Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Vanilla Cupcakes with the Best Vanilla Buttercream

Even though Matthew's birthday was the day after Paul's, this post has been long delayed because we traveled to Ohio for my sister's wedding. After a full three days of family gatherings, celebrations, and fun, we are finally home but very, very exhausted. Paul is back to work like normal (he's a trooper) but the rest of us are just lying about reading books and working our way through several art projects in an attempt to rest up after such a full past couple of days. So, that's my excuse for just now getting down to writing about Matthew's birthday celebration.

We kept it super simple this year. This was the first year Matthew did not have a party of some sort at our place. I don't think he minded and Paul and I certainly liked how low-key we kept everything this year. Matthew's birthday fell on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so he did not have preschool and Paul did not have work! We had the whole day dedicated to our little man.

We began the day by fooling Matthew into thinking Paul was going to work. He dressed in his work clothes, grabbed his work bag, and told Matthew "Bye, Fluffy!" as he walked out the door. In reality, he went down to the donut shop to pick up a half dozen sweet treats for a special birthday breakfast for the birthday boy. I distracted both Matthew and Emma from eating oatmeal before he could come back. When Paul walked back in the door with the donuts, Matthew was so darn happy! It was the sweetest moment. He was thrilled to spend the whole day with his Daddy.

We then played a bit around the house because Matthew likes attention more than anything. So, we gave it to him in the form of watching him do a puzzle. That was exciting. Then, we went to look at the puppies at the pet store (a favorite winter pastime for the children) and selected a hyper little dachshund to pet and play with for a good 30 minutes. Matthew tried to talk us into bringing the little dog home "for my birthday present" but we quickly dissuaded him. After all, Riley would really hate that.

Next, we grabbed a quick lunch and announced to Matthew that we had a surprise for him. We told him to close his eyes as we drove over to the local bowling alley. Now, Matthew has been begging us to take him bowling and so we thought his birthday would be the perfect opportunity to take him! He was so excited! There were very few people at the bowling alley that day, so we practically had the place to ourselves. This was a very good thing because we are all abysmal bowlers. Matthew follows in my footsteps, although I don't think my bowling balls take quite so long to make it down the lane. There were a few occasions where Matthew's bowling ball was moving so slowly towards the pins that when it finally touched the pins, the ball itself bounced backwards from the force while the pin remained upright. But, the important thing was that he had a blast. We can work on our bowling skills later.

After bowling, we came home with two very exhausted children. We talked to both sets of grandparents briefly on the phone and then cuddled up to watch a movie for "quiet time."

After the movie was over, we headed to Matthew's birthday dinner. His request: to eat pizza at "the pizza restaurant" - aka Pizza Hut. A meal the whole family can agree on! Matthew and Emma enjoyed personal pans - Matthew ate half of his while Emma devoured all of hers (typical) - and Paul and I ordered a large, stuffed-crust (of course) Hawaiian. Delish.

After pizza, we headed home for presents and cake. Matthew received a Davy Crockett hat, a kaleidoscope, and some candy from Grandma and Grandpa Nistler, a bunch of art supplies from Grandma and Grandpa Korson, a puzzle set, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle watch, and a remote control car. He loved each and every gift he received.

This is what Emma was up to while Matthew opened his gifts.

For cake, he requested chocolate with sprinkles - and that's what he got: a chocolate fudge cake, with hot fudge filling, and vanilla buttercream. I covered it with sprinkles and he was thrilled. Both kids were falling asleep at the table as they struggled to finish their slices of cake. It was such a full day for them! But, they went to bed happy and full.

Matthew's birthday celebrations did not end there. For his next preschool class, they had a little celebration for him and, as his parent, I was required to bring in 60 mini cupcakes for the enjoyment of the class. Matthew requested vanilla cupcakes with white frosting and sprinkles (of course).

The recipe I used is one of my favorites. Now, it does produce a richer, denser cake so if you are seeking a recipe that is similar to box cake, this is not it. However, the flavor is fantastic - not to sweet but perfectly moist. It is my favorite cupcake recipe and the kids love it as well. I paired it with the easiest, most delicious vanilla buttercream. Out of the 60 cupcakes we sent to school, only five came back and Matthew's teacher asked me for the recipe. Matthew and Emma ate the remaining five cupcakes as soon as we came home "for a snack." I think they liked them.

Vanilla Cupcakes with the Best Vanilla Buttercream
cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated, the buttercream recipe is my own

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
½ cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular or mini muffin tin with liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sour cream until smooth. Add the egg and egg yolks and beat until smooth. Then, add the vanilla and beat for about 30 seconds more. Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium for 1 minutes. Scrape the sides down and beat again.
Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The mini-muffins will bake for 8-11 minutes (keep an eye on them!!). Remove the tin from the oven and let cool for about a minutes before transferring the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

The Best Vanilla Buttercream
Note: This recipe makes enough to frost a layer cake. I would make about 1/2 a recipe for cupcakes and you will have more than enough!

1 1/2 cups butter (softened)
4 - 4 1/2cups powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon of salt (start with the smaller amount and then add a bit more)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and carefully add the 4 cups of powdered sugar and the salt with the mixer beating on low speed. When everything is incorporated, crank the speed up and drizzle in the heavy cream and vanilla. Continue to beat until smooth, fluffy, and creamy, about 6 minutes. Add a bit more powdered sugar as you see fit, but I prefer the lesser amount.

This post is linking up with Jess, Katie, and the others for #TuesdayTalk.


  1. The picture of your daughter and cat is precious! You can tell that she is tired- but still adorable!

  2. That recipe looks so delicious!! Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed all the sweet pics of your family too!

  3. The part about Matthew's ball bouncing back from the pins made me laugh out loud. My sister's oldest is just a few months younger than Matthew and was just telling me yesterday he wants to go bowling for his birthday too!

    And I will have to try your buttercream recipe. The one I usually use tastes too much like just butter to me.