Being the late bloomer that I am, I actually just made my first batch of cupcakes a few months ago: Banana with Chocolate-Almond Butter Frosting. They were a good effort with a dried banana chip as a garnish!
I had used some recipe off the internet that I had found which contained all of my search words – banana, chocolate, and almond butter. My main focus was to use up my over-ripe bananas in something other than banana bread. I thought they were pretty good but my coworkers said they were more like muffins than cupcakes. Besides frosting, what’s the big difference anyways? >:(
So my next attempt at cupcakes was in preparation for a family birthday celebration at Shaun’s parents house. I wanted to bring a dessert, and I wanted to try cupcakes again – but what kind?
I basically work in a “kitchen laboratory”, and one of the many perks of the job is the food samples. While tossing out some old ingredients, my coworker gave me a gallon-ziploc filled with a powder chai flavor to take home – which had been used in some beverage applications earlier in the year. This sparked an idea for chai cupcakes for that fall-spice flavor. When I got home, I checked my recipe bible for a standard cupcake recipe:
This book is a food nerd’s dream. It explains why certain ingredients work better in certain recipes and gives plenty of detail on the various “trials” in finding the perfect version of some classic recipes. Check it out here.
The beauty of this book is that they describe testing several dairy products successfully (milk, cream, yogurt), but their sensory panel preferred cupcakes made with sour cream. So for my practice run I used milk, added 1 teaspoon of my chai flavoring, and the cupcakes turned out pretty darn good. For the real-deal cupcakes for the party, I bought sour cream and followed the recipe exactly, adding 1 teaspoon of the chai flavoring again. They came out more moist and got a good reception at the party. Shaun made the vanilla butter cream frosting (a first time for both of us – without a thermometer, stainless bowl, or standing mixer!) and we sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon on the top.
Happy Birthday Shaun!
Yellow Cupcakes (with Chai Flavoring)
1 ½ cups (7.5 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup (7 oz) sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sour cream (or other dairy product – milk, cream, yogurt)
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
(1 teaspoon Chai Flavoring)
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin tin with liners.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients into dry and beat on Medium speed for about 30 seconds. Make sure to scrape sides of bowl with spatula to incorporate any remaining dry ingredients.
- Divide batter evenly in muffin tin (a 2-oz ice cream scoop or spoon should work). Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
2 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, each stick cut into quarters
- Combine eggs, sugar, vanilla & salt in bowl, place over a pan of simmering water (double boiler). Whisk gently but constantly until mixture is at 160F.
- Beat egg mixture at medium-high speed until light, airy & cooled to room temperature (5 minutes). Reduce mixing speed to medium and add butter slowly (note: may look curdled during butter addition). After all butter is incorporated, raise mixer to high speed and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy.
- Frost the cupcakes after they have cooled completely.
Both recipes adapted from The New Best Recipe by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated, 2004