Often the most beloved element of a cupcake is the frosting. A good frosting can elevate a simple cupcake to a delicious, rich dessert. Classic American buttercream is surprisingly easy to make, and can be adjusted to your personal preferences using added flavorings, and adjusting the ratio of the ingredients. American buttercream is simply a combination of butter, powdered sugar, vanilla (or other flavoring), and usually a bit of milk or cream- that’s pretty much it! The frosting I love to use the most often is my Cream Cheese Frosting, which is simply a variation on American Buttercream, with some cream cheese added. Free free to play with this recipe and adjust it to your palate. This is a very sweet, classic frosting that pairs well with most any flavor of cupcake.
American Buttercream Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (salted, or unsalted)
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (best quality available)
2-3 tablespoons heavy cream, half and half or milk.
*Optional- As mentioned above, I like a cream cheese version of this frosting best. The cream cheese adds to the creamy texture, and cuts down on the sweetness just a bit. If desired, for a very light cream cheese flavor add 1/2 block (4 oz). cream cheese, leaving the other ingredients (as listed above) the same. For a more traditional cream cheese flavor, reduce the butter to 1/2 cup, and add 1 block (8 oz.) of cream cheese. If using a full block of cream cheese, you can reduce the cream or milk to 1 tablespoon total.
Flavoring options- An almost unlimited number of flavoring options can be added in addition to, or instead of the vanilla. Orange and/or lemon zest, citrus extracts, mint extract, coconut extract or the seeds of a vanilla bean are all wonderful options. In most cases I’ll still add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, then 1/2 teaspoon of the other flavoring. For zest, add about 1 teaspoon fresh zest. For chocolate buttercream, add 1/2 cup (good quality) unsweetened cocoa powder.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter (on medium speed) until completely smooth (30 seconds to a minute). (If you are adding cream cheese, add it now, then beat until smooth)
* Add salt (if needed).
* One cup at time, add 2 cups of powdered sugar, beating after each addition.
* Add vanilla, or other flavorings and beat to combine.
* Add about 1 tablespoon of cream, and continue beating.
* Add the remaining 2 cups powdered sugar, one at a time.
* Add an additional 1-2 tablespoons cream until desired consistency is reached. If you want to pipe the frosting on cupcakes, the frosting should be nice and thick. Continue to beat another minute or so. The frosting should now be smooth and fluffy.
* If your frosting is not smooth, it is likely because the butter was not fully smooth before adding the other ingredients.
* If your frosting will not hold up when piped on cupcakes, your frosting has too much liquid or is too warm. Put entire bowl of frosting in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and it will stiffen up. If it is still too thin, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar, beat well.
Recipe Source- American buttercream first appeared in cookbooks in the early 1900′s (here’s a little buttercream history) Countless sources since then have included very similar versions, always using some combination of butter (or shortening), powdered sugar, milk and flavoring. The recipe above is simply the proportions I like to use.
Try this classic frosting on top of my favorite Vanilla Cupcakes or Chocolate Cupcakes.
I love pretty cupcake liners! Whenever I post cupcakes in pretty colored liners like I did for my Vanilla Cupcakes or my daughter’s Ladybug Birthday I get lots of questions about where I buy my liners. Most of the questions have to do with why the liners I use keep their color so well, and yet most of the liners you may try lose their color/pattern when you bake in them. There is no “secret technique” that I’m using, just better liners. Most cute printed liners found in craft stores lose their color/pattern when they are baked in. The colored liners I (most often) use are labeled either “greaseproof” or “glassine“. Those are the terms you want to look for if you want to bake in colored liners, and have them keep (most of) their color. Vanilla cupcakes, or light colored batters will keep the liners the most vibrant, but good quality liners should keep most of their color even with chocolate batter. Another option if you want to use up colored liners you have (that are not greaseproof), is to bake the cupcakes in white liners, then set the cupcakes (with the white liners) in the colored/patterned liners before serving.
These are a few of my favorite sources for beautiful cupcake liners (again, look for “greaseproof” or “glassine” if you want them to hold their color).
Sweet Baking Supply
Bake it Pretty
Bakers Stock (great for brown or white liners in bulk)
I like to store some of my pretty liners in glass jars, for easy access and a colorful display.
I’m guest posting today for my friend Callye, who you all know as the incredible cookie artist Sweet Sugar Belle. While she’s enjoying a well deserved vacation this week, I’m doing my best to help her hold down the fort. After my recent week of s’mores treats, I thought s’mores decorated cookies would be a special project to share. So head on over to Sweet Sugar Belle for all the decorating instructions on these fun cookies.
These cookies will join my collection of other s’mores treats…
Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes
Graham Cracker S’mores Cookies
S’mores Rice Krispies Treats
Today I’ll begin a series of posts that will cover (most) all of the basics of making cupcakes. A pretty cupcake is always a welcome sight at parties, or as a special treat. Before we can frost or decorate, we need a nice cupcake to start with, so let’s get baking!
First, you need a good recipe. I rely on my favorite Chocolate Cupcake Recipe and Vanilla Cupcake Recipe the most often, but I have several other delicious options on the Cupcakes page. You are certainly welcome to use a box mix, or other recipes as well, most of the tips below will apply to any recipe or mix you use.
1. Follow directions. I know… I’m sorry I have to say it, but it’s true! Recipes are written using certain techniques, each for a reason. If you don’t measure your ingredients properly, or omit ingredients, or over or under mix your batter, you should expect less than desirable results.
2. Preheat your oven. Don’t place your cupcakes in the oven until it is fully pre-heated. The heating element in your oven is extra intense as it is pre-heating, if you put your cupcakes in while pre-heating, the cupcake bottoms may over bake.
