Simple Vanilla Cupcakes With Creamy Vanilla Frosting

It was a family friend’s 60th birthday this week and as we weren’t seeing them until today I decided it would be nice to do some celebratory cupcakes! Cakes – be they cupcakes, layer cakes, basic sponge cakes, any cakes! – are so simple and quick to make that even if you have some unexpected guests, you can whip up a batch of cupcakes in pretty much no time at all 🙂

I always use a basic cake batter recipe for both sponge/layer cakes and cupcakes/fairy cakes. It’s a simple one to remember, just think “six, six, six, three”. In fact my cousin made a little song about it – “six, six, six, three, makes a nice cake for you and me!” hehe. The lowest ingredient is always the eggs.

Sometimes I flavour the cakes but the basic batter mix always stays the same. If you want to flavour the cakes with cocoa powder or another dry ingredient then you could add a touch more butter, but it isn’t really needed.

So today, I made some simple vanilla cupcakes. I cheated with the frosting, I’ll admit! We had run out of icing sugar but I had a tub of Betty Crocker “ready to spread” rich and creamy vanilla icing in the cupboard (I try to keep one in just in case of baking emergencies!). I dyed the frosting a lovely purple colour using a colour gel, but I’ll talk about how amazing those gels are in a different post.

Anyway, to the cakes!

Makes: 1 round cake, or 18-24 cupcakes (depending on if you use medium or large eggs)
Perparation time: 8 minutes
Baking time: 15-20 minutes

6 oz butter (softened)
6 oz sugar
6 oz self-raising flour
3 eggs (medium or large), beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (mine is fan assisted so you may wish to adjust this temperature accordingly).

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. I do all of my mixing by hand but you could use an electric kitchen aid if you prefer.

Add the beaten eggs to the creamed mixture a little at a time and mix thoroughly as you go. Do not worry if it looks like it’s curdled! It hasn’t 🙂 It’s at this stage where you can add whatever flavouring you like. I added some Madagascan vanilla extract to enhance the flavour, but you really don’t need to add anything because they taste good anyway 🙂

4. Sift in the flour and fold into the wet ingredients until you have a silky smooth cake batter.

5. Divide the batter into cake cases (or pour it all into one large round cake tin if you’re making a sponge cake, or layer cake). Remember that cake trays move! Don’t worry about reaching over across the tin to fill up the cake sections on the far side, just spin the tray around so they are closer to you 🙂 I know, sounds simple but it’s always the simple things that catch everyone out…me included!

6. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes. I check on mine after 15 minutes, if a skewer comes out clean then they’re done, if not then put them back in for a few more minutes.

7. Leave the cupcakes on a cooling rack. I have to hide my cooling rack now because Inidiana, one of my cats, recently discovered that he likes cake and the last batch of cupcakes I made he decided to hunt down and chew to pieces while I wasn’t looking!

8. Cover with frosting, butter cream or icing, or just dust with icing sugar for a simple treat 🙂 I used a piping bag to give a simple swirl pattern instead of a knife to spread the frosting, as they were for a special birthday, and then put a candle in one of them when the birthday guest arrived!

9. You can store any remaining cupcakes (a rare phenomenon in my house!) in a storage tin for a few days – clean Quality Street, etc tins or biscuit tins are great for this!

(these are the same batch of cakes but different lighting in different rooms has meant slightly different colour frosting in the photos!)


Pumpkin Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

I love baking. It’s something I have a real passion for and love trying out new recipes as much as developing old ones.

Last year Mom bought me The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook which is full of delicious baking delights! One recipe in particular grabbed my attention right away, pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, but unfortunately pumpkin season had ended so I had to wait until this year to try it out.

The Hummingbird Bakery itself is in London and they do a variety of cupcakes – when I visit London for my visa interview (for moving to where my husband is stationed) I’ll be sure to pop in and gain a few lbs!

They say in the cookbook that they altered quantities of ingredients to make the recipes work for small, home baker, batches. I’m not entirely convinced the quantities are right for these cupcakes – I’ve made them twice now, once at Halloween and again last Sunday, and both times they’ve seemed very dense.

Another odd thing is that if you try to take the cupcakes out of the paper cases on the day you bake them (even after they’ve completely cooled) they won’t come out, they stick in there and you get mess everywhere. But if you leave them until the day after, they come out fine. I’ve never come across that before with cupcakes and am not sure how to combat that – any suggestions? Otherwise, just remember to make the cupcakes the day before you need them instead of on the day.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Makes: 12
Preheat oven: 170 ° C (325 ° F) Gas 3.

120 g plain flour
140 g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
a pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature <—[50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature]
120 ml whole milk <—[120 ml skimmed milk, used both times]
2 eggs
200 g tinned pumpkin puree <—[200 g fresh pumpkin, used both times]

I made a few alterations to the cupcake recipe, I’ve shown those in the ingredients list in italics (and also in the instructions).

1) Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

[I did stage 1 by hand, first combining the sugar and butter, then adding the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon because our handheld electric whisk didn’t feel up to the job!]

2) Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until well mixed. [I added all of the milk here because it never tells you where to add the other half! So I took a wild stab in the dark and put it all in now.]

3) Add the eggs to the mix and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Stir in the pumpkin puree [fresh pumpkin] by hand until evenly mixed.

4) Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full…

…and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched [I poked mine with a skewer like normal – if it comes out clean then they’re done, if it comes out with cake goo on it then they need longer in the oven].

5) Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

While they’re cooling, mix up your frosting 🙂

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

300 g icing sugar, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 g cream cheese, cold

The recipe asks for you to beat the icing sugar and butter together in a mixer or with a handheld whisk, but I find that there is so little butter that you just end up with icing sugar clouds everywhere instead. So what I did is use the back of a spoon to mash the butter and sugar together for a while – the butter is so little in quantity that you won’t have enough to mash all the sugar into. Then add the cream cheese and mash that with a spoon for a while too, to reduce the risk of sugar clouds when you turn on the mixer.

Now use a freestanding mixer or handheld whisk to beat everything together until smooth, light and fluffy. This can take a few minutes but don’t overbeat it because it can become runny instead of the light and fluffy frosting we’re after 🙂

I decided to have a more traditional, rustic, finish with my frosting and used a knife to spread it on instead of a piping bag. If you’re not serving the cupcakes straight away, add the frosting and keep them in tins overnight, but don’t add the sprinkling of cinnamon until you’re ready to serve them. Or you can leave the sprinkle off completely, I did a mix of some with and some without.

Apart from the cupcakes being difficult to remove from the paper cases on the same day as cooking, I enjoyed this recipe. One downside is that you can’t taste the pumpkin (or at least, I couldn’t), they taste just like cinnamon cupcakes really but I love cinnamon anyway!

This will be my blog post for the Hearth And Soul Blog Hop, a recipe hop that happens every Tuesday 🙂