Sure, Valentine’s Day was over a week ago, but only a cranky grump would snub their nose at these sweet pink cupcakes. Besides, I made them for my husband and a few other family members on Valentine’s Day (which counts for something!), and was reminded how delicious and easy the are to make, and definitely worthy of posting. Yeah, yeah, I know…I did get a little sprinkle-crazy and carried away with the whole pink and hearts theme, and the cupcakes feel a little over-the-top, but, after all, isn’t that sort of the theme of Valentine’s Day…you know, to go all out and show the ones you love just how much you care about them? But, the cool thing is, you can easily make them for any other occasion by using another food coloring or keeping them white, decorating with different sprinkles, and lining the cupcake pan with different paper liners (there are lots to choose from)!
Anyway, I’ve made a lot of cupcakes in my day, and in my early years, it was hard to find a recipe for homemade vanilla cupcakes that were fluffy, tender, and moist, like these…most often they were just dry, dense, and (yawn) bland. The recipe here is an adaptation of a sheet cake I created for Bon Appetit magazine last summer. These cupcakes surely don’t fit into my “nutritious” category, but they’re worth every lovely bite.
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups sugar
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup heavy cream
Pink gel food coloring
Assorted Valentine sprinkles
To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 15 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, egg whites, and vanilla extract in another medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 additions alternately with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating to blend well between additions and occasionally scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Divide the batter equally among the paper liners, filling each about three-fourths full.
Bake the cupcakes until they are pale golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes then remove them from the pan and cool them completely on the rack.
To make the frosting: Using an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) on low speed, beat the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in the mixer bowl until it is blended. Increase the speed to medium-high and blend until the frosting begins to lighten. With the machine on, gradually add the cream and beat until the frosting is fluffy. Gradually add the food coloring, one drop at a time, and beat to blend well.
To frost and decorate the cupcakes: Transfer the frosting to a piping bag that’s fitted with a large star tip and pipe the frosting decoratively atop each cupcake. Alternatively, you can spread the frosting over the cupcakes with an offset spatula. Immediately sprinkle the cupcakes with the sprinkles. DO AHEAD: The cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Cover them with a cake dome and store them at room temperature.
A helpful tip: Be sure to use cake flour, not all purpose flour; it is the key to giving the cupcakes their light and airy texture. Look for cake flour next to the other flours in the baking aisle – you can find it at nearly every supermarket.none