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~ For the Love of Vanilla: Double-Vanilla Cupcakes ~

IMG_8001Vanilla is easy to love -- its scent is enchanting, its taste is exotic.  It can be used in an array of sweet and savory culinary applications, but, it is indisputably the number one flavoring in baked goods. For my taste, most published recipes don't add enough vanilla.  Be it vanilla beans, paste, extract or powder, I typically double the recommended amount -- yes, I double it and I have never once been disappointed.  There's more:  I'll bet a lot of you do the very same thing.

IMG_7867Not being a professional baker does not mean I'm not a good baker -- it means I am a very good baker who doesn't love baking because I'm not naturally drawn to the dessert table.  That said, I do have a repertoire of excellent go-to recipes for when I am required or requested to bake, which, due to circumstances beyond my control, is several times a year.   Everyone who bakes needs to "own" a really good yellow "vanilla" cake batter.  One that bakes up moist, fluffy and full of vanilla flavor in cakes or cupcakes.  An excellent basic vanilla cake recipe is like an excellent basic chicken stock recipe.  I refer to my chicken stock as "liquid gold" and my yellow cake as "solid gold".  My recipe isn't top-secret rocket-science.  It is a combination of "all the right stuff" needed to produce a moist (cup)cake.  It delivers all of that and more.  You bake it, you decide.

IMG_7881A bit about vanilla bean paste and vanilla powder:  Everyone who bakes stores high-quality pure vanilla extract (not imitation flavoring) in their pantry along with a few vanilla bean pods too. They're available everywhere, with extract being more economical than whole pods.  You'll find two other vanilla products in my pantry too: vanilla bean paste & vanilla powder.

Vanilla bean paste is a sweet, syrupy mixture full of vanilla beans that have been scraped out of the pods.  Like vanilla extract, it's full of IMG_7887natural vanilla flavor, plus, it's got all the pretty speckled beans in it too.  I think of it as a convenient cross between the extract and the pod, and, I like to add it to cake batters because the seeds distribute themselves evenly throughout the mixture.  1 tablespoon paste = 1 tablespoon extract = 1 bean pod.

Vanilla powder is a free-flowing sugar which may be used in place of pure extract in any recipe.  It stirs into beverages, and, gets sprinkled onto desserts.  I particularly like it for making vanilla cake frosting because it doesn't affect the color like extract does.  1 tablespoon powder = 1 tablespoon extract.

Over the last few years, the USA experienced a cupcake phase!

IMG_7971Meet my easy-to-make light & moist, yellow cupcake recipe:

IMG_7982This one is for all of you "double the vanilla" lovers!

IMG_7900For the dry mixture: 

1  cup cake flour

1/2  cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2  cup sugar

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

For the liquid mixture:

6  tablespoons salted butter, at IMG_7894room temperature, very soft

2  tablespoons vegetable oil

4  large egg yolks, at room temperature

1/4  cup milk, at room temperature

1/2  cup sour cream, at room IMG_7897temperature

1  teaspoon vanilla extract

2  teaspoons vanilla bean paste

~ Step 1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 1-2 standard-sized muffin pans, enough for 12 cupcakes, with cupcake papers.

IMG_7904~ Step 2.  In a large bowl, place and stir together the dry ingredients: flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  

IMG_7908In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, milk, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste, until uniform in color (it doesn't need to be smooth).

IMG_7920 IMG_7913~ Step 3. Add butter to dry ingredients and on low speed of mixer, combine until "sandy".  

IMG_7919Add the oil and combine until mixture resembles damp sand, about 1 minute.

IMG_7927 IMG_7926~ Step 4. Increase mixer speed to medium and add the eggs, beating until uniform in color, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula, about 30 seconds.  

Note:  At this point, the mixture will be very moist, pasty and rough looking -- not smooth and creamy.

IMG_7934 IMG_7930~ Step 5. Add the sour cream mixture and continue to beat over medium speed until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, again, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase speed to high and beat for 1 minute.  You will have 2 generous cups of spoonable cake batter.  Take a taste!

IMG_7941 IMG_7936~ Step 6. Spoon the batter into each cupcake paper, filling it halfway, about 3 tablespoons per cup.

~ Step 7.  Bake cupcakes, all at once, on center rack of preheated IMG_7949oven 13-15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of one or two comes out clean.  Cupcakes will be puffed through to their centers and just beginning to brown a bit around the edges.

Remove pans from oven.  Wait about 1 minute, then, transfer cupcakes from pans to a cooling rack to cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours, prior to frosting.

Cool completely prior to piping with your favorite frosting, or...

IMG_7964... try my Delightfully Double-Vanilla Sour-Cream Frosting!

IMG_7984In a medium bowl over high speed of mixer, beat for 3 minutes:

6  tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, very soft

6  tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature

2  teaspoons vanilla bean paste

2  teaspoons vanilla powder

Reduce mixer speed to low and thoroughly incorporate:

IMG_79873  cups confectioners' sugar, sifted after measuring

IMG_7992Increase mixer speed to high and continue to beat until frosting is aerated and very creamy, another 2-3 minutes.  You'll have 3 cups. 

Use immediately or refrigerate for up to one week. Return to room temperature, which will take 2-3 hours, prior to using.

Get out your pastry bag and insert your favorite star tip:

IMG_8010For the Love of Vanilla:  Double-Vanilla Cupcakes:  Recipe yields 1 dozen standard-sized cupcakes (or one 8" round cake layer), and, about 3 cups of frosting, which is easily enough to pipe the cupcakes with a small amount leftover.

Special Equipment List:  standard-sized cupcake pans, enough for 1 1/2 dozen cupcakes; cupcake papers; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1-quart measuring container; cooling rack

IMG_3513Cook's Note:  No vanilla-lover I know could or would ever pass up the opportunity to partake in a plate of classically prepared ~ Silky Smooth Creme Caramel (Crema Caramella) ~.  I am no exception. To get my recipe, laced with vanilla beans and vanilla extract , just click into Categories 6, 21 or 26!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)


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