I'm new to having a kid in school. My eldest daughter is in Kindergarten this year and we are getting used to the frequent requests for volunteers or chaperones or whatever. So I should have seen this coming - it's a classic after all. My daughter came home and told me there was going to be a bake sale on Friday and she wanted to have money that day so she could buy something. Sure, that seemed fine. In my head I wondered though why they didn't ask for donations of baked goods. Maybe since it was the student council's sale, they were baking? Yeah, right. Two whole days after my daughter told me about the sale I received an email. It's Wednesday - would you please donate to our bake sale on Friday? Normally this wouldn't be too big of a deal, but it was Valentine's Day weekend. I already had a ton of baking I wanted to do.
Oh and we decided that weekend was the perfect weekend to totally redo our pantry. Of course.
All my food is in my linen closet right now - seriously - and good luck finding anything.
All was not dark, however. I just happened to have some heart pattern mini cupcake liners (picked them up on sale a couple months ago - thank you yesterme). Mini cupcakes are pretty easy to make and I had all the ingredients, so what the heck? 2 dozen mini cupcakes for the bake sale, I even made them pink for Valentine's Day. I had made chocolate the last time they asked so this time I decided on vanilla with vanilla buttercream. And some heart sprinkles, just for fun.
This is a small batch – I only wanted to make 2 dozen mini-cupcakes. You could easily double the recipe though if you needed to make more. I did make more buttercream than I needed – it freezes well and I am going to need some later this month…
I made these with Swiss meringue buttercream because I am a buttercream snob. Sorry, not sorry. If I can't eat the buttercream with a spoon like a dessert all by itself, I don't want it on my cake. I find most American buttercream (frosting made with butter and confectionary sugar) to be much too sweet and pretty one note. I tend to favor the European types made with a meringue instead. Swiss, Italian, French (omg, French) - they are all amazing. There are so many different types that you could make a whole cookbook of all the different variations (hmm… note to self) and I've only begun to scratch the surface.
At first European buttercreams can seem a little daunting and I still reference the recipe every single time. But now that I have been making them for a bit, they are easy. It just took a bit of practice. In the beginning, I found this tutorial on Whisk Kid to be extremely helpful. I use different proportions than she does (mostly butter – it is a bit of a half-way point between her recipe and Martha's) but the technique is the same.
I chose Swiss buttercream this time because I was making the cupcakes for kids. I like to use this type for them because you can bring the eggs up to 160°, pasteurizing them. It tends to make parents feel better. The frosting is also a bit stiffer and easier to work with – perfect for cupcakes that need to travel. Aren't they adorable?
"Pink Lady" Vanilla Mini-Cupcakes
Pink vanilla mini-cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream frosting and heart sprinkles.
- 1 cup (130g) cake flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp fine salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 drops pink food coloring gel
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a mini-cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl with an electric mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Add the vanilla. It's a small amount so be sure to scrape down the bowl well.
4. With the mixer on low, add the buttermilk (mixture will look curdled). Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. If desired, add pink food coloring. Mix just enough to make the batter a uniform pink.
5. Dish batter into the prepared mini-cupcake pan, dividing equally between the cups. I like to use a #60 scoop. Rap the pan on the counter a couple times to settle the batter. Bake until puffed and a wooden pick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean, about 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through.
6. Let them cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then take them out to cool completely.
7. Frost with buttercream frosting and heart sprinkles.
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Swiss Meringue Buttercream
European style, meringue based buttercream. Makes a little more than 4 cups.
- 5 large egg whites (room temp)
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon (generous pinch) salt
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter (softened)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer (or a medium bowl if you are going to use a hand mixer to whip later). Set the bowl over a medium pan of simmering water, make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water.
2. Whisk continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture reaches 160°on a candy (or instant read) thermometer, about five minutes. Scrape down the sides every now and then with a rubber spatula to get all of the sugar from the sides of the bowl. The mixture should feel completely smooth to the touch and quite hot.
3. Once you reach 160°, immediately move the bowl to the stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin on low speed and gradually increase the speed until you are at medium high speed. Whisk until you have stiff peaks, about 10 minutes. It looks a lot like marshmallow at this point. The bottom of the bowl should be room temperature and the egg mixture should be cool.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and begin adding butter, a tablespoon or two at a time. The butter should give a bit when pressed but not so soft it looses its form. Make sure the butter is fully incorporated before adding more. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. As you add the butter, the meringue will deflate - don't panic, its all part of the process.
5. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, whisk in the vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment and beat on low speed for a couple minutes to smooth it out and eliminate all air bubbles.
Leave buttercream at room temperature if using that day. It can also be refrigerated or frozen, but be sure to bring it to room temperature and then rewhip for a couple minutes before using. You must bring it back to room temperature first, however, or the buttercream will seperate. Buttercream will keep 2 days at room temperature, 10 days or so well wrapped in the fridge, and a couple of months in the freezer.