Sunday, April 11, 2010

Best Basic Cupcake Recipe

There is a gorgeous food (mostly baking) related-blog out there on the internets called Technicolor Kitchen. I think, aside from the beautiful food she makes, the most amazing part is that she posts every single thing in both English and Portuguese on two different blogs (click on the language to go to the blog in that language). Anyway. The Wednesday before Easter, she posted a recipe for some delightful-looking cupcakes that she called "Almond cakes with sugared apple icing." The recipe is apparently from Donna Hay but I can't find it anywhere on that site. Regardless, these were delicious and simple, so I'm posting the recipe for your enjoyment. (We doubled it--I'm going to post the original measurements, because you probably don't want 32 cupcakes. But if you do, double what I'm posting here.)

Ingredients (for the cakes):
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp unsalted butter (at room temperature)
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (note: if you want really almond-y flavor, substitute almond extract)
1 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup whole milk

for the icing:
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup clear apple juice

1. Okay, so the recipe technically calls for caster sugar (in both instances) which is really hard to find in the US (at least in my part of it) so put the sugar in a food processor and pulse for a few seconds to make it a little bit finer.
2. And I'm assuming that you didn't find ground almonds (or almond meal) at the store, so put some almonds in a food processor until they're finely ground. My advice (for both the almonds and the sugar) is to do small amounts at a time and fill measuring cups to make sure you have the right amount once it's ground.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. Put the butter, sugar and vanilla (or almond) extract into the bowl of an electric mixer, or into a normal bowl and use a handmixer. Beat until fluffy.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well before adding the next one.
6. Add the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Mix thoroughly, then fold in the milk.
7. Pour into cupcake pans (that are either buttered or lined with cupcake liners). Fill each about 2/3 full. I sprinkled a couple almond slivers onto the top of each of mine so they'd look prettier. I think one almond slice would work well, too, or just one almond. Or whatever you think would be appropriate.
8. Bake for 15-17 minutes. They are done when a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.
9. Make the icing: put the sugar (that you've put through the food processor) in a bowl. Add small amounts of apple juice, stirring, until it becomes something that you can ice a cupcake with. Spoon it over the cupcakes, spreading if it's thick enough to spread.

The batter before folding the milk it. It made a heart!

In the oven. (Do I recommend opening your oven to take a picture? No, not really, but I forgot to take pictures before putting them in the oven.)

Fresh out of the oven! They look so pretty here, I almost didn't want to ice them.

This didn't come out well at all, but that's basically what happens when they're iced. Except this was a leftover cupcake and I'd forgotten to take the picture until just a little while ago and it's a week old. So really, it looked prettier than this. (Also? Still delicious.)

My thoughts on this recipe:
-It was good. Really good. But, like I mentioned in the ingredients list, you'd probably need to substitute almond extract for the vanilla if you wanted a lot of flavor. As it was, they were a pretty basic cupcake and I think I'll use them whenever I need a basic cupcake recipe for a fun frosting.
-The recipe that I got said to ice the cupcakes as close to serving time as possible. It wasn't really possible for me to ice them right before serving them as we were traveling with them. The apple juice in the icing sort of sunk into the cupcakes and they ended up with a hardened layer of sugar on them. Was it delicious? Yes. But I couldn't taste the apple at all.
-Also, I think I should have put more apple juice in the icing. Mine was at a point where I could spread it, and I think if I could have drizzled it, there would have been more apple flavor.
-I used slivered almonds and I think this was a bad idea. Almonds are one of my favorite foods, and I ate some of the slivered almonds afterwards and they didn't have nearly as much flavor as normal almonds. Perhaps using normal, whole (or at least sliced) almonds would give better flavor to the recipe. And a tiny bit of color.
-They probably would have come out fluffier if I'd remembered to take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it warm up and soften a bit. Instead Mike stuck it in the microwave and it ended up melted. I read something recently on how important it is that your butter is softened as instructed and how melted butter is useless--I disagree, but whatever you're making usually comes out much fluffier if you actually follow the instructions.
-I'm definitely using this recipe again. And I highly recommend you check out Technicolor Kitchen for more wonderful sweets.

Mike decorated one of the cupcakes. With a chocolate frosted mini wheat. A special cupcake for a special boy.


  1. It's always good to have a basic cupcake recipe that calls for extract. You could swap the vanilla out for any flavour, to get those sort of cupcakes. I'm thinking strawberry or rosewater would be nice with the ground almonds. Perhaps ground pistachios with the rosewater? I don't know if you can swap out ground almonds for other ground nuts.

  2. You know, I've never had rosewater extract. Or strawberry. Mostly vanilla and almond. I bet strawberry would be delicious, though! And I have no idea whether other ground nuts would work. I will have to experiment with cupcakes--oh no, baked goods :P Thanks for the comment!