butter, softened
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp meringue powder
2 tsp water
Beat the butter in a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment.
Beat in the vanilla.
Sift together the powdered sugar and meringue powder and add gradually to the butter.
Mix on medium speed while you add the water, 1/2 tsp at a time, until you have the desired consistency.
Add food coloring as desired.