Cupcakes have been mostly absent from my life (and my blog!) since we made the move from sea level to 6000 feet. Sad story, right? I just can’t get them right. I’ve had decent luck with cakes and quick breads but the secret to perfect high-altitude cupcakes has eluded me until now.
The problem with baking at high elevation is that your leavening agents react insanely quick up here. Like, you’re making a batch of cupcakes, turn your back for 10 seconds to get a different spatula and your batter rises an inch. Seriously, it’s that fast. So you have to raise the oven temperature to set the batter before it expands too much, decrease leaveners, perhaps add an extra egg, add extra flour… it’s all very confusing. And these remedies come with side effects – raising the over temperature not only sets the batter, it also gives you burnt cupcake tops with undercooked middles sometimes. Like I said, confusing.
But I finally found a recipe that adapted really well. And now here’s where I’m at: high-altitude baking applies to a very small percentage of my readers. So do I share the original recipe with notes on how to adapt? I’m assuming that since it adapted well to high-altitude baking that it’s probably a pretty good recipe to begin with. What do we think?
So about the cupcakes? They were so good! I love the white cupcakes from boxed mixes and these turned out even better than those. And the buttercream is so fantastic! It’s made by cooking egg whites in a double boiler and then beating them to stick peaks so it’s an entirely different texture than buttercreams made with just butter. It’s silky and rich and I considered spreading it on toast for breakfast this morning.
If you don’t have vanilla beans, just add vanilla. Although I do recommend picking up some clear vanilla because the regular vanilla extract will tint it. And sprinkles are a must.
Two years ago: Cardamom Crumb Cake
White Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream
For the white cupcakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
2¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cups milk
6 egg whites, at room temperature
For the vanilla bean buttercream:
1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 egg whites
3½ sticks (14 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
To make the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners or spray with nonstick spray.
- In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and 1½ cups sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternately with the milk. Set aside.
- in a clean mixer bowl on your stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the egg whites until they begin to speed. Add the remaining 1¼ cups sugar and beat until the whites are thick and almost hold stiff peaks. Fold ⅓ of the whites into the batter to lighten it. Fold in the rest.
- Fill the muffin cups about ¾ of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes -rotating the pans halfway through – until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clear.
- Cool completely before frosting.
To make the buttercream:
- Bring a saucepan half full of water to a simmer. Set a bowl over the water; do not allow the bowl to touch the water. Combine the sugar and egg whites in the bowl and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and mixture is hot to the touch.
- Remove from heat and transfer mixture to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whip until the whites hold stiff peaks and are cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.
- Switch to the paddle attachment. Add the butter a little at a time, being sure each batch is incorporated before moving on. The mixture may look broken – just continue beating until it comes back together.
- Add in vanilla and beat until combined. Check the consistency; if it’s too thin, continue beating until it’s thick enough.