When I was a little girl, I love chocolate – chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookies, chocolate cake, chocolate milkshake, you name it – I love them all. Maybe it’s because my dad is a huge chocoholic. Or maybe it’s just a kids thing.
I guess my past experiences with vanilla left me with the mindset that vanilla is plain, sweet without any distinctive flavour. That is only because vanilla has been maligned. Many of the vanilla prodcuts like ice-cream and biscuits are not made with the real McCoy, and are unfortunately flavoured with synthetic essence.
As I grew older, I got re-acquainted with vanilla, in the form of the vanilla bean. That moment kind of changed my life. I don’t mean to sound so dramatic; it’s just that it changed my entire attitude towards vanilla, and also, my relationship with chocolate wasn’t quite the same anymore.
I do still love chocolate and chocolate cakes (see my last post). But whenever it comes down to picking between vanilla and chocolate, vanilla almost always wins.
Moving on to cupcakes, my favourite has got to be the simple but not the least plain, vanilla.
I absolutely adore vanilla cupcakes.
Time and time again, I get disappointed by the ones they sell commercially; too many places are content with serving up synthetic tasting vanilla flavoured ones or worse, they equate plain with vanilla.
I wasn’t (ever) going to give up this search for the perfect vanilla cupcake and my solution is to turn to myself and my kitchen.
This is my favourite recipe for a light, fluffy cupcake. I make these all the time when the occasions (or non-occassions) calls for it. When I’m feeling more decadent, I’ll use half a vanilla bean in the place of vanilla extract.
While the vanilla cupcakes were perfect on its own, I thought that the espresso creme patisserie made the cupcake more exciting.
It’s like having a cup of coffee with your cupcake – only this time, the coffee came with the cupcake.
Again, my problem with this is that you can’t really see a clear definition of the espresso creme patisserie in the cupcake because of its a light shade of brown though you can most definitely taste it.
I finished off the cupcakes with a pale peach vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. It is one of my favourite frosting to finish off a cake or cupcake as it is very light and fluffy in texture – unlike the French buttercream or Crème Mousseline.
These cupcakes are my vanilla dream come true.
You can let them be yours too.
Recipe: Vanilla espresso cupcakes
Makes 12 regular cupcakes
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery cupcakes
110g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature
170g caster sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
118ml full cream milk
155g plain flour
1 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celcius and line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. Start by creaming the butter with a paddle attachment at medium speed until smooth. Add in the caster sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the honey to beat until combined.
3. Add in the eggs, one at a time, as well as the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition.
4. Add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. With each addition, beat at low speed until the ingredients are incorporated. Do not overbeat. Scrape down the batter in the bowl every once in a while to make sure that the ingredients are well-combined.
5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners filling them about 2/3 full.
6. Bake for approximately 20 minutes in a 170 degrees celcius oven. The cupcakes should be golden brown and it should spring back to touch, or until a cake tester inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
7. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tins for 10-15 minutes before removing them onto a cooling rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before icing them.
Espresso crème patisserie
I actually made this espresso creme patisserie for a tart and had leftovers to use for the cupcakes. This recipe yields quite a lot of creme patisserie, a lot more than what you would need for the cupcakes.
500ml whole milk
100g egg yolks
100g caster sugar
60g cornflour, sifted
1 shot of espresso (or you can replace with 1 tsp of instant coffee powder with 2 tbsp of boiling water)
35g butter, cut into cubes
¼ vanilla bean
- Prepare and measure all the ingredients before you start.
- Scrap the vanilla bean into the milk and bring milk to a boil.
- In the meantime, whisk egg yolks with sugar until well-combined before adding the cornflour. Whisk till mixture is uniform.
- When the milk boils, you will see the milk in the pot bubbling furiously. Take the milk off the heat and pour it into your egg mixture. At this point, whisk quickly to incorporate the milk mixture.
- Pour the milk and egg mixture back into pot and continue to whisk without pausing. This step is crucial to prevent lumps from forming in the crème patissiere.
- Ensure that you whisk under low to medium heat until a smooth paste. Allow the crème patissiere to cook for at least 2 minutes before taking it off the heat.
- Add in the espresso and stir well to combine. Whisk in the cubed butter until well-combined.
- Pour the crème patisiere onto a tray lined with cling wrap. Ensure that the cling wrap covers the crème patissiere completely. Cool it down in the fridge before using it.
Vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC)
Enough to frost 12 cupcakes
67g egg whites, room temperature
118g caster sugar
170g butter, cubed and softened
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1. Ensure that your stainless steel mixing bowl and whisk is grease-free. You can use hot water to give it a rinse.
2. Place egg whites and caster sugar in your mixing bowl and place your bowl over a bain marie. Heat it gently and whisk the whites until the sugar has completely dissolved. The mixture should feel warm to touch and if you need an indication it should be heated to about 60 degrees celcius. Be careful not to cook the egg whites!
3. Making a swiss meringue: Take the bowl off the stove and place it onto your mixer. Whisk the whites at high speed until glossy and stiff peaks.
4. When the meringue is ready, switch to a paddle attachment and mix on low speed while adding the room temperature butter, a little at a time. Do not add all the butter all at once or the mixture would split and look curdled.
5. Mix it until the SMBC achieves a smooth texture. Add in the vanilla and colouring when it is done.
6. Use it immediately – fill your piping bag and use a Wilton 1m star nozzle and pipe swirls onto your cupcakes.
Storage: You can keep SMBC for up to a week. Cling wrap it and store it in an airtight container in refrigerator. To use, allow it to come to room temperature and rewhip it using a paddle attachment until smooth and glossy (for about 5 minutes).
*Tips for Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC):
It is absolutely essential to use butter that is softened and cubed – This would make it easier for the butter to be incorporated into the swiss meringue.
If the SMBC start to curdle (and look like scrambled eggs), do not panic. Just mix on low speed with a paddle attachment and it will start to smoothen out and come back together.
If the SMBC appears to look too runny (too liquid-y), place the bowl into a freezer for 5 minutes for the butter to firm up slightly. Then return to the mixer to beat on low speed. This usually happens if the butter is too melted when you add it into the swiss meringue.
Assembling the cupcakes
nozzle (I use Wilton 1m star nozzle)
1. Make sure the cupcakes are cooled completely before assembling.
2. Using an apple corer/cupcake corer, push it in the centre of the cupcake gently using a twisting motion. Core about 2/3 of the cupcake. Scoop out that center of the cupcake. Cut 2cm off the excess cupcake to leave it aside as a lid to cover the filling after it is piped.
3. Fill a piping bag with the Swiss meringue buttercream, using the nozzle of your preference, pipe swirls onto the top of your cupcakes.