Tag Archives: buttercream frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

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With the majority of my posts I attempt to tie the recipe in with a holiday, significant event, the seasons, a poignant moment, etc..  I try to tell a nice little story while weaving in the recipe.

No real story here.  Just scrumptious cupcakes.  And maybe that is the story.

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I’ve been making these plain vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting for years and they are still our family’s favorite baked treat.  The cake is a spongy vanilla and it makes a lot – two dozen to be exact.

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Plenty for the ever-popular British school cake sale or a birthday party, but also plenty to randomly bake on a Wednesday after school when all my girls want to do is bake even though it’s a gorgeous spring day outside, so we bake, and now have 24 cupcakes which we will easily gobble down on our own faster than is decently acceptable so we distribute them to friends and neighbors (and yes, set aside a few for a friend’s birthday this weekend).

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Then there’s the buttercream.  Creamy, rich and decadent, this should become your go-to frosting recipe to replace all others.  No double boiler, adding butter one piece at a time, or candy thermometer are necessary.  Just beat your butter, sugar, vanilla and cream in a mixing bowl til it’s fluffy.

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The perfect Wednesday afternoon cupcake.  And if the thought of eating a delicious vanilla cupcake piped with buttercream isn’t enough to get you baking, then the big smiles and showering of appreciation from the happy recipients in return for a random – and delicious – act of kindness, is totally worth it.

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting (makes two dozen cupcakes)

Note: This recipe also makes two 8″ round cakes or one 9″x13″ rectangular cake.  Just bake for a bit longer.  If you don’t have cake flour substitute with 2 2/3 cups plain, all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup corn starch.  For colored frosting, add food coloring during the last minute of beating.  Cupcakes can be stored, unfrosted, in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to three days or frozen in a zipper-lock freezer bags for up to three weeks.  Defrost at room temperature before frosting.  Frosting can be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated in an air-tight container.  Before using, let stand at room temperature to soften for about 1 hour, then beat for about two minutes with an electric mixer.

For the cupcakes:

3 cups (175 grams) cake flour*

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups (265 grams) granulated sugar

1 1/2 sticks (170 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 1/4 cups (300 ml) buttermilk

For the buttercream frosting:

2 1/2 sticks (280 grams) unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups (310 grams) powdered/icing sugar

2 tablespoons whole milk or cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt


Preheat the oven to 325º F (160º C).  Line a (2) 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.

For the cake:

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl.  Slowly whisk in the sugar until combined.  Whisk in the melted butter in three additions until completely combined.  Whisk in the buttermilk.

Add one-third of the flour mixture to the batter and whisk it in (a few streaks of flour should remain).  Repeat twice with the remaining flour mixture and continue to whisk the batter gently until most lumps are gone.  Do not overmix.

Fill the cupcake liners about two-third full.  Bake one muffin tin at time, until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through baking.  (If you have a convection oven, you can bake both tins at the same time.  Just reduce the heat to about 300º F (150º C) and reduce baking time to about 15-18 minutes.)

Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes.  Remove from the pans and let cool completely before frosting, about 1 hour.

For the buttercream frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to low, slowly add the powdered (icing) sugar, and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl stir the milk, vanilla and salt together until the salt dissolves.  Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.  Add in the cream mixture, increase speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  If coloring frosting, add during the last minute of beating.

To frost cupcakes, place a large piping tip into a pastry bag and fill bag with frosting.  (If you don’t have a pastry bag and tips, fill a large zipper-lock bag with frosting and cut off the corner.)  Starting on the outside of the cupcake, move pastry bag in a clockwise motion working inward, finishing in the middle and leaving a slight peak.

Adapted fromAmerica’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook”

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Chocolate Bumpy Cake

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Love isn’t always smooth and pretty.  It can be a bit bumpy at times.  So this Valentine’s Day, don’t just celebrate love’s sweetness, but embrace those bumpy bits as well.  Particularly if they’re formed of buttercream and smothered in chocolate fudge sauce.

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Detroiters will recognize this Sanders classic, which they’ve been baking for over 100 years!

