From Sarah Howard of Creative Loafing:
Cupcakes have been hip and trendy on the food scene for quite some time now, and have taken over specialty bake shops which produce them in every flavor imaginable. From simple chocolate to lemon, coconut and red velvet, these indulgences are one of the biggest crowd pleasers you can bring to celebrate special occasions, or surprise an office full of hungry co-workers. This particular variety was inspired by an especially gorgeous batch of plump blackberries that I stumbled upon, along with yet another workplace baking commitment.
When it comes to creating the perfect cupcake, simplicity is best. I like to make a basic vanilla cake that can be paired with a variety of frostings and toppings depending on your mood, and will be subtle enough in flavor to carry an extra rich buttercream. The cake featured here calls for whole eggs along with an equal ratio of egg whites to keep it light and fluffy and maintain the pure color. The use of the vanilla bean makes a big difference in the fragrance and overall taste of the cake as well, so go ahead and splurge in the spice aisle. After you’re done scraping out the tiny seeds, throw the pod into a mason jar with baker’s sugar, keep it in the cupboard and use the vanilla-infused sweetness to add an extra dimension to your recipes.Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
3 cups baker’s (superfine) sugar
3 egg whites
3 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups milk
1 cup vegetable oil
3 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 vanillla bean
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with baking cups.
In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs/whites together until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Add the flour mixture, milk, oil, and vanilla to the eggs. Split the vanilla bean from end to end and scrape the seeds out with a knife. Add to the mix and incorporate the ingredients together slowly, just until the batter is smooth. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full.
Bake in preheated oven for 12-14 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely while preparing the frosting.
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 8 ounce package cream cheese
5 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup seedless blackberry preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place the butter and cream cheese in a mixer bowl and whip together until creamy. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. When combined, add the blackberry preserves and the vanilla and mix well. Can be held in the refrigerator overnight and re-whipped prior to frosting the cupcakes.
Makes 3 dozen frosted cupcakes.