Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Very Versatile Vanilla Cupcakes

Hallo-thanks-mas is my favorite holiday of the year.

I love it so much that I apparently decided that I would live like a hermit, bake nothing, and ignore the responsibility of blogging.

The good news is that it’s a new year. AKA, all the holidays are over and I have no more excuses.

New year, new treats…


One of my Christmas presents this year was a gift of art. This art was to be designed by me and created sometime after the start of the New Year. Size and location were to be determined later. This is my new art:

As soon as I showed friends and family my new tattoo, I was asked, “What flavor is it?” Naturally, I responded with my favorite combination, vanilla with strawberry frosting! Then I decided that I really need to bake something and this could be the perfect reason to celebrate with cake.

I also wanted to bake something for my family reunion via chili cook off. Those poor guys never get any of my treats. And what better way to soothe an over-spiced tummy than with a delicious vanilla cupcake.

For these cakes I wanted a super vanilla cake with a gooey pink strawberry frosting. I used Martha Stewart’s Versatile Vanilla Cake recipe. And I may have found a new favorite cake.

Every time I ate one of these cupcakes (and over a course of about three hours, I ate three) I would exclaim, “They taste like vanilla ice cream!” The addition of extra egg yolk in the batter helps create such a nice dense, but fluffy cake. It really is like eating a cake version of vanilla ice cream.

Now, the frosting was another issue.

I LOVE Seven Minute Frosting. Some people hate that after it sits for a few hours it forms a dry, crusty outer layer. I loved when we would find the plate of extra frosting that my great-grandmother made. She would put it to the side and let it sit out with the other fantastic eats she made at Easter, Christmas, whatever celebration. It would turn into this almost Divinity-like goop--dry and crusty on the outside, delicious and gooey on the inside.

To me, the one thing missing from Seven Minute Frosting was an excess of flavor. It’s sweet. And a little vanilla-ish. But I wanted pink frosting. Preferably STRAWBERRY pink frosting. So I can either search tirelessly for some strawberry extract (yeah, I know I can buy it online) OR I can simply add some strawberry Jello to it.

I’m cheap. (And kinda lazy.) So I went for the Jello. It made sense to just dissolve it in the sugar mixture. However, this is not so. For any of y’all that don’t know, gelatin burns at a lower temperature than sugar. Yeah, so… burned strawberry sugar… not fun.

I ended up whipping about a tablespoon of gelatin into the egg whites before I added the sugar syrup. Worked like a charm! Except that it was a terribly humid and wet week. And I didn’t use vinegar to clean out my bowl. And I was simply destined to fail at this Strawberry Seven Minute Frosting venture.

Two and a half sticks of butter later and hello buttercream! I guess it turned into an Italian meringue buttercream. Honestly, it’s the new bleu strawberry buttercream. And I’ll share my recipe below.

Strawberry Meringue (Seven Minute Frosting) with Buttercream option
(adapted from these Martha Stewart recipes here and here)


3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

3 large egg whites, room temperature

1 tablespoon strawberry flavored Jello

1 1/4 cup (2.5 sticks) butter, softened

1. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and 2 tablespoons water. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved. Raise heat to bring to a boil. Do not stir anymore. Boil until a candy thermometer registers 230 degrees (about 5 minutes).
2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 1/2 minutes. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and jello.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat as soon as it reaches temperature. Turn mixer on medium speed. Pour the syrup in a steady stream down the side of the bowl of the mixer into the egg whites.
4. Beat frosting on medium speed until cool, 5 to 10 minutes.

If you’re lucky, and the humidity works perfectly for you, you can stop here. Just use it as soon as possible because this frosting does crust fast. If you’re luck runs more like mine, keep going: 

5. Change whisk attachment for the flat beater. Add softened butter about a tablespoon at a time. It might look like a little curdled, but keep beating. It will come together much like a Swiss meringue buttercream. 

As a side note, I’m a cupcaker, sugary treat maker, and frosting taster. However, I generally suck at making pies. And cookies aren’t really my niche. 

But I made these Ginger Molasses Cookies! And they’re super tasty! 

I’m pretty sure my dad ate two thirds of the batch this past weekend. (I’m also pretty sure I ate the other third.) They’re like a chewy ginger snap.

They’re my brother’s recipe. He’s the cookie guy.  I also failed to ask if I could share his recipe, so y’all can just drool. 

happy baking!