Up until recently, I made an observation regarding my behavior in the kitchen. I actually understood my thought process when it came to cooking. Most people cook and follow the recipe to the punctuation mark. Others venture onto their own thing. I was the one venturing of late, and it turns out it’s a great thing for cooking! You get to enhance dishes, make additions & tweakings of your own, and in the end impress even yourself with the final results. Baking, on the other hand, is more of a magical chemical bundle of processes that when altered in any shape or form, will only yield atrocious results that’ll get you nowhere.
Through-out the years, I got used to the easy peasy cake mix solution. They’re great, the variety allows for selection, & I’ve got no complaints about them…until I got to Germany. Unfortunately, cakes here are a bit more…complex. And tired of trying to find a fluffy Pillsbury equivalent, I decided to venture into my first official baking project: my daughter’s first birthday giant smash cupcake. It was great! But boy-oh-boy, was there lots to learn. I now know that I got totally lucky with the results, because I definitely had no clue what I was doing. I messed up half the batter, ended up making a box cake for the base, and had no clue how to prepare the buttercream frosting for decorating. After much reading after that one stroke of beginner’s luck (both online and from my handy cooking bible “The Joy of Cooking”), I learned all about the chemistry behind the different kinds of cake batters and how the addition, quantities, & processes involved all intertwine for varied results.
But I don’t want to bore you will all the details of my baking Satori. I will only let you know that I am looking forward to trying out many, many new recipes and respect (absolutely respect) the ingredients list, the processes, and the instructions! This yellow cupcake recipe was my first official & conscious attempt at that, and I was just incredibly surprised at the difference it all makes! My results sometimes do overjoy me, and today was an example of just that. Now, excusing the nerd in me, I will proceed to share with you the great recipe for a simple & classic yellow cupcake batter.
For the Batter
- 2-1/2 cups (130g) of sifted cake flour (405)
- 2-1/4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup (240ml) of milk
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of almond extract
- 1 cup (230g) of butter
- 1-1/2 cups (300g) of sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). For baking purposes, it’s very important to have all the ingredients at room temperature, unless stated otherwise. Ever since I learned the importance of this, I keep my eggs by the window in a basket. I love it,they are close by for cooking and it gives me the sense that they are fresh farm eggs just brought in – yeah, not so much.
Grease & flour two cupcake pans (or add cupcake liners). This recipe yields about 20 cupcakes. Whisk the flour, baking powder, & salt thoroughly in a bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine the milk with the vanilla & almond extracts. In a large separate bowl, beat the butter on high speed until creamy and gradually add 1-1/2 cups (300g) of the sugar until light.
Separate the eggs, placing the egg whites in yet another medium-sized bowl for whipping, and beat the yolks one by one into the sugar & butter mixture. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, beating until smooth. Beat the egg whites that you set aside in the separate bowl on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the rest of the sugar – 1/4 cup (50g) – beating on high speed.
Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to fold 1/4 of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. Pour the batter into the cupcake pans, making sure not to fill more than 3/4 of the way up. Bake until golden, 18-25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and set on a rack to cool. I placed mine by the window in true American housewife form. When cool, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar. I loved the entire process, and by the end I felt somewhat like a proud baker prodigy with my delicious homemade cupcakes to serve my coffee guest today.