Vanilla Cupcakes

Most people are well aware of my macaron obsession.  So imagine my excitement at work when I discovered there was a ‘new hire’ in the department.  A lovely young French girl from Paris.  Needless to say, the charming Ms Couzelin has become one of my key macaron taste-testers since.  She shares the love of Ladurée macarons and has tasted many in her lifetime.  I am always grateful for her feedback on my macaron efforts (usually positive, which is always encouraging!).

I arrived at work yesterday to find she had been baking over the weekend in preparation for Bastille Day.  This is her first Bastille Day away from home.  So she could share the festivities with us all, she emailed around a little invitation to come try her delicious pies, with a little background on Bastille Day.

  “220 years ago, the French people were starving and were really angry cause they had to give all their wheat to the monarchy…
The queen asked: “Why are they so upset?”
The servant answered: “Because they don’t have any bread to eat”
The queen replied: “They should eat brioche then!”
The people didn’t appreciate the joke and you know what happened to the Queen!

Come eat my lemon pie, pear-chocolate pie and a Brittany specialty!”

The first thing I had to do was make a bee-line for her desk and sample each of her French offerings.  (All exceptional!)  Next, I needed to beg for the recipes – particularly for the secretive ‘Brittany specialty’ that her Grandmother used to make.  (With luck I will be able to bake these myself one day soon!)

Hopefully Ms Couzelin will not be offended by the little cupcakes I made in honour of Bastille Day.  Cake is probably a little insensitive, all things considered.  The vanilla cupcakes though are actually part of my trial baking for the upcoming “40th anniversary” celebrations.  I used quite a strong vanilla flavour through the use of pure vanilla seed extract, so consequently termed these French Vanilla Cupcakes.  All things considered, these little cupcakes just screamed to be posted today, Bastille day, or La Fête Nationale!

{ French Vanilla Cupcakes }
This is my most basic cupcake recipe.  It is easily adapted and invaluable to have in your baking repertoire.

 * Ingredients *

1 1/2 cups of plain / all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla seed

* Directions *

Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.  Sift the flour and baking powder together.  Set aside.  Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the side of bowl as necessary.  Mix in the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk.  Spoon into cupcake wrappers and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.  Allow to cool, and then top with your favourite frosting or ganache.

Makes 12 cupcakes

{ Vanilla Butter cream }

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
250g or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Directions *

In a bowl over simmering water, whisk the eggs whites and sugar.  Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature reaches 160F or 70C.

Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and on a medium speed, beat until you reach firm peaks, about 5 minutes.  Slow the speed and add in the room temperature butter one piece at a time.  If the mixture appears to curdle, keep beating on medium speed until smooth again.  Add in vanilla or any other flavour combination until smooth.

Makes 4 cups