To celebrate my toddler's 2nd birthday, I wanted something cute and pretty, just like her. It needed to have a little sweetness. but not overly so, like one would expect for a toddler birthday. She still hadn't had the opportunity to really overdose on sugar, so I felt like we should approach it cautiously. Lightly sweetened vanilla cupcakes with a rich buttercream were the result, and after a couple of test runs, I was in love. They were delectably moist inside and had a light crust on the outside. The buttercream was divine, but not overpowering, and they looked as pretty as I had hoped. At the party, they were a big hit – they disappeared before we even cut the birthday cake.
Basic Vanilla Cupcakes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 10 tbsp (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large egg whites
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
BUTTERCREAM (from Martha Stewart):
- 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Heat oven to 325˚. Place paper liners in cups of mini muffin pans (36 total).
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla. On low, beat in half the flour mixture, then 3/4 cups of water. Beat in remaining flour mixture.
Divide batter evenly among prepared cups. Bake for 18 minutes.
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:
Beat butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition, about 5 minutes. (After every 2 additions, increase speed to high, and beat for 10 seconds, then reduce speed to medium-high). Add vanilla, and beat until buttercream is smooth. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)