Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcakes

I remember the first time I heard of the California based cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I was watching acclaimed reality show “The Girls Next Door”, the fairytale saga of Hugh Hefner and his collection of girlfriends. Bridget, his number 2 GF, was throwing a birthday party and brought in Sprinkles cupcakes for the occasion. “Doesn’t everyone order cake for a birthday? What’s the big deal?”, you ask confusedly. Well when you have your own kitchen staff like the Playboy mansion, you don’t have ANYTHING brought in unless it’s really spectacular.

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Several years later when I was interning at “E! News” in LA, I finally laid my paws on one during an event at the office. Little did I know that by then, a Sprinkles had opened in my home state of New York. It was everything I dreamed of: moist and delicate, with dense, creamy frosting. So when I found a recipe online, of course I wanted to try it. The recipe I found is for their peppermint cupcakes, so I adjusted it slightly to be plain vanilla, and to make 24 cupcakes rather than 12. I also used this fondant recipe to make the heart garnishes. Yes, I know they make the cupcakes look vaguely boob-like, for better or worse.

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Servings: Makes 24 cupakes

INGREDIENTS:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour , sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup whole milk , room temperature

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature*

4 large egg whites, room temperature*

*If your eggs are warming too slowly, gently place them in a cup, then fill the cup with lukewarm (not hot) water until they reach room temperature

For the frosting:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold

1/4 tsp. salt

7 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. milk


DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Make sure the racks are in the lower two thirds of the oven. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently shake the tins so that any raised batter flattens. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes– I know this is a super scary way to test them as opposed to the toothpick method, but they’ll keep cooking in the pan so take them out as soon as you can touch the top without getting any residue on your finger. Rotate tins once while baking. Transfer tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

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For the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

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To assemble:

While gingerly holding a completely cooled cupcake, scoop a large amount (thing about a half a tennis ball) onto the top of the cupcake using a spatula. Then, swipe the sides of the cupcake in a circular motion until the top looks flat and the sides are smooth, almost like a volcano. Place any decorations on top, then eat!

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.

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Classic Chocolate Cake

During my elementary school years, I could always count on coming home to a snack and a glass of milk in the afternoon. We had a snack drawer, which evolved into a healthier snack drawer over time, then eventually ceased to exist as we got older and more in tune with nutrition. But back in the snack drawer’s glory days, we also kept one Entenmann’s treat on the counter at all times. At the dawn of our family snack habit it was the yellow cake with chocolate frosting, or the full blown chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. That gradually morphed into chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting because we wanted to *shake things up*.

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Beautiful, silky frosting

The other day I had a craving for chocolate on chocolate cake with a cold glass of milk. Truth be told, I’ve just been craving milk in general and I think making a cake seemed like the perfect excuse to drink more of it without causing any suspicion. Conveniently, a few days before my mom’s birthday, she asked me to make her cake. “What kind”, I responded, silently hoping that she would tell me to pick. Which she did. Chocolate on chocolate it was.

I found this recipe on a blog called Add a Pinch. I adjusted it slightly; I used instant coffee powder instead of espresso powder, so I diminished the amount in the frosting. If you like your chocolate frosting to err on the side of mocha, feel free to add a touch more.

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon instant coffee powder

1 cup whole milk

½ cup vegetable or canola oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

For the frosting:

1½ cups butter (3 sticks), softened

1 cup unsweetened cocoa

5 cups confectioner’s sugar

½ cup whole milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee powder

DIRECTIONS:

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by spraying with baking spray.

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and instant coffee powder to a large bowl. Whisk through to combine.

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Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Distribute cake batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, remove from the pan and cool completely.

Slice off any uneven tops if you wish. Normally I do, but with this cake the domed top can give it a nice homemade charm.

For the frosting:

Add cocoa to a large bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Whisk through to remove any lumps.

Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.

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Cute baby sticks of butta.

Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, turn mixer onto a high speed for about a minute. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.

Add vanilla extract and espresso powder and combine well.

If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.

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I love how the rainbow sprinkles pop against the milk chocolate!

Assembly:

Frost the cake. Throw some sprinkles on there. Stand back, admire. Eat. Maybe one more slice.

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There’s nothing like decade-old birthday candles

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Imagine that with a cold glass of milk… yes, please.

 

Baked Brooklyn Birthday Cake

Yesterday was my grandma, Nawnee’s, 79th birthday. Nawnee is a pretty fabulous woman, so she required a pretty fabulous cake. I like to do either classic double chocolate or funfetti for birthdays, but she isn’t a huge chocolate fan, so I opted for funfetti. I’ve only ever made funfetti from the box (which is delicious), but my recently purchased cookbook, Baked Occasionshas a homemade funfetti cake right on its cover. The recipe is pretty straightforward, just more time consuming than using a box mix.

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I can’t reprint the recipe here, but I encourage you to buy the cookbook; the recipes and introductions are funny, heartfelt, and mouth-watering good. Side note: if you’re wondering why this recipe has “Baked Brooklyn” in the title, it’s because the cookbook Baked Occasions is based on recipes that the authors, Matt and Renato, created for their bakery, Baked Brooklyn.

Cappuccino Confetti Cupcakes

I met one of my best friends when I randomly moved into her apartment two years ago. Her birthday was only a few weeks after I had moved in, and I had no idea what to get her as a gift since I hardly knew her.  I felt that it would be awkward to spend a lot of money on the gift (again, we had just met). Then it hit me: when in doubt, bake. Baking allows you to show how much you care by putting a lot of time, rather than money, into a present. I made her these cappuccino cupcakes, which went over VERY well; like I said she’s now one of my best friends.

The recipe for the frosting comes from The Sweet Little Book of Cupcakes, which is written by the good people of Sweet Cupcakes in Boston, and is my go-to when I need a one of a kind frosting flavor. I chose to use a chocolate box mix for the cake part; the cake recipes in this book, though flavorful and unique, are a lot denser than I like my cupcakes to be. I prefer a lighter, airier, texture.

Buy The Sweet Little Book of Cupcakes here: http://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Little-Book-Cupcakes/dp/1441303510/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406994862&sr=1-1&keywords=sweet+little+book+of+cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

One box chocolate cake mix

1 cup, plus 2 tbsp room temperature cream cheese (I suggest taking it out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before you start working)

6 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (ditto)

4 cups confectioners sugar

2 1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/4 tsp coffee extract

Round rainbow sprinkles

*Please note that this frosting recipe makes more than enough frosting for 24 cupcakes when frosted generously.

DIRECTIONS:

Prepare the box cake using the provided cupcake instructions.

Beat the cream cheese and butter until creamy. If you are using an electric mixer, use it on medium speed.

In another bowl, sift the confectioners sugar and cinnamon together.

Add the confections sugar and cinnamon mixture into the cream cheese mixture one cup at a time while beating on low speed.

Add the vanilla and coffee extracts.

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Keep the mixer on low speed for a few minutes, then switch it to medium speed until the frosting reaches its desired consistency. If you are mixing by hand, as I did, simply alter the speed at which you’re mixing.

Insert frosting into a piping bag, and pipe onto cooled cupcakes one at a time. Sprinkle round rainbow sprinkles on top. Be wary of putting on too many sprinkles, as this type is crunchy.

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Enjoy!

Leslie