Since I don’t get HBO, I didn’t see Sex and the City on TV, but given my general interest in American sexual mores, it was almost required viewing on DVD. It hasn’t been that long since I saw the famous scene of Carrie and Samantha licking pink frosting from Magnolia Bakery’s cupcakes, but I know most of America got there years before me. Could it be that those ten seconds of indulgence sparked a national obsession—or perhaps rediscovery—of the cupcake? Surely it tapped a deeper reservoir of baby boomer lust for the indulgences of childhood, that magical single portion of sweet cake piled with buttercream frosting, the mainstay of classroom birthday celebrations and bake sales?
Well, I’ll get to the recipe now and leave the musings for later. This recipe, officially named “Golden Vanilla Cupcakes,” really makes an awesomely excellent cupcake, tons better than the cake mix versions you had as a kid. Tender and moist—if you eat them the same day—and bursting with a “crème brulot” double vanilla flavor, these are worth every calorie.
This recipe comes from Ceri Hadda’s Cupcakes, and I don’t usually put other people’s recipes on my blog, but this book is sadly out of print. You can get used copies, though, and I highly recommend it. I’m still looking for an excuse to try the Cannoli Filling/Topping and the Rum Raisin Cupcakes, both versions…. Oh, and if you’re certain you’re using salmonella-free eggs, make sure you lick the beaters. I find cake batter less compelling than cookie dough, but this truly does taste like a rich French custard!
Golden Vanilla Cupcakes
(Makes 12, actually about 13)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I like Penzey’s)
1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter until light and fluffy with an electric mixer on high speed. Gradually beat in the sugar until very light and fluffy. Lower the mixer speed to medium. Beat in the eggs one at a time, the egg yolk and the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed to low. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, just until blended.
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
Bake until the tops of the cupcakes are springy when lightly pressed with a fingertip, but not quite golden, about 20-22 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in the muffin tin on a wire rack.
Frost with swirls of vanilla buttercream frosting. I like to decorate them with M&M “flowers,” that is, an M&M of one color for the center and six of another circling it. These are irresistible to kids at bake sales.