Monday, November 9, 2015

Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Cupcakes

As of three years ago, I had never made non-box mix cupcakes. Sure, box mix cupcakes are okay. Like when you talk about them, you think “Ehhhhh.” And they’re definitely edible. But when have you ever thought, “Wow! That box mix cupcake was amazing!” Probably never.

The ingredient list on the back of a box mix includes niacin, thiamin mononitrate, and riboflavin. Do you know what that stuff is? Because I don’t.

What I’m trying to say is there’s a HUGE difference between box mix cupcakes and cupcakes where you take the time to measure out the ingredients yourself.

I understand that sometimes it can be intimidating trying to bake the perfect cupcake because you’re not sure if they’ll turn out and you don’t want to spend a bunch of time on something that turns out to be a gooey mess.

So I have compiled my check list for assuring your homemade cupcakes turn out perfect every single time! Trust me, you’ll never buy a box mix again!
  1. Measure ingredients correctly 
    • I can’t express enough how important it is to properly measure your ingredients! Baking is an exact science. An extra half-cup of flour in the batter can mean the difference between light and fluffy cupcakes and hard rocks. The best way to do this is to measure your ingredients by weight. One of my favorite baking tools ever is the EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale. I use it to measure everything. I try to add weight (in grams) to each ingredient listed in my recipes, but when I encounter a recipe where the weight isn’t listed, I used this ingredient weight chart to check.
  2. Bring all ingredients to room temperature
    • I know from experience that when you’re ready to start baking you want to start immediately, but about an hour before you start take your cold ingredients out of the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature. This includes your eggs, milk, butter, etc. Cold ingredients don’t mix as well with ingredients that are already at room temperature like the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
  3. Don’t overmix the batter
    • You should only mix your cupcake batter until “just combined.” That means you should stop mixing as soon as you can no longer see the ingredient or ingredients you just added to the batter. The scientific reasoning behind this is when you overmix the batter, the gluten in the flour forms “elastic gluten strands” that make the product more dense and chewier. Basically, you squash out all the air bubbles and everything that makes a cupcake light and fluffy.
  4. Equally measure out the batter
    • Make sure there’s an equal amount of batter in each cupcake liner. This ensures evenly baked cupcakes. I use a cookie scoop to portion out my batter.
  5. Don’t overfill liners
    • Fill your cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 full. If you overfill the liners, the batter will spill out of the top of the liner resulting in slightly deformed cupcakes. Also, the cupcakes won’t bake evenly, the bake really quick on top, but the center will remain gooey.
  6. Don’t peek when they’re in the oven
    • I know this is easier said than don, but DO NO open the oven door and peek at the cupcakes while they’re baking. Opening the door releases heat and it messes with the baking time of the cupcakes.
  7. Remove cupcakes from pan
    • Once you take the cupcakes out of the over, do not wait long (like maybe a minute or two at most) to remove the cupcakes from their cavities and place them on a cooling rack. If you leave the cupcakes in the hot pan they will continue to bake and your cupcakes will dry out.
 Following these cupcake-baking rules will ensure consistency every time you bake a batch of cupcakes. Trust me, you’ll never want to use a box mix again!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Yield: Makes about a dozen cupcakes

For the vanilla cupcakes
  • 1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (208 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (201 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
  • 2 egg whites (you can use 1 egg instead, but the batter will be a more yellow)
  • 1/4 cup vanilla greek yogurt (60 grams) (you can use plain yogurt, regular yogurt or sour cream instead)
  • 3/4 cup milk 
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
For the vanilla buttercream frosting
  • 1/2 cup unsalted or salted butter, room temperature
  • 3 – 4 cups powdered sugar (378 to 504 grams)
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cupcakes
  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  5. Add sugar to the bowl of melted butter and whisk together - mixture will be gritty.
  6. Add egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract to bowl and whisk until combined.
  7. Slowly add dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients, and whisk until no lumps remain. The batter will be thick.
  8. Add batter to cupcake liners and bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 
 For the frosting
  1. Beat softened butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add powdered sugar to bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth.
  3. Add heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, and salt to bowl and increase mixer to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes.
  4. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more heavy whipping cream if frosting is too thick.
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
Cupcake recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

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