Updated: Jul 31, 2021
Why is a standard vanilla cupcake a necessary index card recipe in your household? Because you never know when you will ever to need to whip up a quick and easy recipe that not only works with your schedule, but also works with any type of flavour and toppings. I haven't make cupcakes for almost a decade and a lot of people thinks that it should be one of the simplest thing in cake baking. Although somehow true, cupcake does require accuracy and the right batter for it to be successful. So, here are a few things I think may be helpful for you if you haven't already found the best cupcake recipe for your index.
Different type of batter means filling the pan with differently
A lot of recipes asked for you to fill your patty pan lined in the cupcake tray to two thirds of the way otherwise it will rise too high or not rise enough. This instructions in my opinion is vague because some batter works with the required amount but others would not. Batter that has a lot of aeration or more raising agents used, for example, will be best to be filled half way in the pan rather than two thirds of the way as they often rises a lot quicker and higher than other batter. The best bet when you are trying out a different recipe is to make a smaller amount and test them in your oven and see how they rise and adjust from there.
Since there are all sorts of sizes of patty pans out there in the market, it is hard to tell you exactly how many cupcakes you will get or how much to fill them. The best way to gauge is to read the recipe and see the method that the cupcake is being made and the consistency of the batter. A more liquid or light batter will generally rise a lot more and requires to fill from one third to half way of the patty pan and the denser the batter, the more you will need to fill. For the recipe below, refer to the size and height of the patty pans that I am using and adjust with the ones that you will be using.
Incorporating the ingredients
Some of the challenges that you may encounter during the preparation of cake batters are "splitting". Splitting in cake batters refers to the fat and water component of the recipe separating from each other during mixing, which very much resembles scrambled eggs. In a lot of cases, people would throw their batter out thinking that they are beyond repair. There are actually several things you can do to remedy split batter and I am here to share with you some tips and tricks if that happens.
The first thing to prevent splitting from happening at all is to use room temperature ingredients. What is room temperature? Because you may be in a really cold kitchen than mine or vice versa, the indication of room temperature can be confusing. Room temperature generally refers to a temperature of between 22 - 24°C. Some ingredients are best judged by its consistency than what your room temperature tells you and this is especially so when it comes to butter.
For things like butter, it is best to feel the consistency for a good guideline. A room temperature butter should allow you to push into the butter with your finger and feel malleable but it shouldn't leave a grease on your finger after pressing into it. If it leaves grease, this means that the butter is too soft. Simply place them back into the fridge to harden slightly before using. Needless to say, if you are unable to press and create an indent in the butter, it is too solid to use and you need to leave it to soften slightly more before using.
The reason why the consistency of the butter is important when baking cake batter is so that the fat is able to hold on to air pockets during the "creaming" of the butter and sugar. If the butter is too soft, the aeration process in the mixing will not be optimal and you may end up with a denser cake that do not rise as much compared to a well aerated cake batter.
I know I mentioned that room temperature is something between 22 - 24°C. In the cake of this cake batter, it is important to have the buttermilk at a slightly higher temperature of around 50°C. Having the buttermilk at this temperature actually helps to keep the batter from separating since adding cold ingredients or liquid can cause the butter to seize and firm up again in the mixture, causing it to split.
Just the same concept with the buttermilk, eggs should not be cold when adding in with the batter. You do not need to heat the eggs when incorporating into the batter, they just need to be not cold straight from the fridge.
If you forgot to bring your eggs out from the fridge and you are ready for the preparation, simply fill up a bowl with lukewarm water and place the eggs into the water for several minutes to bring it to room temperature quicker.
How to Fix a Split Batter
If you happen to end up with a batter that is severely split. Fret not! There is actually something you can do to remedy that!
