When I was unemployed, I used to bake nearly everyday. Looking back, I’m not sure who was doing all of the eating. I suppose I was doing a good portion of it. Plus there were more care packages, fresh bagels, muffins for Dave to eat at work, and a freezer overflowing with dough – cookie, pie, tart, whatever.
I still seem to be baking most days now, except instead of starting a recipe and finishing it, all in the same day, I spend a few minutes one evening getting all of my ingredients out. Then the next day I’ll measure the dry ingredients and prepare the pan. The day after that is my favorite, with the mixing and baking. Sometimes there’s an additional day for prettily packaging.
It works pretty well, actually. And even if it wasn’t a great system, it’s a heck of a lot better than not baking at all. I need opportunities to try out fun new recipes, like for vanilla bean cupcakes.
Although adding the ‘bean’ in the title is a bit of a misnomer for me, as I was all out of vanilla beans, so used vanilla sugar and homemade vanilla extract instead. Honestly, I’ve tried using vanilla sugar, Tahitian vanilla beans (which are supposed to be better than Bourbon vanilla beans for baked applications), and vanilla extract all at once in a cake before, and still couldn’t taste any appreciable vanilla-ey-ness, so what I was expecting, and what I got, was a light, fluffy, perfect basic cake. I love cake. I love baking. I especially love the mixing and baking day of baking. And the eating day of baking.
Two years ago: Salmon Clubs with Avocado Butter
Makes about 30 cupcakes
3 cups (12 ounces) cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar (use vanilla sugar if you have it)
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour and baking powder.
2. Place the butter and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use). Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.
3. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating for one minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture, followed immediately by half of the buttermilk, mixing just until incorporated. Repeat with another third of the flour and the rest of the buttermilk, then the last of the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
4. 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.