"When you look at a cupcake, you've got to smile."
~ Anne Byrn
**** UPDATE 4/23/2013 ** I have a new white cupcake recipe! Here! The Best Moist and Fluffy White Cupcake Recipe. BUT - I have heard reports from people that they still like this recipe the best, so try them both and you decide! This one is very moist. The one mentioned is moist, but I believe a little more fluffy, so it depends on which is the most imporant to you.
I make alot of cupcakes. I bake cupcakes for my husband's work, and white cupcakes are the most requested. To be specific, "white cupcakes with that butterscotch frosting". That butterscotch frosting, is a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, my all time favorite frosting.
I went through a time where I wasn't happy with the white cake recipe I was using, so I tried different recipes. I mean I tried many recipes. I used one from Americas Test kitchen, one from Amy Sedaris, and one from Magnolia Bakery. I made one from Martha Stewart and I even used a recipe from The Cake Bible. They were all fine, not bad at all, just not what I was looking for. You see, I was looking for a really moist cake with a great vanilla flavor. I didn't care if the crumb was right. I didn't care if it was a proper cake. I just wanted it to be moist and really yummy. An all American cupcake.
I think here in the U.S. we are accustomed to cake mix cake, and doctored cake mix cake. Which is not really a proper cake that you would find in maybe France or England. But what do I know? I've never been to Europe I just imagine that's where a proper cake lives.
I have also seen people from other countries eat a cake mix cake and wow, they don't like it at all. They aren't into the artificial flavor. I'm not into the fake flavor either, but I can't say I don't love the texture of a doctored up cake mix, so hence the search.
I was about to make the recent cupcake request, and I decided to try yet another recipe. As I was reading through recipe after recipe I found it. A Texas white sheet cake, you can't get more American than that. I love me a Texas sheet cake. They are always very moist and really delicious. So I made cupcakes with said recipe.
And all be darned, these were some great cupcakes! They are very moist, and super yummy. I think I found my favorite white cake recipe. And easy! I can't say that wasn't a fantastic unexpected side effect. You make it all in one big saucepan. I think it took me about the same amount of time a cake mix would, I kid you not. You don't even need a mixer. You don't need a mixer for the cake, that is.
I wish I could say this frosting is easy as well. But what am I gonna do? It's my favorite frosting of all time. It tastes of butter, and whatever flavor you add to it, but it's lighter than butter. It is not overly sweet. It's a frosting that many bakeries use. In fact a great local European bakery (that has since closed) used it, and I loved the their buttercream. My husband is not a frosting fan and he loves this, he says it tastes like ice cream.
The frosting is a little laborious, I'll forgive you if you just want to make the cake and use a different frosting.
It isn't difficult, it is pretty straightforward, and definitely worth it. It calls for liqueur, which is pretty important. It cuts the straight butter taste. It doesn't taste like there is any alcohol in it. You can use any flavor of liqueur you'd like. The bakery I mentioned used Kirsch. I use it also sometimes, but I also use Butterscotch schnapps, and sometimes Frangelico, or Amaretto.
My Favorite White Cupcakes
**Edited to add ** 3/24/2013 - I have increased the leavening in this recipe. I have been making these for years now and I find it makes them a little lighter, a little more fluffy yet still really moist. They still are not the most fluffy recipe on the planet, but they are super moist and really delicious. Whenever I make them I get rave reviews. I also changed the yield. I find they make a little more than the 36 previously noted, more like 40.
makes about 40 cupcakes - the recipe can easily be halved if you need less
For The Cupcakes
2 cups (473 ml) water
4 cups (403 g.) all-purpose flour
3 cups (583 g.) sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup (122 g.) sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon plus 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 Celsius or Gas Mark 4. In a large saucepan add the butter and water and cook until butter is melted. Remove from heat and add sugar, stir it till dissolved, then add sour cream, eggs and extracts. Whisk until well combined. Let cool to room temperature before proceeding. Edited to add** In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda, then whisk the dry ingredients into the batter until well mixed.
Pour the batter into a large container with a pour spout, like a large measuring cup. Pour the batter into muffin tins lined with cupcake wrappers. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean.
Edited to add***Don't open the oven until 18 minutes have passed. Sometimes recipes say to turn the pan half way through cooking time, don't do this here. The reason is because there is so much moisture in this recipe you need that cooking time before opening the oven or else they may fall, and never rise.
Cool cupcakes on wire racks. Frost them when totally cool.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting
this amount covers the 36 cupcakes in the recipe
adapted from this recipe
You really need a stand mixer for this recipe, you might be able to do it with a hand mixer, but I've never tried. So I'm going to give the instructions based on using a stand mixer.
1 1/2 lbs unsalted butter (680 g.) (6 sticks) room temperature
1 3/4 cups (340 g.) granulated sugar
10 egg whites (10 oz. 336 g.)
1 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract, or the extract of your choice.
2 Tablespoons liqueur, such as Amaretto, or Frangelico or Butterscotch schnapps, or Kirsch, or any flavor you'd like
First of all, it's really important that your butter is at room temperature. So if it's not already, go put your butter on the counter. I say this because usually when I see that in a recipe I just pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds and it works perfectly. But here it doesn't work as well, since the microwave heats it unevenly.
Place your egg whites and sugar in a double boiler or a bowl that sits on a pot of simmering water with the bowl not touching the water (a bowl that is NOT the bowl of your stand mixer, unless you have 2.) Lightly whisk the sugar and whites until it becomes 140 degrees Fahrenheit, or 60 degrees Celsius. Or if you don't have a thermometer, until it's hot to the touch.
Pour the hot white mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer (make sure the bowl is room temperature,) and mix with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium high until it has doubled in volume, when the mixer stops it should not move around in bowl. Remove the whisk and turn it upside down, the meringue should stand straight in the air.
Cut up the butter into 1 inch pieces. It should be moist on the outside but still cold inside.
On your stand mixer remove the whisk and attach the paddle. Add half the butter pieces into the bowl and immediately pulsate the mixer several times by turning it on and off in a jerky motion, this forces the butter to the bottom of the bowl. Do it until the meringue has covered the butter completely.
Turn the mixer on low. Gradually add some of the remaining butter pieces while the mixer is on, add a few pieces of butter, then turn the mixer up a speed, then add a few more, turn it up again, do this until you have used all of the butter. Don't go higher in speed than medium high.
Now beat it on medium high for about 5 minutes. At this point I walk away and come back. I always get worried it's not going to come out right. (I've made this dozens of times.) The reason is because it goes through all kinds of stages. In the end it will be the consistency of whipped butter only a little lighter. The picture above (the one in the mixing bowl) is the finished frosting.
When it's done turn the speed to low. Add the flavorings and liqueurs. Taste it and add a little more if it needs it. Don't go overboard, but if the flavor isn't pronounced, you run the risk of it tasting solely of
Frost the cupcakes using a pastry bag, or by using a zip top bag with a corner cut off.
This frosting needs to be eaten at room temperature because it solidifies like butter does when cold. So if you are serving them the next day, refrigerate them, but remove them from the fridge in plenty of time for them to come to room temperature.