Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Aren’t those adorable?  They taste pretty good too, if I do say so myself.  I made them for my niece’s second birthday, but they were so good, I made a second batch later in the week to share with my coworkers.  The batter is so light – almost frothy looking – and it bakes up into the fluffiest cupcakes you can imagine.  The crumb was so tender, and with the hint of vanilla, these are the perfect light dessert.  Light, you say?  But isn’t that cream cheese frosting? Why yes it is…and if you beat it long enough, it too can become fairly fluffy.  Now when I say light, I’m not talking calories, because you really can’t have cream cheese frosting and low cal – it’s oxymoronic. But you can make the frosting light in texture, and you can see I went fairly easy on the amounts – which you can get away with if your frosting is as full flavored as this one is.  I also dressed it up a bit with the strawberries, which turned out to be a really good thing – the little bit of fruity-ness cut right through the sweetness of the frosting and really helped balance everything out.

This is a very straightforward recipe, and it comes together in a snap.  Cream your butter and sugar – make sure you do this thoroughly! It should be pale in color and light in texture when it’s ready.  Don’t just mix it together like I used to do…this step is what makes your crumb so light.  Also, if you have the time, you should really  beat each of the eggs before adding them – this will make them incorporate better, but if you don’t want to dirty up another dish I quite understand. Add your dry and wet ingredients alternately, and then mix until it looks light and smooth. When I was at this point, my batter looked almost like a mousse, it was so light.  I couldn’t resist tasting a bit – maybe more than a bit if I’m being honest – and it was just perfect.  Sweet, but not cloying, vanilla-y and rich – perfect.

A note on the vanilla also:  this recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, and if you can get it you really should.  I use this that I order from Amazon, since out here in the middle of nowhere all you can get is pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla (can I just say Yuck!?), but you can probably get it at Whole Foods, or other similar stores.  The cool thing about vanilla bean paste is that is actually has those tiny little seeds in it, so if you don’t mention it to anyone, they’ll think you went and used a real vanilla bean.  It really does add another little dimension to your baked goods.  You can use it interchangeably with vanilla extract, and I’m not convinced there’s a huge taste difference, but it sure does look nice.

Once your batter is ready, just fill your muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Once they’re done, just let them cool on a wire rack while you get the frosting ready.

Cream cheese frosting is very simple to make, and goes with all sorts of things.  It’s also not hard to flavor with things like chocolate or extracts like vanilla, almond, etc.  (I keep seeing Root Beer extract in the baking aisle, and I’m fairly sure that would make an awesome frosting…) Just  beat the cream cheese, butter, cream, etc, until it’s well mixed, then add your flavorings and confectioner’s sugar and you’ve pretty much got it.  See my note on the sugar below.

I found this recipe through a google search that led me to another blog. I am most thankful to Courtney’s Sweets for providing the recipe.

As you can see, the birthday girl thoroughly enjoyed her (second) cupcake.

 

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

 

Adapted from a recipe at Courtney’s Sweets

Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
3 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 pint strawberries; for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, several minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl, and the milk and vanilla paste and extract in another.
  5. While mixing on low speed alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.  This is a very important step!  Don’t just dump it all in and mix it to death – take your time.
  6. Fill your muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full.  I actually had more like 28 cupcakes, so if you have extra, you can do a second batch, or just add another pan – I used my small 6-cup muffin pan so I could bake mine all at once, but it’s up to you. The batter is fine to sit for a few minutes – just don’t wait all day. Also, if you don’t end up filling all of your cups with batter, make sure you add a little water to the empty ones or Bad Things will happen.
  7. Bake  15-20 minutes, or until tester inserted into middle comes out clean.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
8 Ounces white chocolate
12 oz cream cheese, softened – I only use Philadelphia; it holds up the best.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  1. In the top of a double boiler (or you can certainly use the microwave) melt the white chocolate.  Once melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool.
  2. In clean mixer, beat together cream cheese, heavy cream and butter. Mix until it is one homogenous mixture with few lumps. You may need to scrape the bottom and sides of your mixing bowl to get all the cream cheese mixed in.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, powdered sugar and cooled chocolate and mix until the frosting is the consistency you prefer.

I like my frosting light and fluffy, so I beat mine for several minutes, but if you like yours more dense and creamy, then you may not want to beat it as long.   Also, not everyone likes their frosting the same sweetness.  I like mine to not taste so cheesy and be lightly sweetened.  You can adjust the powdered sugar according to your taste, just be aware that it will change the texture of your frosting depending on how much – or how little you add. Just taste as  you go and don’t be afraid to adjust!

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