Are those the strangest looking cupcakes you’ve ever seen?? I’ll admit the frosting job is a little wonky…but that all becomes meaningless once you taste them. This is by far the best cake I’ve ever made, and we have a 14 hour long road trip to visit my in-laws to thank for that. You see, I bought The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet before the trip, and I read my way through it on our trip over the 4th of July holiday. While the book contains some truly wonderful recipes, the best part for me was the explanations. Before each chapter there was a fairly extensive look into the “hows” and “whys” of baking, and I find that invaluable. I’ve always learned better when I understood how something works, and while I’m sure there are many other cookbooks out there that provide that sort of knowledge, this happened to be the one I found. I learned so much! And simple things too, like the importance of creaming the butter and sugar thoroughly…most recipes tell you to do it for several minutes or so, but I usually just beat it until it looks, well, creamy, and call it done. OK, let’s just overlook the fact that in the past I may not have followed my recipes exactly – that’s beside the point. According to my new Baking Wisdom Book, for cakes that use the creaming method, the rise comes from the air bubbles that you create when you cream the sugar and butter. Amazing. So I did just that – I beat the sugar and butter (which should be still a little cool, not all completely soft, otherwise the bubbles will collapse. Who knew?) until it was light and very pale. I cannot describe to you how perfect my batter looked. It was so light and almost puffy. It made the most gorgeous little cupcakes – which I know you can’t appreciate since I hid them under those frosting blobs. But they tasted wonderful. Wonderful, I tell you.
Now the story on the frosting. It tasted fine, it was just a little hard to work with, thus the unrefined decorating of my miniature masterpieces. It was about the same consistency as marshmallow fluff, so it was very sticky and sort of thick. It was very simple to make, however. You just throw all the ingredients into a double boiler and whip them for 7 minutes, or until you get big billowy peaks, and then you frost…whatever. My problem came from the fact that I was out of light corn syrup and the recipe I used said I could substitute honey instead, which I did. And while my frosting looked very pretty, it had a very strong honey flavor that I just didn’t care for. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, and I highly doubt any of those cupcakes will get thrown out, but I will definitely not be using honey for this recipe again. It just seemed strange to have honey flavored frosting.
So, the moral of this story is: Follow your recipes! They’re written that way for a reason, and all those strange little instructions really do matter.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.
If you make cupcakes you’ll get about 24 of them.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup water
- 2 egg whites
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
I found out through another recipe that you can also use 1/4 cream of tartar instead of the corn syrup as well.
Both of these recipes were adapted from Paula Deen.