Spoon out one to two spoonful of the batter into a microwave bowl and heat it for 10-20 seconds to warm it slightly until they are semi liquid then fold them back into the separated batter with your spatula and continue to do this a few scoops of batter at a time until the batter comes to a smooth consistency again. Do not melt more batter than you need though or heat the batter too hot as this can activate the baking powder prematurely and gives you a different result after baking.
The warm batter will help prevent the fat solids in the butter from seizing due to the sudden shock from the incorporation of liquid that may be too cold and Viola! No more throwing out your batter and starting again!
Equipment: 24 cavity / 35mm diameter base cupcake pan
Patty Pan: 35 mm base diameter x 20 mm height patty pan (cavity measurement) Yield: Approximately 24 small cupcakes
65 g Unsalted butter softened
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
75 g Caster Sugar / Fine Granulated Sugar
50 g Eggs ( 1 large eggs)
80 g Plain Flour
2.5g Baking Powder ( ½ tsp.)
2g Salt (¼ tsp.)
60 g Buttermilk - warm
Cream cheese frosting
270 g Cream - whisk to stiff peak
175 g Cream Cheese
200 g Powdered sugar
1 tsp Vanilla bean paste
Qs. Sprinkles for toppings
Preparation: Before preparing the cake batter, remove the butter, eggs and buttermilk from the fridge and bring to room temperature. The butter should be soft enough for you to poke with your finger to soften but not soft that it leaves a grease. The eggs and buttermilk should not feel cold.
Sift all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Line the muffin pan with patty pans.
1. Place the butter and sugar into a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment and beat the mixture until light and fluffy at medium speed. ( I am using kitchen aid and have the butter mixing at speed 4). The process takes approximately 5 minutes. Meanwhile, place the warm (not hot) buttermilk into a bowl and whisk in the eggs. Set aside.
2. Once the butter and sugar are light and airy, scrape the side and base of the bowl to rid of any lumps of butter that may not have mixed through. Add in one egg at a time and continue to beat the mixture, adding the next addition of egg only after the first addition are well mixed through with the butter and are not lumpy or separated.
Note: If your batter looks like it is separating, this means that the eggs may be still cold, just add a tablespoon of the dry mixture in the recipe to the mixture before adding in the next addition of egg.
3. Once all the egg are added, add in 1/3 of the dry ingredients followed by 1/2 of the warm buttermilk that is approximately 50°C and continue to alternate and mix ending with the dry ingredients. Continue to mix over medium speed until the batter is smooth then stop the mixing.
Note: If your mixture looks separated at this point, refer to the above tips for a good fix up before the next step.
4. With a small ice cream scoop with a release trigger, scoop one scoop of the batter into the line patty pan that fills the cupcake pan half way into the lined patty pans (approximately 10 - 12 g each) then bake in the oven at 170°C for 15 minutes or when you gently tap the top, it feels bouncy.
5. Once baked, leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the pan for 10 minutes then tilt them over to the wire rack to fully cool before piping the cream cheese frosting on top.
For the cream cheese frosting
Place the cold cream in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a whisk and whisk until stiff peak. Remove the cream onto a bowl then place the soft cream cheese into the stand mixer bowl with the sifted icing sugar and cream with a paddle until smooth and the sugar have fully dissolved.
Fold in the whipped cream until well incorporated then transfer into a piping bag fitted with a Ateco #864 Straight star piping tip. Leave in the fridge to firm up to a pipeable consistency if they are getting too soft before piping on top of the cooled cupcakes. If the frosting is not too soft after you fold through the cream, you can pipe them straight on top of the cupcakes. Once you have piped the frosting, sprinkle the top with sprinkles.
Note: You can use any other piping tip that you prefer.
If you are not consuming the cupcake immediately, place the frosted cupcakes in airtight containers and store in the fridge. Cupcakes can last in the fridge for up to 3 days and is recommended to be consumed the first day they are frosted for best quality.
Baked cupcakes without frosting can be made a few days in advance. Bake the cupcakes and let it fully cool then wrap them tight in cling film and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.