The test of a true cookbook is in the cupcake. Cookbooks can offer pastries, pies, tarts, cookies, and, more often than not, they will turn out just fine. But when the real proof in the pudding (pardon the pun) lies in the cupcake. I can’t tell you how many baking books claim to be the greatest but can’t back it up when it comes to their cupcakes. Dry, tasteless, overly sweet and too crumbly. These are just some of my issues with many cupcakes, which is why I normally just say no to cupcakes. Why waste the calories on a boring cupcake?
However, this cupcake. THIS cupcake was magical. I have never been to the Back in the Day Bakery; I’ve never actually been to the south. But I saw so much buzz about this bakery and thought the photographs in the book looked so lovely that I knew I had to get it. Do you ever do that, buy cookbooks from bakeries that you haven’t even visited? I try not to because they always produce lack-luster recipes (hhmmphh) but this one has my seal of approval. Whatever that means!
Anyways, these vanilla cupcakes were pretty simple to put together and the flavor was rich but not cloyingly sweet. That is my major gripe with vanilla cupcakes; they are too sweet and that doesn’t even include the frosting. Plus, they are too dry or heavy. A heavy cupcake is the death of me. I don’t want to eat a muffin, I want to eat a light, moist cupcake. You know what I mean?
Ok, cupcake rant over. Before I leave you with this recipe, I feel that it is my duty and obligation to tell you about this chocolate buttercream frosting. I have never EVER made such silky chocolate frosting. Seriously. If I could have eaten the entire vat of frosting and not felt sick afterwords, I would have. I wouldn’t recommend trying to pipe the frosting though as it was really soft and smooth. I only piped four cupcakes before realizing that pretty soon, I would have a messy chocolate mess on my hands. One tip: use dark chocolate or bittersweet chocolate, if you can. The dark chocolate flavor will balance out the sweetness of the cupcake, making this a dessert for all. Even those (like me) who claim to not like cupcakes.
Old Fashioned Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from: The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
Yields: 18 cupcakes
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups unbleached flour
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 recipe buttercream frosting
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a large measuring cups or a small bowl, mix together the milk and vanilla; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large mixing bowl, using a handheld mixer), combine both flours, the sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture resembles course sand.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Turn the speed to low and gradually add the milk and vanilla, then mix for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the butter and mix until blended.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a rubber spatula, incorporate any ingredients hiding at the bottom of the bowl, making sure the batter is completely mixed.
With a large ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cupcake cups, filling each baking cup about two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for at least 20 minutes.
To frost the cupcakes:
Using a spatula or a butter knife, spread the tops of the cupcakes, with swirls of frosting. Top with sprinkles, if desired.
The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days.
Chocolate Buttercream frosting:
9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a simmering saucepan of water ( do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water) and stir occasionally until the chocolate is completely melted. Set the chocolate aside to cool to room temperature.
in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium mixing bowl, using a hand mixer) beat the butter on a medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the milk, mixing until completely blended. Add the cooled chocolate and mix until completely incorporated, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add the vanilla and beat just until mixed. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar and continue beating, adding more sugar as needed, until you reach a creamy, silk frosting consistency. The frosting can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.