Elf’s Mix

Elf's Mix

This past weekend was what I call my annual “bake-palooza”. When it comes to coworkers and neighbors, I just find it much easier to gift food. My idea is…when in doubt, give food. :-)

Every year, I have so much fun coming up with the recipes for gifts. I have so many ideas written on paper, but I usually narrow things down to 5-6 recipes, just to remain sane. This was a new recipe for gifts, and it couldn’t have been easier. I based it off of bunny bait, which I bookmarked on my friend Amy’s blog. Of course, I changed the mix up to make it more Christmas-y and added holiday oreos for an even more fun Christmas colored addition.

The mixture of sweet and salty ingredients is what makes this mix so awesome, and just to let you know, it makes a LOT. I thought I’d have to make a double batch, but after making one batch, I realized I had more than enough for gifts.

Of course, I wasn’t going to call this bunny bait since, well, it’s not Easter. I had to call it something else. When I had it cooling on a silicone mat, I kept telling myself it looked like a Christmas elf barfed in my kitchen. Kinda gross, I know. Since I don’t have to guts to name a dessert “Elf’s Barf”, I decided to play it safe and call it “Elf’s Mix”. :-P

Elf’s Mix
inspired by Sing For Your Supper‘s “Bunny Bait”

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of popped microwave popcorn
  • 6 oz. almond bark
  • 1 bag of mint M&Ms
  • 15 holiday oreos, chopped
  • 2 cups of pretzel sticks, broken into small pieces
  • Christmas sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Place the popped popcorn, pretzel sticks, M&Ms and oreos in a large bowl or pot. Place 4 oz. of almond bark in the microwave in 30 second increments, until well-melted.
  2. Add the melted almond bark to the popcorn mixture and stir the mixture thoroughly. Spread the mixture out on a large silicone mat or wax paper. Top with Christmas sprinkles.
  3. At this time, microwave the additional 2 oz. of almond bark in a disposable plastic piping back in 30 second increments until well-melted. Then, snip the end off of the bag and randomly pipe the almond bark over the popcorn mix. Allow the mixture to cool.
  4. To serve, break up the mix into pieces and place in a bowl. Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Truffles

Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Truffles

I absolutely love making holiday treats. You know it’s the holiday season in our house when our fridge has at least 5 lbs. of butter, 8-10 packages of cream cheese at any given time and 2 extra bags of flour and sugar in the pantry to ensure that I don’t run out of the essentials. :-)

The big bake-palooza (as I like to call it) is this weekend. There’s quite a few coworker and neighbor gifts to make this year, which has me super excited! This year’s packages are going to have some old favorites and new ones too, which I plan on sharing with y’all next week.

While this particular recipe won’t be with the gifts this year (since they need to be refrigerated), I wanted to share these truffles with y’all, since this is still a delicious recipe if you’re looking for something to include with your holiday parties. I came up with this recipe for a local recipe contest with the newspaper. I was actually torn between an eggnog inspired dessert and a peppermint bark inspired dessert. This recipe idea won out though, because after asking some friends, it seems like a peppermint bark inspired recipe would be more popular, since quite a few people hate eggnog. Fair enough.

The great thing about these truffles is that they come together pretty quickly. It’s definitely an easy dessert recipe to add to your holiday menu! Just keep in mind since the recipe involves cream cheese, these truffles can’t sit out for too long without needing to be refrigerated. They actually taste a lot better cold anyway.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering how these little truffles did in the recipe contest! I won first place! FIRST PLACE! I still can’t believe it. The prize was a big deal too… $1000 to a local furniture store! (I can’t wait to share with y’all what we used that generous prize on, but I’ll save that for another post once it’s delivered.)

I’m also supposed to be in the paper tomorrow. Crazy, right? I’m completely giddy about that! I’m sure I’ll buy multiple copies for family. :-)

Peppermint Bark Cheesecake Truffles
Source: an original

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 1 pkg cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 5 candy canes
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup (appx. 6 large) ground graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips, chopped

For the coating:

  • 2 cups of white chocolate chips or almond bark
  • 1/2 cup of semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 2 crushed candy canes

Directions:

