I made a mistake early in our marriage and made a delicious — but time-intensive and finicky — lemon cake for the husband’s birthday, which he promptly asked for every year following. In an act of desperation to spend one year without making that all-day-in-the-kitchen cake, I swapped in homemade vanilla bean cupcakes the year of his 30th birthday party. Now, he has two from-scratch favorites he alternates between 🙂
This year, he landed on the cupcakes (I may have nudged). They still take some time and have their own quirks. The dairy items all need to be at room temperature before you start, and depending on where you live vanilla beans might not be easy to find. But, it’s still less involved than that lemon cake. It can have a turn next year. I can’t remember where I found this recipe, so if it looks familiar, let me know so I can add the credits.
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
3 c. cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 c. sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. (If you have 3 or 4, go ahead and fill them; this recipe make about 40 cupcakes. If not, just fill the first two pans, bake, then remove cupcakes to cooling racks and refill with new paper liners and the remaining batter. Keep the batter in the fridge, lightly covered, while the first batch bakes.)
In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Add butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Using a sharp knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer and discard the pod. Beat butter and vanilla bean seeds on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until light and creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
Add sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. Frost with buttercream.
3 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 3/4 c. powdered sugar
A little less than 1/4 tsp. salt
3 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. buttermilk
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape bowl, add vanilla and buttermilk, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Spoon frosting into piping bag fitted with a star attachment and frost cooled cupcakes. (I love this reusable piping tool by Wilton.) If frosting cupcakes with a knife or not making as many, you can cut this recipe by 1/4.
Here’s what I made the birthday boy last year: