We all need a good classic recipe up our sleeves, and what I've found in my years of baking is that those recipes and flavours that should be 'simple' are normally the most difficult to get exactly right.
As it turns out, there's much complexity in simplicity.
There's no where to hide.
The ingredients, the taste and the texture are all scrutinised because well, there's nothing else there.
I think that's what makes a simple vanilla cupcake actually so difficult to get perfect.
I'm not going claim that this is the 'best-ever' recipe, but I am really happy with it and so were my official taste testers!
I took my classic vanilla cupcake recipe that is very similar to a traditional Victoria sponge and added a few little twists in my attempt to improve the things that I find important in a vanilla cupcake.
To me, a good cupcake has to be nicely risen, lightly golden and puffy. It needs a soft tender crumb and a good buttery flavour. It can't be dry, tough or chewy. It also needs to have good keeping qualities. I need to know my cupcakes will be good for longer than 24 hours, which when making a classic Victoria sponge I found dryness started creeping in by the next day..
So what have I added?
I've substituted a small amount of self raising flour for plain as the cupcakes need good structure provided by the slightly higher protein content in plain flour.
Although butter is dominant in the cupcake a small addition of oil helps with moisture levels assisting the keeping quality.
Finally, plain yoghurt and milk are combined for tenderness ( yoghurt can be substituted for sour cream if needed ).
Quickly, a few things to keep in mind.
I weigh both the wet and dry ingredients using a digital scale as this gives consistent results in baking.
Although I measured everything out into little individual containers for the image above both flours can be weighed into one bowl, as can the oil, yoghurt and milk, this will save you on washing up!
I would absolutely love to know your thoughts on these cupcakes if you try the recipe!
Classic Vanilla Cupcakes
125 g unsalted butter, very soft but not melted
180 g castor ( superfine ) sugar
3 extra large eggs at room temperature
200 g self raising flour
50 g plain flour
25 g oil ( I used rice bran but any unflavoured oil is fine )
50 g natural yoghurt ( I buy those tiny little tubs and snack on the remainder )
125 g full cream milk
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste ( or extract )
1/4 teaspoon salt
adding lemon rind is completely optional but would make a delicious addition!
Preheat oven to 150 degrees C if using a fan-forced oven or 160 C if no fan.
Line cupcake pan with liners
Begin by making an emulsion with the oil, yoghurt & milk, whisk together to combine completely.
Sift the flours together into a separate bowl.
Combine the very soft butter, castor sugar, salt, vanilla and lemon zest (if using) together in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream together using a paddle attachment until very pale, light and fluffy, this can take 3-5 minutes at a medium speed.
Whisk the eggs together in a bowl and add in 3 separate additions to the butter and sugar mixture making sure the each addition of egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. You might need to scrape the bowl down each time depending on your mixer. It's much better to take the time now to make sure everything is combined properly as this can affect the cupcakes later.
The batter may look slightly curdled but it's nothing to worry about. This normally happens when the eggs are still a little cold from the fridge. The addition of flour will bind everything together.
Once the eggs are fully incorporated begin by adding 1/3 of the flour and beat gently to combine.
Follow this with approximately 1/3rd of the liquid emulsion made earlier, beat until fully incorporated. Keep adding flour and liquid in alternate stages until everything is used and combined well in the bowl. Scrape the bowl down for one final time and mix gently to be sure everything is completely and evenly combined. Your batter should feel soft and light.
For even filling I use an ice-cream scoop to dispense the batter into my cupcake pan. For these cupcakes I used the 408 sized cupcake pans and this batch made 24 cupcakes.
Bake cupcakes for 18 minutes until lightly golden and just baked. Being such little morsels, cupcakes are prone to drying out from over-baking so you may need to watch those last few minutes or even turn your tray to promote even browning.
Check that your cupcakes are baked by gently touching the top, it should feel set and spring back when gently touched. A toothpick or skewer should come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs when inserted into the center. If it doesn't and you can still see some raw batter allow an additional 2 - 3 minutes baking time.
Keep the cupcakes in the tins for an additional 2 - 3 once they've been removed from the oven. This will allow them to set.
Remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before storing or icing with your favourite buttercream.
To store cupcakes simply keep in an airtight container. The cakes should be completely cool before storing, I find if there is any heat left this can cause