Fun fact: I got into baking because of cupcakes! Yes, I grew up in a house where my mom cooked/baked almost daily and that helped influence me into becoming a passionate cook/baker. But my true baking passion was ignited by cupcakes! Thanks to the cupcake craze of the late 2000s/early 2010s, there was a cupcake bakery across the street from my job as a summer camp counselor when I was 18. I fell in love. Like head over heels in love with cupcakes.
The obsession didn't end there. Soon I started baking cupcakes at home, and then during my undergrad years I got a job in my college town at a small cupcake bakery. My job was cupcake froster /decorator. I worked early mornings at the bakery but I loved it. I made the icing, frosted the cupcakes, and washed dishes. Then I would go to classes in the afternoon, smelling like cupcakes. It was the best!
Even after I left my job at the bakery, I still had a strong cupcake love. Luckily NYC is full of cupcake bakeries and I have tasted my way through many of them. Danny is always by my side, tasting cupcakes/ helping me discover new cupcakes. When he proposed to me in June, cupcakes from my two favorite bakeries were there. My ring was also delicately placed on top of my favorite cupcake! I don't know what I was more excited about, my engagement, or my cupcake. What can I say? Cupcakes make everything better, seriously try to frown while holding a cupcake, it just doesn't work!
Here we are now, day 50 something or 60 something of quarantine, and personally I feel a bunch of us need a smile or something to help us smile. Today I participated in a social distance birthday by for one of my childhood best friends, Nicole. Can you guess what I brought to the party? If you guessed cupcakes, then you are right! You might not be able to see our smiles behind the masks, but I think you can see the joy that the cupcakes brought in everyones eyes. Or maybe it was the margaritas, who knows?
For the birthday party, I wanted to make a simple and classic cupcake, that was still delicious and special! It is a birthday after all! So I went with the most classic cupcake I could think of, vanilla! Then to make it extra special, I decided to top it with a strawberry whipped cream frosting. Yum, nothing says happy birthday quite like a light pink frosted cupcake!
I think vanilla often gets a bad wrap for being boring, but a truly good vanilla cupcake is honestly far from boring. I promise you, my vanilla cupcake is full of simple and delicious vanilla flavor that will make you fall in love with vanilla again. How do I do this you ask? With my secret ingredient for vanilla cupcakes, light brown sugar. You might raise your eyebrows and doubt me on this one but give it a chance, and you'll be a believer. The light brown sugar really helps to highlight and enhance a natural vanilla flavor! I promise, you can make these delicious classic cupcakes, if you can scoop cupcake batter into a cupcake tin and read this recipe, you can bake these cupcakes!
Ingredients: (For Cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp cornstarch
4 tbsp powdered sugar
6 tbsp seedless strawberry jam
red food coloring (optional for brighter more vibrant color)
This recipe makes 12 cupcakes, but it doubles well if you need more cupcakes!
To Make: Cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
2. In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, whip the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. This should take 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add in the egg and beat until fully combined, then add egg whites one at a time until they are also fully combined.
5. Add vanilla extract.
6. Slowly and with the mixer on low, pour half of the flour mixture into the butter and sugar and mix until just combined. Do not over mix, or your cupcakes will be dense! Then add the milk and mix followed by the rest of the flour, again mixing until just combined.
7. Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins. Fill each tin about 2/3 of the way full, remember the cupcakes will rise a little so you want to give it some space to do that.
8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the cupcakes pass the toothpick test!
*The tooth pick test is a way to test the cupcakes doneness! Simply insert a tooth pick into the center of your cupcake. Then pull it out and if it comes out clean, the cupcake is done. If it comes out with batter on it, your cupcake needs more time.
9. Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting. If the cupcakes are warm the icing will melt off!
To make: Whipped Cream Icing
1. Pour cold heavy cream and cornstarch into a bowl. The cornstarch helps stabilize the whipped cream so that it doesn't fall apart on top of your cupcake! Use a hand or stand mixer to mix them on high, until your whipped cream reaches a medium peak. A medium peak means its firm, but not too firm, see picture below.
2. Add powdered sugar and jam, mix for another 3 to 5minutes. Be careful not to over whip or you will get butter! The jam will naturally turn the icing pale pink but if you want a more vibrant pink color, add a few drops of red food coloring.
3. Spread your icing on the cupcakes! You can spread with an offset spatula, or use a piping bag like I did. Enjoy!
*Important note* Store these cupcakes in the fridge. The whipped cream icing can be fragile. They will keep for 2-4 days in there.