I have a new food blog crush — Scientifically Sweet — which presents delicious recipes with a scientific spin. I was thrilled to learn that the release of a cookbook by the same name was imminent so I hopped over to Amazon and made a copy my own to satisfy my nerdy sweet tooth. I was all set to cozy up on the couch with the book Monday night and plan which recipe I would try first, but my sweet little niece had other ideas. Namely, ideas like a sleep over and playing dress up.
So once I got her off to school yesterday, I flipped through the 101 thoroughly and beautifully photographed recipes and decided my first victim would be the Golden Vanilla Purist Cupcakes with Vanilla Roux-Meringue Buttercream. I am always on the lookout for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe. I am also a HUGE fan of Swiss Meringue Buttercream (or SMBC, for short).
SMBC is not as cloyingly sweet or greasy as American buttercream made with powdered sugar and shortening. It also holds countless flavors and mix-ins beautifully. And best of all, you can make it by remembering the simple mathematical ratio of 1-2-3. 1 part egg whites to 2 parts sugar to 3 parts butter. I was intrigued by the recipe in this cookbook because it takes SMBC a step further by mixing in a vanilla roux, a step similar to that of an old-fashioned cooked frosting.
As far as the cupcake goes, the batter comes together easily with a one-bowl method and is smooth and silky. The cupcakes rise significantly so be sure not to fill your cupcake liners more than half full. The cake is fluffy and moist. The cake releases neatly from the paper liners which I think is an important feature for a good cupcake recipe.
As for the frosting, it is very tasty. It is silky smooth, creamy, gorgeous, and pipes like a charm. I am not sure I will do this every time I make SMBC, but the extra step definitely takes the flavor and texture to a different level. I will add vanilla beans to the roux next time to see if this will deepen the vanilla flavor. I will also increase the salt a little to bring out the flavor a bit more.
Overall, my first recipe from Scientifically Sweet by Christina Marsigliese was a success, and I am excited to try many more creations from this gorgeous book. I hope y’all like desserts because it looks like I might be on roll ;)
Golden Vanilla Purist Cupcakes with Vanilla Roux-Meringue Buttercream
Makes about 15 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
For the frosting:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cake flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup superfine sugar (I just pulsed my granulated sugar in the food processor then measured it)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ cup full fat sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp pure canola oil
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup 2% milk, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar, divided
- 2/3 cup 2% milk
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into 1 tbsp pieces
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line 15 muffin cups from two standard muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift together both flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Attach the bowl to the mixer, add sugar and mix on low speed until evenly blended, about 30 seconds.
Add softened butter and beat on low speed for 1 minute. The mixture will become less dusty as the butter becomes coated with flour and broken down into small pieces. Increase speed to medium-low and continue to beat until the mixture resembles damp sand or fine bread crumbs, about 2 minutes.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, sour cream, canola oil and vanilla extract until smooth. Add it to the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until moistened, sticky and the batter begins to form webs along the sides of the bowl and the beater, about 20 seconds. With mixer running on low, gradually add milk and then beat on medium speed for 20 seconds. Stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and then beat on medium speed for another 15 seconds. Do not over-mix. The batter will be smooth, satiny and creamy-looking. Gently fold the batter a few times with a rubber spatula to incorporate any ingredients stuck at the bottom of the bowl.
Spoon or scoop batter into lined muffin cups, filling them no more than halfway full (these cupcakes will rise quite a bit). Bake until evenly browned on top, the cake springs back when pressed gently with your finger and a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the buttercream, whisk together flour and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a small 1 or 2-quart saucepan until evenly blended. Gradually whisk in milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until it begins to thicken and nearly comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook, while whisking constantly, until very thick and paste-like. When it is ready, the mixture will resemble white glue and you should be able to see the bottom of the pan as you whisk. This will take about 10 minutes all together.
Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and into a small bowl. This serves to remove any lumps and it helps the mixture cool down faster. Place plastic wrap directly over the surface and set aside to cool completely at room temperature.
In the heat-proof bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together egg whites, remaining 2/3 cup sugar and salt. Place the bowl over a pot with ½-inch of simmering water or a double-boiler and whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 162 degrees F (72 degrees C), about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until it is completely cooled. This will take about 7-8 minutes and the mixture will appear white and fluffy like marshmallow or shaving cream.
Do not begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral (not warm). Reduce speed to medium and add the butter slowly, one tablespoon at a time. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until creamy and smooth, 1-2 minutes. The mixture will go from looking grainy and soupy to smooth, silky and glossy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
At this point the cooled flour/milk mixture will be stiff. So, with a wooden spoon or spatula, beat it vigorously until it is smooth and creamy. Add half of the cooled flour mixture to the buttercream and beat on medium-high until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining flour mixture and vanilla extract and beat until whipped and creamy, about 1 minute more. Cover with a damp cloth if using shortly.
Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired.