Y’all, we’re ’bout to have a royal wedding this weekend and that warrants the best cupcakes with THE BEST icing known to man. Every celebration merits them. I made these cupcakes years ago for my son, James’, school bake sales. They were legendary and sold in a flash…for big bucks. I’ve always been a cake person, scraping off the icing and pushing it to the side of my plate or peeling off the cupcake liner, turning the cake upside down in the liner thereby avoiding the usual sickeningly sweet and way too fluffy frosting. Doesn’t matter the flavor, I don’t want it. Unless it’s this icing. Mercy! This icing is thick, with the ample and generous flavors of vanilla and butter it delivers just the perfect amount of sweetness. I couldn’t stop swiping teaspoon after teaspoon from the bowl as I crowned each cupcake. The cupcake, as well, is equally astounding. It falls somewhere between the crumb of a layer cake and a pound cake. The flavor is of unadulterated, flawless butter. It is the quintessential bake sale, afternoon snack, birthday or wedding cupcake. And when Prince Harry and Ms. Meagan Markle wed early this Saturday morning, my bff, Andrea, and I will be celebrating with hot cups of freshly brewed coffee and these little royal fairy cakes. Best of wishes to all the brides out there!
Sometimes not even alcohol can touch my pain. Last week a horrific late-night boating accident catapulted this town from sleepy, fun in the summer to the nightmare reality that life can sometimes bring. All the kids on board are about 17 years old, rising seniors at St. Thomas Aquinas. Several of the teens were critically injured and one boy, one sweet, sweet boy, lost his life. As a mother I cannot even comprehend that level of grief. Cannot. I’ll attempt to post a link to the gofundme fund-raiser below. When life hits me hard I bake. Bread, cake, biscuit, doesn’t matter. And, in the midst of all this, the family was getting together to celebrate my son James’ and my niece Meg’s birthdays at our house. It was sort of last-minute due to everyone’s schedule. Meg was preparing to go back to school and my sister, Pamela, was taking her. Everyone had work of course and Meg’s little sister, Annie, was hostessing at a restaurant at night. We were all somewhat overwhelmed and certainly shaken up knowing these kids and their families lives were changed forever. I wanted the cousins to be together and aunts and uncles as well. Side by side; as a family. I hastily put together a menu and went about baking a cake. I wanted something pretty but comforting. Something that quietly murmured “security”. No flourless, dark chocolate gateau with coffee beans and sparklers on top for this crowd. At least not this August. No, what we needed was something gentle and loving. I decided on a classic vanilla yellow cake with fresh strawberries whipped into the cream cheese icing. The recipe for the cake comes from a cookbook I bought years ago entitled “Mom’s Big Book of Baking” written by Lauren Chattman. It received glowing reviews from Maida Heatter and Christopher Kimball. The icing recipe is one that I made up and have been using for the longest. I hope you’ll try this cake. It’s a kiss and a hug and a prayer all wrapped up in pink love!
Below is the link to help with the medical costs of the boaters. I thank you for them. And please keep in mind no amount is too little. Every bit helps.
1 cup, (2 sticks), unsalted butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces
Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat the insides of two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides with parchment paper and coat that with spray as well. Dust the bottoms and sides of the pans with flour, knocking out any extra flour. For cupcakes, coat the muffin tins with cooking spray and dust with flour, or line the muffins tins with paper liners.
Combine the eggs, milk and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Set aside.
Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and, with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on low-speed until the butter pieces are no larger than small peas. (I used my hand mixer and the cakes came out great!)
Pour in about 2/3 of the egg mixture and mix on low-speed until all the ingredients are moistened. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Stir in the remaining egg mixture on low-speed until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix on medium-high speed again for another 30 seconds.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake is light golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes for the cupcakes and 25-30 minutes for the layer cake. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely. The cakes will keep, wrapped up in plastic, at room temperature for up to one day or refrigerated for up to 3 days. Frost as desired.
If using the following strawberry icing, chill the cakes in the refrigerator 3 or 4 hours. Overnight is ideal.
Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Icing
yield: approximately 3 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup puree of fresh strawberries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups confectioner’s sugar
In a medium bowl beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
Add the strawberry puree and vanilla and mix until combined.
Add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time and beat until smooth.
Cover the first layer of chilled cake with several tablespoons of icing and spread a thin layer leaving a 1/4 inch border without icing around the outside diameter of the cake.
Center the second cake layer and carefully place on top of the first layer. Cover the entire top and sides of the cake with a thin layer of icing and place uncovered back in the refrigerator to chill for at least an hour. Chill the remaining icing also. A morning or afternoon is ideal.
After chilling, ice the top of the cake then the sides. Return to the refrigerator until serving.