3. Don’t over fill the liners. Most cupcake batters need the structure of the sides of the liners to rise properly. Overfilling your batter will cause the batter to spill over the edges of the liners as it rises, often resulting in flat or mis-shaped cupcakes, and a big mess. Follow the instructions for the recipe or mix you’re using, most recommend filling the batter about 2/3 full.
(above) This is how high I fill the liners for most recipes (or box mixes), probably a bit less than 2/3
(below) You can see the baked results.
4. Divide the batter evenly among the liners. It’s impossible to get exact same amount of batter in each liner, but if they can be reasonably even, the cupcakes will bake evenly as well. For thinner batters, I use a large measuring cup with a pouring spout (shown below) to pour batter into the liners, doing my best to fill them about 2/3 full. For thicker batters, a large cookie or ice cream scoop works great. I have a scoop that holds about 3 tablespoons of batter, and it works great for dividing the batter.
5. Check the cupcakes at the minimum baking time. If the recommended baking time is 18-22 minutes, check them at 17 or 18 minutes (just a quick peek, make sure not to let too much heat out of the oven). If the tops are rounded and no long appear wet, they may be done. Pull out the pan and use a toothpick to check for doneness if you’re unsure. A toothpick inserted into a cupcake should come out with a few moist crumbs, but no wet batter. Over-baking the cupcakes, by even a few minutes, can cause them to be dry. Be carefully not to under-bake them either, the cakes need time to develop the structure to hold together. Cupcakes removed from the oven too early may never properly rise, or will sink in the center as they cool.
6. Cool cupcakes on a wire cooling rack, not in the cupcake pan. When you remove the cupcakes from the oven, allow to cool only a minute or so in the cupcake pan. Then use a potholder to hold the pan, and tilt it so you can remove the cupcakes and place them on a cooling rack. If you leave the cupcakes in the pan, they will continue to bake from the heat of the pan, and can dry out.
7. Store the cupcakes properly. Once the cakes have cooled, frost or cover right away. Cupcakes made from box mixes can be stored loosely covered, since they tend to get a bit sticky if stored airtight. Most cakes made from scratch can be covered with plastic wrap, or in a tupperware type container. Most cupcakes are best if eaten the day they are made. If needed, store the cupcakes up to 1 full day at room temperature, or freeze (wrapped well) until ready to use (defrost at room temperature).
8. With cupcakes, as with life… there are no guarantees. These tips will hopefully help you bake beautiful, delicious cupcakes, but much of baking is experimentation. I have made my share of over-baked, dry, ugly or otherwise sad cupcakes. I don’t have the answer to every possible baking dilemma… your oven, the weather, your ingredients… all play a part in the end results. In many cases, a swirl of icing and some sprinkles can cover quite a bit!
This week I’ve made 6 batches of vanilla cupcakes and a vanilla cake. I feel like my oven has been on for 42 hours straight! =) What are all these cupcakes for, you might ask. Well, for me… and for science, and for you too. Confused yet? I’ll explain…
I have been on a search for a perfect vanilla cupcake recipe for several years. I have tried Martha’s, Magnolia’s, Billy’s and Amy Sedaris’. I’ve read the Cake Bible from cover to cover (really!). I’ve googled until I can’t google anymore! Some of the recipes were good, just not perfect. I’ve considered just giving up… maybe my expectations were to high. I wanted a vanilla cupcake recipe that was as light and fluffy as a box mix, but without all the funny chemicals. I wanted a cupcake that was flavorful and moist. And I wanted it to be almost as easy to make from scratch as from a box.
This week, I wasn’t going to stop until I found what I was looking for. So I baked and baked… then went to the store for more butter and sugar, and baked some more! I tried recipes with butter, oil, or some of both… recipes with milk, buttermilk, or sour cream… 1 egg, 2 eggs, 5 eggs… baking powder, baking soda… bake at 350*, bake at 325*…
I made cupcakes that were lopsided, over-flowing, over-baked, and just plain ugly…
And then I made these…
They looked beautiful and tasted perfect, so I double checked all my notes to make sure I could remember what I put in them… then I made another batch to make sure it was THE ONE.
They were just as perfect!! I think I heard angels singing….
I am SO happy to share the results of my many experiments. I am perfectly happy with these cupcakes and look forward to making them again and again. Now certainly, peoples tastes and preferences vary greatly. I love these, my husband (my #1 taste tester) loves them, and I hope many of you will too. As with any recipe, it is very important to use the best quality ingredients you can. You will notice the recipe calls for cake flour, which is a bit more expensive than all-purpose flour, but I have found it is essential to produce the light and fluffy texture I was looking for. Also, the recipe uses oil instead of butter. I realized most cupcake recipes (from scratch) call for butter, and yet box mixes (which have the texture I was looking for) are baked using oil. I was concerned that using only oil would leave the cupcakes without adequate flavor, but I found that with good quality vanilla, these cupcakes are delicious and flavorful.
Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Recipe by Glorious Treats
Yields- 15-16 cupcakes
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)
* Preheat oven to 350*F.
* In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
* In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil, beat.
* Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture. Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk. Beat until just combined. Scrap down the side of the bowl.
* The batter will be thin. Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full.
* Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes.
* Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.
* Frost as desired when fully cool. I love to use my favorite Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting recipe.
* Feel free to use this recipe for a cake as well. The recipe above will work for a 6″ cake. Double the recipe for an 8″ or 9″ cake.
* A note about Cake Flour- Cake Flour has a lower protein content than traditional all-purpose flour, which results in a more tender, delicate crumb in the finished product. If you can not find or access cake flour, feel free to substitute as necessary, but your results will vary from the original recipe.
Brown cupcake liners from Simply Caked. The pretty purple cupcake liners are from Confectionery House. The pearlized sprinkles are from Sweet Baking Supply. Cupcake stands available at Farmhouse Wares.