Classic Vanilla Cupcakes + Summer Cupcake Decorating

Cupcakes rich in vanilla flavor get a little bit of summer flair with candy mermaids and popsicles. Get the recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting AND learn my secret to these easy and impressive decorations. 

Disclaimer: This post and recipe was created for #SummerDessertWeek! I was sent samples by some of the sponsor companies but as always opinions are 100% mine.

Cupcakes rich in vanilla flavor get a little bit of summer flair with candy mermaids and popsicles. Get the recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting AND learn my secret to these easy and impressive decorations. 

Today is my last recipe for #SummerDessertWeek (be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post!) and I’ve got a twofer for you. A recipe and some decorating tips. Neither are difficult, but both wowed my friends when I brought it to dinner one night recently.

Continue reading “Classic Vanilla Cupcakes + Summer Cupcake Decorating”

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes

I first learned to drink coffee while studying abroad. During the semester in Viña del Mar, Chile, I would go with a couple of friends to a little cafe called Mango’s every afternoon. There, we should share cappuccinos with a spoonful of extra sugar and little cookies. Supposedly we were working on homework, but mostly we just chatted. During my summer doing research in Santiago, my go-to coffee place was the cafe in the national library. It was breathtakingly beautiful. After returning to the U.S. for my senior year, I moved from costly cappuccinos to slowly learning how to drink regular coffee, which was free at the cafeteria or cheap on campus coffee shops. To this day, however, espresso drinks (cappuccino, caramel macchiato, cafe mocha) are definite treats to myself. I use them mostly to bribe myself out of bed…. “there’s a caramel macchiato waiting for you when you get to work.” Sometimes it works. Sometimes I roll back over for another hour and buy myself a fancy espresso drink anyway.

This caramel macchiato cupcake recipe has a subtle cupcake base – highlighted by just a hint of espresso flavor (I couldn’t find the caramel macchiato frappuccino and used a unflavored frappuccino instead) with a slightly sweet frosting. I did taste the frosting as I went, and tried not to drizzle too much caramel on top, for fear of making the cupcake overly sweet.

This cupcake recipe was originally adapted from More From Magnolia: Recipes from the World Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey’s Home Kitchen by Allysa Torey and posted on Sweat ReciPEAs (formerly Culinary Concoctions by Peabody). The frosting recipe is original by Sweat ReciPEAs.

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes

Makes 20-24 Cupcakes

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:

  • 1½ c. self-rising flour*
  • 1¼ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ c. superfine sugar**
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 c. Starbucks Bottled Caramel Frappuccino (use the original Frappuccino flavor if you can’t find the caramel)
  • 3 Tbs. homemade or store-bought caramel sauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for the Caramel Italian Buttercream Frosting:

  • 1 c. sugar
  • ¼ c. water
  • 5 egg whites
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into tablespoons
  • 4 Tbs. homemade or store-bought caramel sauce, plus more to drizzle over cupcakes

* I don’t use self-rising flour on a regular basis and refused to buy some just for this recipe. I made my own. For 1 c. self-rising flour, portion out 1 c. all-purpose flour. Remove 2 tsp. of flour and discard. Stir in 1½ tsp. baking powder and ½ tsp. salt. Voila! Self-rising flour! (Don’t forget, you need 1½ cups of self-rising flour – that would be 1½ cups minus 3 tsp. of all-purpose flour, 2¼ tsp. baking powder and 3/4 tsp. salt).

** Make superfine sugar by throwing it in a food processor (I use food processor the attachment for my emulsion mixer) and pulse a couple times.

Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl and add caramel. Beat for two minutes.
  3. With the mixer on low, add the self-rising flour (or self-rising flour mixture). When thoroughly combined, add half of the frappuccino and the vanilla. Add the all-purpose flour. Scrape down sides of bowl and finally, add remaining frappuccino.
  4. Portion batter into prepared muffin tin – filling each cupcake liner until 3/4 full. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Frosting and Ice the Cupcakes:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 c. sugar and 1/4 c. water to a boil. When the mixture reaches 245F, remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. While cooling, fit a stand mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk egg whites on high speed until they form soft peaks. Then, with the mixer still on high, add 1/4 c. sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture starts to form glossy peaks.
  3. Keep mixer on high and slowly add the hot syrup to the meringue. Continue whisking for 7-10 minutes, until the outside of the bowl has cooled to room temperature.
  4. With the mixer still running, add butter, one tablespoon at a time. The butter will deflate the frosting. (I think I added the butter a little early and the frosting was a little soft for piping – just keep whisking and it’ll firm up again). Once incorporated, add caramel sauce, mixing for another minute.
  5. Frost cupcakes and, if desired, drizzle with caramel.