  1. With a spatula, whip up the cream cheese to a stirrable consistency.
  2. Using a food processor, grind 3 of your candy canes to a powder. Stir the ground candy canes, powdered sugar and ground graham crackers into the cream cheese with a spatula until everything is well-incorporated.
  3. Place the last two candy canes in a quart sized plastic ziploc-type bag, and using a heavy bowl, crush up the candy canes into small pieces (not quite a powder, since you want these to add a bit of a crunch to your truffles). Add the candy canes, along with the chopped white chocolate to your cream cheese truffle mixture.
  4. Chill the mixture well, for four hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to assemble the truffles, divide the mixture into tbsp. sized balls and put the balls on a cookie sheet. By the time you’re done making the truffle balls, the mixture probably warmed up a bit, so place the cheesecake balls in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to firm up.
  6. In the meantime, melt your white chocolate for the coating (either in the microwave or with a double boiler).
  7. Take your cheesecake balls out of the freezer, and individually dip each ball in the white chocolate mixture. Place the finished dipped balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper for the chocolate to set.
  8. Once the white chocolate has set, melt your milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips and add a small amount on top of each truffle, along with some crushed candy canes for decoration.
  9. Enjoy these cheesecake truffles right out of the refrigerator and keep the truffles cold, since there is cream cheese in the recipe.

Pecan Pie Macarons

Pecan Pie Macarons

It’s one of the hugest compliments when someone asks you to bring the same dish for a holiday, year after year. When it comes to my coworkers, they always just expect that I’m bringing a cheesecake again. Cheesecakes are easy, so I have no problem with making them for work potlucks.

However, with my family, I decided to take a leap last year and make eggnog macarons. Little did I know that these would be a hit. I was intimidated by these cookies, and there was a great reason. When you live in humid place like Louisiana, you can’t help but be intimidated by something that relies heavily on egg whites. So, fast forward to November. I asked my mom if my husband and I should bring something for Thanksgiving, and at first, she said that nothing was necessary. Then, three days before, she, along with my aunt, requested macarons. Guess they’re spoiled now!

I didn’t want to repeat eggnog macarons, since it’s Thanksgiving. So, I looked through a few sites until I decided on this idea: pecan pie macarons. Living in the South, pecan pies are a staple in the Thanksgiving feast, so this was going to be absolutely perfect!

So, the day I start to make the macarons, I go to look for my round piping tip. Uhhh…turns out it was another victim of the move since it’s gone. :-(  So, I tried the star piping tip. I figured it would flatten out within the hour that the macarons had to sit out before baking, but they didn’t. I’m sort of happy they didn’t flatten out though…the star shaped macarons turned out pretty darn cute!

Instead of doing both the caramel sauce and pecan brittle for the filling, I ended up using the caramel sauce with chopped pecans in the filling. These were definitely a popular item on Thanksgiving Day, since by the time I was picking up leftovers, they were pretty much all gone. Yay!

I guess that means I should start thinking about what macarons to make for the next holiday get together with my family, eh? :-)

Pecan Pie Macarons
Source: Tartelette

Ingredients:

Note: With macarons, it’s definitely important that your ingredients are weighed, so all measurements are in grams. :-)

     For the macarons:

  • 3 egg whites (about 90 grams)
  • 40 grams granulated sugar
  • 200 grams powdered sugar
  • 55 grams almonds
  • 55 grams pecans

     For the filling:

Directions:

  1. For the egg whites, 2-3 days before separate your eggs and store the whites in a covered container in the fridge.
  2. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they foam, gradually adding granulated sugar until you reach a glossy meringue. Be careful not to overbeat, since the meringue can easily dry out.
  3. Place the almonds, pecans and powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse the mixture until the nuts are finely ground.
  4. Add the mixture to the meringue, give it a quick couple of folds to break down some of the air and then, slow down and fold the mass gently until the batter flows like magma or thick ribbon. The whole folding process shouldn’t take more than 50 strokes.
  5. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip (or star one if you’re crazy like me) with the macaron batter and pipe small cookies (about 1.5 inches in diameter) onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  6. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes – 1 hour to allow the shells to harden a bit. In the meantime, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Once the shells have hardened, bake the macarons for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Allow the macarons to cool a bit (until the pan is warm) before removing the macarons. If your macarons are stuck to the pan, pour a couple of drops of water under your Silpat or parchment. This should help the macarons lift off the pan more easily, due to the moisture. However, don’t let the macarons sit with the water for too long or you’ll risk the macarons becoming soggy.  
  8. Once the macarons are fully cooled, spread some of the caramel sauce on the bottom of each of your macarons, add chopped pecans on top of the caramel on one of the macarons and sandwich the two macarons together. If you want to be super fun, brush some pearl dust on the top of the macarons.

Just a small side note….Did you win the Butterball giveaway? You have to email me to claim your prize and you have until tonight! Neither of the winners have emailed me. :-( You want free turkeys, don’t you?

 

 

Thanksgiving is this week + a giveaway!

EDITED:

Since the original winners never emailed me, I had to re-draw for the Turkey gift cards!

cara….who said:

I try to get as much done as I can the night before and we rent an extra fridge!

