I love birthdays. You know what else I love? Cupcakes. And buttermilk – it makes cakes so moist and flavorful! I have become a little skeptical of any cake recipe that doesn’t use it.
I have two birthday cupcake recipes to share. I’ll start with today – it’s my birthday today! I had an exam this morning and was facing a day filled with studying for the next one and working on a paper. But I needed to do something fun…plus I had a carton of buttermilk in the fridge that I needed to use up. So, at the risk of seeming kind of pathetic for making myself a birthday cake, I made cupcakes. It’s just what I do.
This lovely recipe uses both the zest and juice of a lime. The second you start zesting the lime, it brings out the most wonderful smell of bright, sharp citrus. The zest goes into the batter (can you see the little flecks of green?),
and the juice gets boiled with sugar and water into a syrup that soaks into the prepared cakes. It adds such a fresh burst of flavor to these vanilla cupcakes. The cream cheese frosting adds a nice creaminess (especially with the addition of white chocolate) that’s not cloyingly sweet, so it goes even further to cut the sweetness of the cupcakes. Even with the tanginess of buttermilk, lime, and cream cheese, these cupcakes ended up with a nice balanced flavor.
I love recipes like this that aren’t showy or extravagant, but that add a little something special and unexpected to a simple dessert.
Recipe from Shauna at Piece of Cake
Makes 16-18 cupcakes, or 4 dozen minis (She suggests doubling the syrup if you are making the full-sized cupcakes, but I had plenty. I also had tons of extra frosting – I would halve the recipe next time, but I’m sure some people like a more generous dollop than I do.)
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk, at room temperature
1 ½ cups flour (Use cake flour if you have it. Mine came out just fine with all-purpose)
1 cup sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons grated lime zest (about 2 small limes)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½ inch cubes
The lime syrup:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons water
The cream cheese frosting:
12 ounces white chocolate
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
Place an oven rack to the center position and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large measuring cup, whisk together, the eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and lime zest. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and turn the mixer on low. With the mixer running, gradually drop in the butter pieces and mix until the texture is uniform and the bits of butter aren’t discernable, about 2 minutes. (I just used a spoon for this – and then switched to my hands.)
With the mixer still on low, begin slowly pouring in the wet ingredients. When all the wet ingredients have been added, crank the speed up to medium and mix until the batter is light and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes.
Portion the batter into the muffin tins and bake until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly touched, 22-25 minutes (10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes). Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. (I don’t have one of those either – just make sure they cool completely before frosting.)
While the cupcakes are baking, make the lime syrup: In a small saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lime juice and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Boil until the sugar is dissolved, and the syrup is clear and slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Set aside to cool.
Make the white chocolate cream cheese frosting: Slowly melt the white chocolate chips, either in a microwave safe bowl at 50% power in the microwave in 45 seconds intervals, stirring after each interval, or over a double boiler. Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for a minute on medium speed until smooth and creamy. (Or beat the heck out of it with a spoon like I did.) Beat in the melted white chocolate until smooth, scraping the bowl as necessary.
When the cupcakes have cooled, prick each one deeply with a fork about 4-5 times. Carefully spoon about 2 teaspoons of syrup over each cake. Allow the syrup to soak into the cakes for about 10 minutes, then frost and decorate as desired. Refrigerate any leftover cupcakes for up to 3 days.