A friend once told me that birthdays and other such gift giving affairs are an opportunity to force our values upon others. While she was mostly referencing gifts, I recently applied her devious ploy to birthday cakes.
Rather than survey my brother on his preferred cake and frosting flavors, I went ahead and made my personal favorite combination to celebrate his 32nd birthday. I mean, who doesn’t adore moist yellow cake topped with smooth milk chocolate frosting? It’s simple, classic, and delicious. Since I was already dictating the flavors, I went ahead and replaced a traditional layer cake with cupcakes, the sweet that I value above all others. I hope that my brother enjoyed his birthday treats as much as I did—I’m such a sneaky little sister.
It is important to note that the cupcake recipe yields 24 cupcakes, while the frosting recipe makes enough icing for 12 cupcakes. Depending on your needs, the frosting can easily be doubled or the cupcake recipe halved. I did the latter.
For easy yellow cupcakes
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a large bowl and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the melted butter in three additions until completely combined. Whisk in the buttermilk.
Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the batter and whisk it in (a few streaks of flour should remain). Repeat twice with the remaining flour mixture and continue to whisk the batter gently until most lumps are gone. Do not overmix.
Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with a few crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway thorough baking.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans and let cool completely on the racks before frosting, about 1 hour.
The cupcakes can be stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen in zipper-lock freezer bags for up to 3 weeks. Defrost at room temperature before frosting.
For creamy milk chocolate frosting
- 10 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup heavy cream, boiling
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and chilled
Place the chocolate, corn syrup, and salt in a food processor. With the machine running, gradually pour the boiling cream through the feed tube and process for 1 minute.
Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to process until combined, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add the butter through the feed tube, one piece at a time, and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer the frosting to a medium bowl and let cool at room temperature, stirring frequently, until thick, about 1 hour.
The frosting can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Before using, let stand at room temperature to soften then whisk briefly to re-fluff.
Recipes from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook