Joy the Baker

Twelve Frosted Cupcakes, Just One Stick of Butter. Promise.

July 31, 2009

Vanilla Cupcakes

These are pretty, right?  Hot diggity dang, I think they’re precious.

In the middle of frosting these cupcakes I looked down at my hands.  No big deal.  I was simply looking down at the cupcake in one hand, and frosting covered knife in the other.  I had to see what I was doing, right?  When I looked down at this particular moment, I saw… my grandmother’s hands.  There they were, the worn and wrinkled hands that had absolutely fascinated me as a child… only now spotted with powdered sugar and tinted with food coloring.

When I was a kid I would hold my grandmother’s hand in my lap and study it like it like I might study my favorite picture book.  Somehow her hands weren’t at all different from reading an intricate a story.

So there I was, frosting a cupcake with my grandmother’s hands.  The image was so strong that I even put down the cupcake and knife and bent my left index finger with my right hand.  It ached a little.  I don’t know why.  And just like that… those hands were gone from me.

That was simultaneously perplexing and so comforting.  I had to share that with you…  I now only hope that I live long enough for my hands to be read like a story book.

Now let’s talk cupcakes!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes

Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty.  Pretty… right?

I’m proud of these little gems.  I’m even more proud of the fact that it only took one stick (otherwise known as 8 tablespoons, 1/2 cup or 4 ounces) of butter to make both the cupcake aaaaaaaand the frosting.  That’s bonkers, right?  I know! Just three tablespoons of butter for the dozen cupcakes and 5 tablespoons for the buttercream. Who says you need a pound of butter for cupcakes?

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

     adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

makes 12 cupcakes

Print this Recipe!

1 cup all-purpose flour

a scant 3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup whole milk

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or use a handheld beater and beat on slow speed until the mixture is a sandy consistency and everything is combined.  Gradually pour in half of the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

Whisk the egg, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl for a few seconds, then pour into the flour mixture and continue beating until just incorporated.  Scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side or the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Continue mixing until the batter is smooth.  Just a few minutes.  Do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into paper lined muffin tins, dividing between the 12 cups.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

makes enough for 12 cupcakes, double this recipe to frost an 8-inch cake

2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons whole milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in an electric mixer fit with a paddle attachment on medium low speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.  Turn the mixer speed to low.  Combine the milk and the vanilla extract and slowly stream it into the butter and sugar mixture.  Once incorporated, turn the mixer to high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.  The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.  If you find that your frosting is getting to warm in the summer months, stop beating and set in the fridge for a few minutes.  Once chilled, hook the frosting back up the the mixer and beat once more until you reach the desired consistency.

150 Comments Add A Comment

  • I do the exact same thing. My hands will be so stained by the time I’m my grandmother’s age! But they will be beautiful, none-the-less.

  • airincupcakery August 1, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Your story reminded of my childhood time with my Nenek – I have a scar on my right thumb – a lil adventure I had with the kitchen knife, but a sweet memory of the times we spent in the kitchen together.
    Love the cupcakes and I will make them! Thanks!

  • wow they colours are so pretty!

  • Snooky doodle’s right – one stick of butter equals half a cup, not a quarter. But still decent for cupcakes (esp. if, like me, you don’t like/eat frosting).

  • Aww these are so pretty! :) Happy, summery colors!

  • Oh WOW these are precious!!!! So super cute!!!! I loved how you looked down and saw your grandmothers hands. What a wonderful memory :)
    Ok so the fact that you totally used just a wee bit of butter in these beauties is something else!! I must try!! :) Thanks Joy!

  • Joy, you’re just awesome. And your cupcakes too!

  • Really pretty and really easy! Love the recipes and I will now have to bake these gems! I know the feeling about looking at yourself and seeing your mother or grandmother…scary and moving at the same time.

  • sweet, very moving & emotionally charged…wow! how lucky to have that connection w/your grandmother…& a shout out for one stick of butter!

  • I’ve always been put off by food colouring cuz they just look so unnatural to me. But if they can look this beautiful, I might have to change my mind. Well done, Joy the Baker!

  • these are so so pretty! the colours are so nice. wow and only 3 tbl in the cupcakes. I m making these :) I think you ve got a mistake though 8 tbl are equivalent to 1/2 cup not 1/4 I think. You really touched my heart imagining you and your grandma. cause I ve done that too :)

  • I love how your typo of “love” instead of “live” was a beautiful, Freudian slip.

    Lovely photos as usual.

  • beautiful pictures
    beautiful words.

  • “So there I was, frosting a cupcake with my grandmother’s hands. The image was so strong that I even put down the cupcake and knife and bent my left index finger with my right hand. It ached a little. I don’t know why. And just like that… those hands were gone from me. ”

    Man. That was such a beautiful image. Even more beautiful than these pretty little cupcakes.

  • I couldn’t seem to comment on your post for “The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting”, so my comment is a little out of context with this post’s recipe. I really wanted to thank you for posting the chocolate buttercream frosting. I had a bad experience while making buttercream once before, so I scoured the internet for the perfect buttercream. Yours caught my eye, and I’m so glad that I tried it! I couldn’t stop taking little tastes while I was icing the cake!

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