Monday, March 12, 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes

I have never been a cupcake sorta girl. You don't believe me? Yeah, I don't blame you judging by my recent posts which have been largely on cupcakes. 

Well, seasons change and so do people and boy, have I changed. 

You know what clued me in on this change? There were many signs but the most glaring was my behaviour on a recent trip to New York City. I usually busy myself visiting museums, window shopping, people watching and actually shopping whenever  I visit the Big Apple but this time, I didn't do much shopping at all. If that isn't atypical enough of me, get this: I actually sought out some of the city's most talked about cupcakes to sample. As in I went looking for cupcakes, bought them, ate them (and actually felt a little sick after) and then I went looking for some more. And, I even lived to write about it in Don't Call Me Chef, the monthly column I share with my colleagues Jane and Ivy in The Star. You can read all about my NYC cupcake adventure here.

So yeah. To sum it up: I am, at the moment, cupcake mad. MAD ... as in I dream of different ways to make a cupcake special all the time. Like a hound in search of its prey, I go in search of pretty cupcake liners and even prettier toppings. Hundreds and thousands? Yeah, that will soon describe the number of cupcake paraphernalia I have amassed.

Obsessive? Maybe just a bit.

My latest cupcake experiment was this Vanilla Cupcake for which the famed Hummingbird Bakery in London is best known. Having never been to the Hummingbird Bakery myself or tried their cupcakes, I was curious to give it a go. Plus I admit I was drawn by the image of the candy-coloured frosting on the cupcakes that were featured on So pretty.

And, it's always  hard to resist the promise of a delicious vanilla cupcake. And, I am relieved and delighted to report that the promise was fulfilled (although I must admit I played around a little bit with the recipe). The vanilla cupcakes were light and moist (the instruction to remove the cakes from the oven once the tester came out "almost clean" was the reason, I am supposing) and the frosting -- just a basic vanilla butter cream (with milk added) -- was perfect.

And, I had a lot of fun colouring the butter cream, slathering it on the cupcakes and adding the sprinkles and the hundreds and thousands. It was a good way to begin my Monday morning indeed.

Hummingbird Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes
(adapted from
Makes 10 cupcakes

For the cake
120g cake flour, sifted
120g caster sugar
11/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g butter, softened
120ml milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/4 tsp extract PLUS beans from one vanilla pod)

For the frosting
80g butter, softened
220g icing sugar, sifted
25ml milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Place the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix (on medium to high speed) until the texture of the mixture becomes sandy. Lower the speed and add half the milk and mix till incorporated. Add in the remaining milk, the egg and the extract and beat until it just comes together.

Fill the cupcake liners with the batter (only fill up to 3/4) and bake for 20 mins or until a tester comes out "almost clean". The cupcakes should springy back when pressed with your finger. 

Let the cakes cool as you make the frosting. 

Beat the butter and the icing sugar on high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the milk and extract and continue beating for about 5 mins until the frosting becomes really pale and extremely fluffy. Divide the frosting into two or three (depending on how many colours you want your frosting to have) and add a tiny drop onto each division. Make sure you don't add a big drop if you want a pastel shade.

Frost the cupcakes only when they are completely cool. Decorate the frosted cupcakes as you please with sprinkles/coloured sugar crystals or hundreds and thousands.

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