Eggnog Cupcakes

Ok, I swear, I’m working toward the end of all these desserts and toward a more balanced recipe posting! (I’ve got enchiladas and bread lined up for the next couple weeks.)

I never drank eggnog growing up, and really don’t drink it now. I might have a small glass of vanilla eggnog, but that’s about it. My hubby, on the other hand, loves the stuff. As a treat for him and some coworkers, I decided to make these eggnog cupcakes. When test-tasting, I was surprised to find out that I liked them more than I thought I would.

The frosting on these cupcakes is pretty sweet, so I wouldn’t go overboard when frosting them. The rum in the cupcakes and frosting is optional, but a little alcohol never hurt anyone, right? 🙂

Eggnog Cupcakes

Adapted from Everyday Annies

Makes 12-18 cupcakes

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ¼ c. dark rum (or bourbon)
  • 1 c. eggnog
  • ¼ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. sugar

Ingredients for the Frosting:

  • 20 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ c. confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 2½ Tbs. eggnog
  • 1 Tbs. dark rum

Garnish:

  • Ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg
  • Cinnamon sticks

Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚ F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar, and sugar on medium-low speed until combined. With the mixer running, add baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Reduce speed to low and slowly add flour, scraping down the bowl as needed. Cupcake mixture will be very soupy.
  3. Portion batter into prepared cupcake liners. Fill 2/3 full for 18 cupcakes, or 3/4 full for 12 slightly rounded cupcakes. Bake 22-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until smooth, 20-30 seconds. Add powdered sugar, salt, and nutmeg, mixing until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, about 1 minute. Add eggnog and beat until light and fluffy, 4 minutes. With the mixer still running, add rum.
  2. When thick enough to pipe, fill a pastry bag fitted with a large, unlabeled start tip with frosting and pipe onto cupcakes. Or, if you prefer, simply take a knife and frost the cupcake. Garnish with ground cinnamon or nutmeg, or a cinnamon stick.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes & Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s really no words to describe these cupcakes. My hubby has declared that these are his all time favorite cupcakes. For me, they rank among the top three – the S’mores Cupcakes and Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes all rivaling for the top three slots. I brought a batch of these to work for a mini bake sale (proceeds going to Susan G Komen and breast cancer research), and some of the guys were walking away with up to 4 cupcakes. Oh yes, they’re that good. Or maybe I should have charged much more. Anyway, make these and you’ll win over the hearts of your significant other, family, friends, coworkers…. and if you’re fundraising, you can probably make a pretty penny off of these. No more commentary needed. Enjoy!

Baking Notes: When I made the recipe, I used a single batch of the cupcake base, a 1/2 batch of the cookie dough filling, and a 1/2 batch of the icing. These changes are reflected below. I note this specifically in case you run out of filling or icing. It is perfectly fine to make another 1/2 batch. I did make a whole batch of the chocolate chip cookies (full batch reflected below), although you’ll only need about 1/3 of a batch for the cupcakes. The rest I packaged and sold at my mini bake sale, at least the ones I managed to hide from the hubby.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Cupcake recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats;

Chocolate chip cookie recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated (p 434) via Annie’s Eats

Makes 24 cupcakes and 7+ dozen mini chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients for the Chocolate Chip Cookies:

  • 2 c. plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 12 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 c. brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 c. semi-sweet mini chocolate chips*

* If making normal sized cookies, use regular chocolate chips

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Ingredients for the Cookie Dough Filling:

  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 Tbs. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 c. plus 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 3.5 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

Ingredients for the Cookie Dough Icing:

  •  1/2 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ c. light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/2 to 2 c. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • heaping 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Garnish:

  • Mini chocolate chip cookies
  • Mini chocolate chips

Make the Cookies:

