A Jumbo Birthday Celebration

I love birthdays! OK, maybe not my birthday, in particular, but other people's birthdays. I love to bake something special and make them feel as if they are the most important person in the world. Because they are! Fortunately or unfortunately, my grandmother was the official birthday cake maker and I like that I have assumed that role.

With my cousin's daughter's impending 3rd birthday, I offered to make cupcakes for the momentous occasion and my offer was graciously accepted. Granted it's kind of a double celebration--my birthday was last week and hers was this week--so it's also a way for us to celebrate together. As a family. And I really dig that.

My cupcake days started about 10 years ago, when cupcakes were just becoming fashionable in Texas. True, they were already big in New York City and Los Angeles long before the craze ever hit San Antonio, but the craze did finally land here. In fact, I think we're just reaching the tipping point as cupcake stores continue to open all over the city.

Over the years, I tested lots (and I do mean lots) of cupcakes. Most of the cupcakes I tried were invariably dry, tasteless and had few, if any, redeeming qualities. But I kept trying. And then one day I landed on the "perfect cupcake" recipe that just happens to come from the New York City bakery that initiated the cupcake craze in the late 90's and was featured in the Sex and the City episodes--Magnolia Bakery.

Since that fortuitous day, I have made dozens and dozens of these fabulous vanilla cupcakes for all occasions. This recipe continues to be my go-to and I have passed it to on many friends in need of a homemade cupcake fix.

The individual cakes are moist and delicious. Not too sweet, but full of flavor and a cupcake that everyone enjoys. Male, female, young, old--they all happily pick up a cupcake, take a bite and then the compliments begin to roll.

When a birthday or special occasion comes along, raise your hand and step up to be the cake maker. You will be glad you did. And so will everyone else...

Buen provecho!

(Warning: don't be fooled by the Reynolds Wrap foil liners that say "no cupcake pan needed." The liners are huge and end up being jumbo cupcakes. Oops...just as the box indicates. What do I know? I have always and only use a cupcake baking pan. Until I thought I would try something new. Thumbs down for this potential improvement. It turned out to be a jumbo mess. Though for this particular 3-year-old, this was the birthday with a jumbo cupcake!)

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
The Cowgirl Gourmet found this recipe on the Food Network website

Print recipe

After trying dozens of cupcake recipes, this is the one! It's a vanilla cupcake from the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York City. It has lots of flavor, is moist and absolutely delicious. Top with generous amounts of buttercream frosting. These cupcakes are best eaten the day they are made. Note to self--this is not a dieter's delight, but it is a birthday after all. Live a little!

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes (unless you make a stupid mistake like me and use jumbo liners--then it just makes 12 jumbo cupcakes)

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, unsalted and softened
2 cups sugar
4 pastured eggs from happy chickens, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, organic
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the flours.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter until it's smooth. About 2 minutes. Gradually, very gradually, add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3-6 minutes, depending on how long it takes to add the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure everything is well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the cupcake tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
The Cowgirl Gourmet slightly adapted this recipe from the May 2008 issue of Food & Wine

Butter and confectioner's sugar. Really. How could this not be delicious?

Makes enough frosting for 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, unsalted and softened
4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
Pinch of kosher salt
4 Tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream

In a medium bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer, beat the softened butter at medium speed until smooth.

Add the confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract and pinch of kosher salt and beat at low speed just until combined. Then increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until smooth. Add the milk or heavy cream and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Spread the frosting on the cooled cupcakes and top as desired using sprinkles or other adornments.

Note: You can add a drop or two or food coloring to make a colored frosting. The birthday girl loves pink, so I added 2 drops of red food coloring to half of the frosting.
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