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Though I grew up in the Detroit area, my parents were not native Detroiters, plus I can probably count on one hand the times we had store-bought cake at home.  So deprived child that I was, I never had bumpy cake until my 20’s.  Then I moved away – no more bumpy cake.  Fast forward to last summer, the girls and I are visiting friends in Detroit and what’s served up for dessert?  Bumpy cake!  I loved it, my kids went bananas and I knew I had to figure out how to make it.

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It’s composed of three components: chocolate cake, buttercream frosting and fudge sauce.  I made it for Molly’s 9th birthday party last year and it was the first cake I’ve served where every kid (and adult) was a clean plater.

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And if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Chocolate Bumpy Cake

Note: Vegetable shortening isn’t readily available in the UK, so unless you know of an American with a secret stash who will share with you, replace the shortening with butter (you’ll use 110 grams butter in total for the buttercream frosting).

For the cake:

1/2 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder

1/2 cup (120 ml) hot black coffee

1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup (150 grams) dark brown sugar, firmly packed

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (280 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

For the buttercream frosting:

1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter

1/4 cup (50 grams) vegetable shortening

2 cups (250 grams) powdered/icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fudge sauce:

1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk

2 1/2 cups (310 grams) powdered/icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

1/3 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder

1/3 cup (115 grams) dark corn syrup or golden syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (225 grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces


Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C).  Grease a large baking dish (9” x 13″ or 23cm x 33cm) using either nonstick spray or butter.

For the cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cocoa and coffee, and beat on medium speed for approximately 30 seconds. Add each of the following ingredients, one at a time, and beat for approximately 30 seconds before adding the next: buttermilk, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt, eggs, sugars.  Add flour and beat about 5 minutes to remove any lumps. Batter may begin to bubble.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (my oven runs a bit hot and only took 25 minutes, but most recipes say 30-35 minutes – best to check at 25 minutes, knowing it may take up to 35 minutes). Transfer to a rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the freezer for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

For the buttercream frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly adding the powdered (icing) sugar and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and beat 1 more minute. Frosting will be stiffer than traditional buttercream.

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (if you don’t have a piping bag, put frosting in a large ziplock bag and make a 3/4″ (2 cm) cut in one of the corners).  If frosting is soft, refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow it to firm up.  You can test whether it’s firm by piping onto a clean surface and if frosting holds shape, it’s firm.  After test, just scrape up “test frosting” and transfer it back to the piping bag.

Pipe frosting crosswise into a 1″ (2 1/2 cm) wide line starting 3/4″ (2 cm) from one of the short sides.  Repeat making 7 total lines that are each 3/4″ apart; each “bump” should run the width of the cake, 9-inches long.  If you have remaining frosting after making the 7 bumps, go over any of the smaller bumps or fill in any gaps. Return cake to the freezer for about 15 minutes to set the frosting.  Frosting should feel quite hard to the touch.

For the fudge sauce: In a large bowl whisk together buttermilk, powdered sugar and vanilla and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, cocoa, corn syrup, salt and 1 stick (115 grams) of butter over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to fully incorporate butter as it’s melting then bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat.

Cook until mixture registers 240°F (115º C) on a candy or instant read thermometer (a small amount dropped into cold water should form a soft, malleable ball), then remove from heat.  Should take 1-2 minutes. Pour saucepan contents into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly. Add remaining butter, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue whisking until fully incorporated and mixture has cooled (frosting must be only slightly warm).  Fudge sauce will be thin and sauce-like.  Transfer to a 4 cup (1 liter) liquid measuring cup, or any other pourable pitcher.

Remove cake from freezer and pour slightly warm fudge sauce over the buttercream bumps, covering them entirely.  The fudge will run down the sides of the bumps and fill in the spaces between bumps.  Any remaining sauce can be used to touch-up the cake or serve it along with the cake (don’t know anyone who’d pass up extra fudge).  Return cake to freezer for at least 30 minutes more to set. Serve chilled, cutting cake so that a cross-section of the bumps appear in each serving (see pictures above).  Store leftovers in refrigerator or freezer.

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