Baking in my kitchen is my happy place. I sometimes say that I “stress bake” like it’s a bad thing. And while I’m sure there are healthier ways to channel my energy (hello, carbs + sugar), the truth is that baking helps me center myself. It helps me focus on the present and the task at hand instead of running through lists of “what ifs” and worst case scenarios, which is actually how I spend a significant portion of my time (hello, anxiety).
So when the urge to bake strikes, I don’t fight it. I like to think that this explains why I always seem to have various leftover frostings in the freezer at any given point in time; why I buy butter like it’s going out of style; why my heart flutters a little bit at the thought of ganache and sprinkles.
Luckily, I work in a big office with lots of hungry college students who are more than happy to take the resulting sweets off my hands. This simple fact, to date, remains the last line of defense between me and a brand new plus-sized wardrobe.
These Simple White Cupcakes are the most recent batch of sweets that I’ve packed up and taken to work. They are also my new favorite cupcake recipe for 3 reasons:
- The ingredient list is super simple. As someone who does not regularly stock ingredients like buttermilk and cake flour, I love cake recipes that call for ingredients I generally have knocking around my kitchen. Any excuse to not have to make an extra trip to the grocery store just to pick up 1 lousy cup of buttermilk, the remains of which will likely spoil in my fridge before I get a chance to use it for a secondary purpose. Sidenote: Is this feeling normal?
- They are light, but still moist. There’s a time and place for dense, buttery cake. This is not that time. They are also the perfect amount of sweetness.
- The versatility factor. I loved these with just a touch of almond extract and vanilla frosting. I suspect they’d be equally delicious with vanilla extract and some fluffy dark chocolate ganache frosting.
Fair warning: if the cupcakes are super simple, the frosting recipe can be a little on the finicky side. I’ve grown partial to this Italian Meringue Buttercream. It’s silkier, smoother, and pipes way better than the powdered sugar-laden American Buttercream. And in relation to other European meringue buttercreams, I find it holds up better at room temperature for longer amounts of time and is just easier to make than its French or Swiss counterparts.
The recipe below will make way more frosting than you need, but the other thing I love about this frosting is that it freezes beautifully for up to a month or so. Just let it thaw at room temp (or carefully in the microwave) and whip it up for a few minutes.
Having said all that, I mentioned before that these simple white cupcakes are super versatile. You could really frost them with any kind of frosting you like and/or have on hand. For a super simple frosting option, try the cream cheese frosting from this Carrot Cupcake recipe.
- 1⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup 2% plain greek yogurt
- ½ cup half and half
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 egg whites
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup water
- 5 large egg whites
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a mini cupcake pan with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a second microwaveable bowl, melt the butter in intervals of 20 seconds until completely melted. Whisk in the sugar followed by the greek yogurt, half and half, milk, and almond extract.
- Gently fold the liquid mixture into the dry mixture, taking care not to overmix. It will be quite thick still and a bit lumpy.
- Whisk the eggs--either by hand or with a mixer-- until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter just until incorporated.
- Fill cupcake liners ⅔ of the way full and bake for 12-14 minutes. The tops should spring back if you press gently with your fingertip. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
- While cupcakes are baking and/or cooling, start on the frosting. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Using a candy thermometer clipped to the side of the pan, bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook until it reaches 247 degrees F. It should take about 7-10 minutes.
- While the water and sugar are heating up, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whisk on medium until egg whites are foamy and you have stiff peaks.
- As soon as the sugar reaches 247 degrees F, pour it into a heat proof measurer. You'll need to watch it carefully toward the end and be very careful while pouring it into a different container. With the mixer on medium, drizzle a few tablespoons of the sugar mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to splatter. Whisk for a few seconds and then pour in a few more tablespoons. Repeat this last step until all the sugar is incorporated. When all the sugar is has been added, raise the speed of the mixer to high and continue to whisk until the entire mixture cools to room temperature (about 70 degrees F). This will take around 10 minutes, possibly longer.
- Once the meringue is room temperature (the temperature is very important), reduce the speed to medium and add the room temperature butter, one tablespoon at a time, taking care to mix fully in between additions. If you add the butter too quickly, the mixture will deflate and may begin to break apart. If this happens, stop adding butter, raise the speed of the mixer for a few minutes until it begins to come back together. This step can take a long time and requires a lot of patience. Once all the butter has been added though, it will be impossibly smooth. Add the vanilla extract at the very end, whisking to combine.
- Frost the cupcakes once completely cooled. I like to use a large round pastry tip.
The frosting will make way more than you need to frost the cupcakes, but keeps really well in the freezer for up to a month or more. To use after freezing, bring the frosting to room temperature either by thawing on the counter or microwaving on low for intervals of 15 seconds. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the room temperature frosting on medium for a few minutes until smooth.