I have been fighting the cupcake fad for a long time and was desperately hoping it would go away. Then one of our restaurant partners began asking me to make them, I responded with, " Oh , Steve, cupcakes are silly, it's a temporary craze—please leave me alone, I have more important things to bake than cupcakes. The request continued to fall on my deaf ears and finally the begging ceased. Whew, I was glad that was over with— boy was I wrong! A few weeks before the opening of our new Sarabeth's restaurant in Tribeca, the pleading began again—it was daily. This time it was our partner Stewart. "Sarabeth, you have to make us cupcakes! Must we beg you? If so, we are begging!" Needless to say, I reluctantly gave in to the nagging and began preparing for their debut. I knew that if I thought of them as mini- birthday cakes, half the the battle would be over, as I love making party cakes. I am ashamed to admit that I have become obsessed with the idea of the little cakes. With my new found mission, I immediately began to research and experiment. It had to be a great cupcake and the frosting had to be perfect. I tried several recipes before I stumbled upon Martha's cupcake cookbook in my library. There they were, buttermilk cupcakes, I whipped out my small mixer and I was off and running. The batter was lush and creamy and the little cakes turned out tender and light. The cake (or pastry) flour is the secret to creating a light, delicate crumb. They were everything I expected from a perfect cupcake. In fact, the Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes are so terrific that I have made only one change, I substituted the seeds from 1 vanilla bean for the vanilla extract, which the recipe called for. And of course, I use my own recipe for the Lemony-Vanilla Bean Frosting. Thank you Martha! Everyone is very happy. You will be too!
Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, Clarkson & Potter, 2009)
Makes 36 cupcakes
3 cups cake flour (not self-rising) or pastry flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks)
unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature
seeds of 1 vanilla bean, or 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium. Add whole eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add yolks, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low. Beat in the vanilla seeds or extract. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes onto racks and cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
Sarabeth's Lemony-Vanilla Bean Frosting
4 sticks unsalted butter, slightly cool
5 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
seeds of 1 vanilla bean
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Pink gel-paste food color, optional
Pearl dragees for garnish, optional
1. Using an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until soft. About 2 minutes.
2. Reduce the speed to medium-low and add the confectioners' in three additions. Be sure to scrape down the sides after each addition.
3. Add the seeds of the vanilla bean and the lemon juice. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until light and fluffy. Add a touch of food coloring if desired. Mix well to evenly distribute the color
4. Transfer the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a 5/16-inch-diameter open-star pastry tip, such as Ateco #823. Create your own design and sprinkle with the dragees if desired.