Happy Birthday sweet Lilly! We can't believe you're three!! How did that happen so quickly? ..............
.................. it seems like just yesterday you were just a tiny babe, our Christmas baby, adding irreplaceable joy and delight to our family circle.
Now you're turning three and we're thrilled to be able to celebrate this special day with you.
You didn't have many expectations for your birthday. The only request you had was for pink cupcakes, in fact, I think it was last summer when we hung out together for a week in London that you first informed me about the pink cupcakes. And many times since, when we'd talk about your birthday, it was always the pink cupcakes that were the highlight of the conversation.
So pink cupcakes it is! I used my favorite recipe, a never fail, super-simple recipe from the folks at Cooks Illustrated. You don't know much about stuff like this yet (though I have to say you're a wonderful little cooking helper), but these people are experts at cooking and baking. They test and tweak and re-test and if they say something is Perfect ................ well you can be sure it's going to be not only perfect, but mighty fine too!
The icing is also a favorite here at The Café. I worked on this one for awhile till I got it just right; buttery and sweet.... with just a bit of cream cheese, lots of vanilla and a hint of almond extract.
It's nice and creamy, making it easy to frost the cupcakes, spreading the icing with a knife or piling it into a pastry bag and doing a fancy swirly twirl. When you get just a bit bigger, I'll teach you how to do these fun swirls I made on your birthday cupcakes. I tried a new tip this time; a Wilton 2D, which makes these pretty swirls that look a bit like roses. I watched a super simple tutorial found here to learn the technique ................ so I'll be all set to teach you!
From the look of delight on your sweet face when you saw the cupcakes, all sparkly in the candle light.... to your enjoyment of the very last crumb, I'd say the pink cupcakes were definitely a big hit! We love you so much Lilly, and pray we'll be able to celebrate many more birthdays with you ............... in whatever ever color your little heart desires!
Perfect White Cupcakes (in pink!)
1 cup cake flour
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, but still cool
pink food gel coloring, if desired
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line twelve standard size cupcake cups with paper liners. I really love the greaseproof liners you can find at many stores these days. They stay bright and pretty, even after baking.
2. Lightly whisk milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract in large glass measuring cup.
3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric stand mixer and add butter; beating at low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no large clumps of flour.
4. Add 3/4 of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using a handheld mixer) for 1-1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 20 seconds longer at low speed. Add a tiny bit of gel food coloring. Add more if needed to achieve desired hue.
5. Evenly distribute the batter in the cupcake tins, filling the cups no more than 2/3 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Remove the cupcakes from the pan carefully and let them cool completely on a wire rack.
7. Frost with Best-Ever Cream Cheese Icing. To swirl with the rose technique, use a Wilton 2D tip. Here is a wonderful tutorial for the swirling technique.
Makes 12 cupcakes
Adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner? who adapted the recipe from Cooks Illustrated.
Best-Ever Buttercream Icing
¾ cup butter, at room temperature
2 ounces cream cheese (I use the low fat - not no-fat) at room temperature
1 pound bag or box powdered sugar, more as needed. 2-3 tablespoons milk or half & half, more as needed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
a pinch of salt
1. Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, (use the wire whisk attachment if you have one) stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add milk one tablespoon at a time till icing is soft and fluffy. Add vanilla, almond extract and a pinch of salt and beat at a low speed until incorporated, then increase to medium-high beat for another five minutes. If icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar, if too thick, add a bit more milk.
3. Makes enough to frost 18-24 cupcakes. You'll have more than you'll need for the 12 cupcakes. You can store any unused buttercream in the refrigerator in an airtight container; to reuse, let it come to room temperature and then return to the mixer for a minute or two before spreading.