Rainbow Birthday Cupcakes
And so it began. About a week before Lily's birthday I stopped and thought to myself, "Oh my god, I need to make cupcakes to send to school!" Now THAT is something that I've never had to worry about before. It's amazing how before you have a baby you think about all of the things that will change in your life, but then you actually have the kid and there is so much more. Like making cupcakes late on a Wednesday night to make sure that your child has a proper celebration the next day.
Is it true that kids don't have parties in grade school anymore, or is that just a pre-school-aged-children myth that floats around to scare new parents? I heard that kids don't do birthday celebrations because of any (or all) of the following reasons: a) cupcakes don't help with the whole childhood obesity epidemic; b) homemade food isn't allowed to be served at school for fear that some sort of peanut dust might have gotten into it; c) schools don't like to single one kid out for a celebration, especially since those summer birthday kids won't get the same chance (which is ridiculous because they get to have their birthdays in the SUMMER. What's better than a pool party?!).
So, at the prospect of having limited years to bake cupcakes for Lily to take to school (her daycare had already given me the thumbs up - yes!), I wanted to make something fun and special. But I also had to make something that a one-year-old would eat, so I decided to stick with vanilla bean cupcakes and icing, but with a rainbow swirl to make sure that Lily was the coolest girl in birthdaytown.
We let her have a sneak preview during the test batch:
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
2 1/4 cups cake flour (if you don't have cake flour, sub 1 tablespoon of each cup of all-purpose flour with cornstarch - so for this recipe it would be 2 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch) 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1 1/4 cups whole milk, room temperature 4 large egg whites, room temperature 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 1/2 cups sugar seeds scraped from one vanilla bean (these are cheap and wonderful) 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Center a rack in the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed for 3 minutes, or until the butter and sugar are very light. Add in the vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter fully incorporated and smooth, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Once ingredients are thoroughly incorporated, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Using a large scoop (about 3 tablespoons), distribute the batter between 18 muffin wells, filling each well 2/3 full.
Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers come out clean. Cool on wire rack. Vanilla Bean Buttercream
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened seeds scraped from one vanilla bean 2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (this helps maintain the bright white color) 1 ½ pounds (24 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and seeds from vanilla bean until fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until well blended.
Add in vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened.
Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.
To Make the Rainbow Swirl
1 disposable piping bag (you can't refill the bags, so if you have a big batch you might need two) Food coloring (I love Americolor) Large star icing tip Small paint brushes
Fit the icing tip into the bag and cut the tip off so that the icing can come out, but the tip is still secure. A coupler could be helpful, but I didn't have one that fit and it didn't make a difference.
Paint red, orange, yellow, green, and blue stripes up the sides of the bag. Don't let the colors touch each other.
Fill the bag with the vanilla bean butterceam icing. Twist the top closed and pipe out a small amount of icing until the rainbow starts. Pipe a swirl onto each cupcake.