Test kitchen: cup cakes

This all started when I suggested to Matthew I make cup cakes for Emma’s first birthday. He looked at me in his skeptical way and said, “they better not be dry, if they are dry we are buying them from a bakery.”

I took this as a personal challenge as well as a personal attack on my baking prowess and started researching cup cake recipes on tastespotting. I chose a recipe a blogger posted from the Joy of Baking cookbook.

Attempt #1: I followed the recipe to a “t”. The cupcakes ran over and kind of dented in the middle. My friend Katie said they looked a little prepubescent. They were tasty, but were difficult to get out of the pan and would not have worked for decorating.

Prior to my second attempt, I took to the interwebs to research baking conversions for altitude. Baking in Denver can be a bit challenging; water evaporates faster, the air is dryer, yadda, yadda, yadda. I found a great altitude adjuster resource from the University of Wyoming.

Attempt #2: I followed the University of Wyoming’s advice for those living at 5000 ft. I reduced the baking powder by 1/4 tsp., I reduced the sugar by two tablespoons, added an egg white for more liquid, and used the convect bake setting on my oven. I was totally crossing my fingers, convinced this was the right combination. The cupcakes domed (hit puberty as Katie would say) and did not run over, but they were a little too browned when I took them out.

Attempt #3: I followed my second attempt, but only baked the cup cakes for 13 and a half minutes – viola! Domed moist cup cakes!

The regular and altitude adjusted recipes are below.

White Cupcakes – standard recipe
Makes 12 cupcakes
Recipe from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups (175 grams) sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar, divided
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and lightly butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 3/4 cup (150 grams) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.Beat in the vanilla extract. Then,with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.
Evenly fill the 12 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 13 1/2 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Butter Frosting
Recipe from Joy of Baking

Ingredients:
2 cups (230 grams) confectioners sugar (icing or powdered sugar), sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-3tablespoons milk or light cream

Directions:

In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Tint the frosting with desired food color.

White Cupcakes – adjusted for life at 5000 ft.
Makes 12 cupcakes
Recipe from Joy of Baking
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar, divided
2 egg yolks, 3 egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and lightly butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Use convection oven if you have it. In a mixing bowl sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (150 grams) of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla extract. Then,with the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup (50 grams) of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.
Evenly fill the 12 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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