  1. Ensure oven racks are placed in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butters and sugars on medium speed until thoroughly combined. Add egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Sprinkle in dry ingredients and beat on low until combined. Scrape down sides of the bowl, add chocolate chips, and beat briefly until everything’s mixed in. If chocolate chips aren’t evenly distributed, stir with a wooden spoon.
  3. For this next step, you’ll either use a teaspoon (for mini cookies) or a half cup measuring scoop for large cookies (or a tablespoon or 1/4 cup measuring scoop for something in between). Portion out cookie dough – a teaspoon for mini cookies or a scant 1/2 cup for large) and roll into a ball. Pull apart into two equal halves. Place halves on prepared cookie sheets with jagged surfaces facing up. Yes, I thought this was weird too, but the cookies were tasty and stayed soft, so just do it. 🙂 (Actually, I was curious so I googled it. Beantown Baker used the same recipe and said that this step gives the cookies “the crinkled and craggly bakery cookie look.”)
  4. Bake for 11-14 minutes if making the full-size cookies, rotating pans halfway through cooking. If making the mini cookies, start at 6 minutes and keep checking the cookies until the cookies are lightly golden. Outer edges should start to harden but middle should still be soft. Don’t overbake!
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly on baking sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat an oven to 350° . Line two cupcake pans with liners and set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each.
  3. Scrape down sides of the blow and on low speed, slowly add baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of flour, the milk and vanilla, and the remaining flour. Again, scrape down bowl and beat until all ingredients are just combined.
  4. With a spatula, fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Fill prepared cupcake pans with batter, about 2/3-3/4 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes before removing to a baking sheet to cool completely.

Make the Cookie Dough Filling:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add flour, condensed milk, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in chocolate chips.
  2. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

Make the Icing:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (yes, your mixer is getting a work out with this recipe!), beat butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. With the mixer still running, add flour and salt. Finally, add milk and vanilla extract. Icing should be smooth yet thick enough to pipe.

Assemble the Cupcakes:

  1. When cupcakes are completely cooled, using a paring knife to core out the center, forming a cone-shaped center. Remove cookie dough filling from fridge. Fill each cupcake with 1/2 tsp. cookie dough (I rolled it into a little ball).
  2. Top with frosting. I piped frosting on with a large Wilton star tip.
  3. Garnish with mini chocolate chips and a mini chocolate chip cookie.
  4. Try to restrain yourself from having more than one cupcake.

Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes

Happy 30th Birthday S! Thanks for letting me spoil you with your choice of cupcakes on you special day. These cupcakes (aka boozecakes) were a wonderful pick, something that I wouldn’t have looked at but normally chosen, since I’m not a huge fan of lemon desserts. However, I ended up really loving these cupcakes. I just wish the photos had come out better, but I guess I should have expected poor quality when I was hiding in your spare room trying to get the shots! Clearly, I’ll have to make these cupcakes again so that I can get some better photos.

A slightly sweet lemon cupcake filled with a tart lemon curd and topped with a light limoncello frosting, these cupcakes were way better than I imagined. The only trouble I had was with the frosting. The original frosting tasted a bit too much like cream cheese for me, and was not nearly thick enough to pipe. I ultimately ended up using twice the amount of confectioner’s sugar than indicated, and it still wasn’t quite thick enough. And I ended up with a ton left over because of all the extra sugar added. In the recipe below, I adjusted the frosting ingredients to make a thicker batch with a stronger limoncello taste.

Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes

Adapted from BrownEyedBaker, originally from Tartlette

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients for the Lemon Cupcakes:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 Tbs. limoncello
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c.  lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
zest of 1 lemon

Ingredients for the Lemon Curd:
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 c. lemon juice (juice of 2 lemons)
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

Ingredients for the Limoncello Frosting:
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 Tbs. limoncello
2+ c. confectioner’s sugar, sifted

Garnishes: i.e. slices of candied lemon, fresh lemon slices, berries, etc.

Make the Cupcakes:

Ensure an oven rack is positioned in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, beating until combined. Same for limoncello. Lower speed. Slowly add remaining dry ingredients (baking powder, salt and flour) alternating with the buttermilk. Scrape down sides of the bowl. Add lemon juice and zest.

Portion batter into muffin tins and bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 18-22 minutes. Set on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, Make the Lemon Curd:

While cupcakes are cooking, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally until sugar is melted.

While waiting for lemon-sugar mixture to simmer, whisk together egg and egg yolk in a medium bowl. When sugar is dissolved, whisk the sugar-lemon mixture into the eggs. This will temper the eggs. Return mixture to saucepan (still over medium heat), and whisk constantly until it thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the curd to cool completely.

Make the Limoncello Frosting:

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Lower speed and add limoncello. When incorporated, with the mixer still on low, slowly add confectioner’s sugar until frosting has reached desired consistency. (Clearly, mine was still a little soft, but I had run out of sugar!)

Assemble the Cupcakes:

When cupcakes have cooled complete, use a sharp knife to remove a cone in the center of each cupcake. Fill the little hole with lemon curd, and top with limoncello frosting. I piped the frosting using a Wilton 1M tip, but you can also spread it with a knife, if preferred.

Garnish with candied lemon slices or fresh fruit.