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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Vanilla Cupcake Taste Test


The vanilla cupcake.  Blah.  Who would eat vanilla when other flavors like chocolate are available?  This is the thinking that drove me to find the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe.  The perfect vanilla cupcake would have to have a terrific, but not overpowering, vanilla taste and be moist and fluffy.  And so I chose four cupcake recipes to do a vanilla cupcake taste test.  Here is the story of that taste test:

I baked my chosen four recipes in mini-cupcake tins in four different colored wrappers.  The day they came out of the oven, unfrosted, a couple of taste-testers and I tried each one.  We compared the vanilla taste, the moistness, and the texture of the cupcakes, probably over-analyzing each aspect.  The blue wrapper was my personal favorite.  The green wrapper had an interesting bite to it.  The purple wrapper was fluffy and pleasant.  The pink wrapper was... well, just okay.

Then I frosted them with Kathy's Buttercream Frosting and took them to work, expecting everyone to rave about the blue wrapper cupcakes.  I left a voting sheet out for all to have their say and waited.  Then, the most extraordinary thing happened.  My favorites in the blue wrapper didn't get a single vote!  (In fact, someone even mentioned this fact on the voting sheet.) And the cupcakes in the pink wrapper, the ones I thought most likely to be forgotten, won!  The purple wrapper came in second.  The green wrapper, even though it came in third, must be given a nudge for having the most enthusiastic votes (lots of exclamation points).  I was shocked.  What could have caused this upset?  Could the pink wrapper cupcakes truly be the Cinderella story here?
The voting sheet
The winner
Lots of exclamation points!
Har har
 























I had to make the pink wrapper recipe one more time, to see if I could officially judge them as the winner. And to my delight and amazement, they came out wonderfully. They were moist. They were fluffy. They were flavorful. How could I have missed this the first time around? How could they have not made a great first impression on me? Was it the mini-cupcake size? Was it the fact that I was tasting four different cupcakes at one time? If I made my favorite blue wrapper recipe again, would I find them not as good as I thought?

These are questions to which I have no answers.  All I know is, this recipe is very, very good.  I even surprised myself by eating two of them and was deeply desirous of a third.  This recipe has redefined my idea of vanilla cupcakes.  This is the taste of happy.  Even for a staunch chocolate lover like me, this was a satisfying cupcake.  Everyone who tried it agreed it was a fantastic cupcake.  Pair it with Kathy's Buttercream Frosting and you've got a cupcake that will be remembered.  Even though, I foresee more experimenting in my future, I happily give this recipe it's due praise and declare it the winner.


Congratulations, cupcake!  


And since you've all been wondering what the winning recipe is....I am proud to say.... the winner is....(drum roll, please)...Glorious Treats Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes!  And the interesting part about this recipe is that it came about as a result of testing and retesting in a cupcake recipe quest --read about it here.  The others, which were all good and worthy of trying were Vanilla Bean Cupcakes from Annie's Eats, Billy's Vanilla Cupcakes, and the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake from the Cupcake Project.  They were all worthy contenders and worth a taste. 


Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
from Glorious Treats
Yields- 15-16 cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
(or 1/2 cup milk plus 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice- add acid to the milk then set aside for 5 minutes before using)


Directions:
Preheat oven to 350*F.

In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with whisk, and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil, beat.

Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture. Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk. Beat until just combined. Scrap down the side of the bowl.

The batter will be thin. Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes.

Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Frost as desired when fully cool.

Notes from Glorious Treats
* Feel free to use this recipe for a cake as well.  The recipe above will work for a 6" cake.  Double the recipe for an 8" or 9" cake.
* A note about Cake Flour-  Cake Flour has a lower protein content than traditional all-purpose flour, which results in a more tender, delicate crumb in the finished product.  If you can not find or access cake flour, feel free to substitute as necessary, but your results will vary from the original recipe.