Monday, August 30, 2010

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes with Butter "cream" Frosting (8-28-10)


On August 28th, I baked a batch of Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes with a Butter Cream frosting. I did this using a recipe I found on which linked to by Anne Earley.

I didn't use nectarines or honey as the blog post suggests. I may have if I had nectarines and honey on hand, however. But I am trying to stick with basic recipes until I feel as though I have somewhat mastered them. I am waiting for a relatively smooth baking process before branching out to making filled cupcakes or using more elaborate recipes.

THE RECIPE as found on

Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes:


  • 2 whole eggs

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk or soy milk (150ml) (room temperature)

  • (I used soy milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 g) flour

  • (I used cake flour)
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar

  • (the recipe suggested using a little less)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) (115 g) unsalted butter or lactose free margarine, cut into cubes (room temperature)

  • (I used unsalted butter)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 Celsius).
In a bowl, whisk together, the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter cubes and mix with an electric mixer on low speed until you get little pea looking balls. Now add the wet ingredients. After that crank the speed up on medium and mix until the batter is fluffy.

Portion the batter in your prepared paper lined muffin forms and bake 20-25 minutes and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer them to a a wire rack to cool.
(I baked for about 22 minutes)

Vanilla Butter Cream Frosting:


  • 1/2 cup (115g) lactose free margarine or unsalted butter, room temperature

  • (I used margarine).
  • 3 to 4 cups (300-400g) confectioners’ sugar

  • (I used three)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) milk, or soy milk

  • (I used Silk soy milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or vanilla bean

  • (I used vanilla extract)

With an electric mixer cream the butter and add the confectioner’s sugar, add milk and Vanilla and beat until light and fluffy for about 2 minutes. Use a piping bag with a big tip to decorate.


Though I was out of cupcake liners, I greased the pan with Crisco shortening and sprinkled on some flour. Well, actually, it was more like dumping flour... the spectacle made my cousin Elizabeth laugh. (I did shake off the excess into the sink.)
The cupcakes came out of the pan without hardly any trouble or resistance. I was quite pleased with this.

There was only MISTAKE for this project. But this mistake was both colossal yet mysterious in nature. Let me explain the Saga of the Buttercream:

Sometimes I question my sanity when it comes to finding things I need. So many times I will be in search of something and be convinced that it is missing. But when I do find it, I realize that it had not been hidden at all and was actually staring me in the face the whole time. This time, it happened twice.

When I "couldn't" find the vanilla, it wasn't a big deal. (Though I do feel bad about employing Elizabeth's help and getting her all befuddled in the search. We were so stumped that she checked the fridge. And at least one of us even checked the bathroom.) But lo and behold... the vanilla extract was in its proper place, obscured in the cabinet. How I missed it, I have no idea...besides the nagging thought that I may be insane.

But the real travesty was when I "couldn't" find the powdered sugar. Now, I don't know much about baking besides a few basics and what I have learned through experience. And so, I was not aware until it was too late that granulated sugar is not an okay substitute for frosting. The frosting was inexcusably grainy. I later learned that if you need to use granulated sugar, you must at least blend it to powder first. I was reluctant to trash the stuff, as I am with most food items. And so Elizabeth and I spent some time weighing our options. By Elizabeth's suggestion, we put the frosting in the microwave for about a minute. It was considerably less grainy. I then put the frosting in the fridge to have it stiffen up. After some time, I tried the stuff and the grainy-ness was absent! I let it alone to chill some more.

It was then that I heard from the back of the kitchen, "Abby..." It was Amelia, "The sugar just sunk to the bottom of the bowl." And she was right. It wasn't grainy anymore because all of the sugar fell to the bottom. As soon as I stirred it up, it was the same grainy texture.

And then I heard another voice from the other end of the kitchen: "Abby!" It was Aubrey, "What in the world were you thinking?! The powdered sugar is right here!!"

It was then that I knew I was insane. I trashed the messed-up frosting and decided to start over.

I started over, this time using margarine instead of another stick of butter (for fear that I would waste even more real butter. *Sigh*).

But alas! For some reason that I do not understand, the frosting was the consistency of broth. Either the margarine was too soft... or the room too hot... or I over-stirred... or I accidentally used too much milk... or not enough sugar (I didn't want to overdo the sugar. Even if it had stiffened up, too much sugar would have made it too sweet for my liking) ... I am not sure what went wrong. All I know is that it was not butter cream that I had produced.

But I used it anyway, supposing that it could be more of a glaze. The "glazing" process was terribly messy... the "glaze" dripped down the sides of the cupcakes and went all over the place. (Yes, the cupcakes were quite cooled at this point.)

Mid-way through, I began to poke out indents in the tops of the cakes so as to "pool" the glaze. This made less of a mess than before.

The presentation was abysmal and needed some contrast of color. I made zig-zag designs on the cakes using chocolate syrup. This was void of finesse and therefore resulted in either over-chocolated cupcakes, or dripping zig-zags. For one of them, I smeared the syrup around and put a few coffee beans on top. This was a pathetic attempt at sprucing things up, seeing that the cupcakes have nothing to do with coffee. I picked out the best of the worst and did my little photo shoot. The pictures turned out fairly nice.. but the cupcakes are obviously decorated sloppily.




  • Amelia: They taste good and the cake is fluffy! But the frosting is a fail. And the chocolate overpowers the flavor.

  • Aubrey: The cake is good but the frosting is kind of a fail. And no, the chocolate doesn't overpower it!

  • Elizabeth: The cake is very good and moist. It could have been more moist if you had added something like sour cream or cooked them less, but still, they are moist. I like cake that is not very sweet and these cupcakes are good because they aren't too sweet. I think I'd prefer them with a not-too-sweet frosting to match. The chocolate added a difference in flavor that was nice.

  • Baby Owen: Bite! Please. More. Please. Bite! Please.

That following Monday (Saturday-Monday):
  • Amelia: These are not good at all.

  • Mother: Um...Honey, I'm sure they were good when you first made them... but they aren't now.
I can account for their quality on Monday; I didn't properly store them to preserve freshness. (I didn't think they were all that bad, but they had dried out considerably).

My personal opinion is that the cake texture was great. Moist and almost a bit spongy (which I like a lot.) They were also very clearly vanilla- flavored. The vanilla came through in a noticeable yet subtle way. The flavor of the frosting was good, though obviously not as it was meant to be. And I would have preferred much less chocolate syrup on top.

Next time I bake, I may use one of the same cake recipes I have used before and shall attempt to make a successful butter cream frosting.

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