AND

Kayla…who said:

My tip is to make your SIL host so you can just show up with your pecan pie and call it a day. :P 

For the two of you who won, to redeem your prize, please email me within 48 hours at niftyfoodie@gmail.com! Congratulations!

—————————————————————————–

I absolutely cannot believe that Thanksgiving is this week. It feels like a few weeks ago, I was sweating like crazy any time I stepped outside. Oh wait…that weather is still going on here.

Maybe that’s why I can’t believe it. Ah, life in the South. Turkey Day in 80 degrees is the norm around here. To get myself in the mood, I usually start baking up a storm.

Turkey Cake Pops

I made these little guys two years ago to get myself in the mood for Thanksgiving. I’d love to make them again, but only two were eaten. Why? Well, because they were “too pretty to eat”. ::sigh::

[Read more…]

Candy Corn Cookies

Candy Corn Cookies

Happy 4 days until Halloween!!

While Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday (I’m sure most of you can guess what my favorite holiday is. ;-) ), I feel like it’s fun to get in the spirit of it all. We decorated our house for Halloween, and I was thrilled to notice that in our new neighborhood, we aren’t the only ones who like to decorate. :-) I also noticed that our new neighborhood has LOTS of kids, so potential for Trick or Treaters? Wahoo! In the old neighborhood, we usually got a handful of kids, but some of them were way too old to Trick or Treat, in my opinion.

While we’re not dressing up for Halloween, I do have to admit that Millie has a costume haha! A yellow submarine. I was going to scour Goodwill for Ken dolls and paste them on the costume to have The Beatles and their Yellow Submarine, but alas, this whole moving thing has my energy devoted to unpacking and settling in the new house. :-) So, Millie will just be a submarine, and a very cute one at that.

Of course with Halloween being a few short days away, I had to take out my KA mixer for the first time since moving in the new house and whip up something festive. I found this idea on Kathie Cooks (via Pinterest) and it couldn’t be easier. It’s one of those ideas where you sit there and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I think of this?”

Since I used a recipe that I’ve already blogged (linked below), I’m just going to share how these are made.

  1. Whip up your favorite sugar cookie dough recipe (I used this one for rolled cookies so they hold their candy corn shape without spreading.), divide the dough in 3 equal portions, dye one portion yellow, one portion orange and leave the last one undyed.
  2. Take out a bread pan and line it with saran wrap. Roll out the undyed portion and place it in the bread pan, spreading the dough evenly throughout the whole pan. Then, roll out the orange portion, press it in the bread pan on top of the undyed dough, making sure to spread that evenly as well and then lastly, the yellow.
  3. Cover and chill the dough in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Then invert the pan on a cutting board (releasing the dough), and slice across the block in 1/4″ pieces. Cut the dough into triangles and bake according to your recipe’s instructions.

 

King Cake

King Cake

As of January 6th, it’s now the Carnival season! Of course, this means king cakes are back in stores. I absolutely love king cake. It’s a sweet, yeast bread with cinnamon and topped with icing and colored sugars (I made mine in black/gold for the Saints game on Saturday.). They make king cakes with so many fillings too, from cream cheese to apple to bavarian cream! This time, I made a plain king cake, since people are pretty particular about what fillings they like with king cake. :)

I’ve made king cake before, and it turned out tasting like bread. It was NOT king cake. This recipe, however, is MUCH better. This recipe actually comes from Haydel’s Bakery, which is where we had our wedding cake and groom’s cake (which was a tiered king cake) made. I found it fairly easy to make too, however, I think their recipe would be much better if you ice and sugar after baking, which is different than what their recipe suggested. When I made it their way (bake with sugar already sprinkled on), most of us just pulled the chunks of sugar off of the king cake while eating it.

King Cake
Source: adapted from WWLTV via Haydel’s Bakery

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose shortening
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 lg. eggs
  • 1 cup milk (room temperature)
  • 2 sm. packs active dry yeast
  • 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp butter extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon sugar

For the icing:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. water

For the colored sugars:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar for each color that you want to make
  • assorted food coloring

Directions:

  1. In a mixer at first speed combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar, salt, and shortening until well creamed. Add eggs and continue to cream.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the flavors. Once dissolved add to creamed mixture and continue to mix.
  3. Add flour a cup at a time and mix until dough tightens.
  4. Remove from mixer and knead into a ball. At this point sprinkle some flour on top and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest for 1½ hours.
  5. While the dough is resting mix your colored sugars and icing. Mix the 1/2 cup of sugar with a few drops of food coloring until the color you reach is desired.
  6. For the icing, whisk the confectioners sugar with the water and vanilla.
  7. When dough has rested roll out into an oblong piece. Brush on canola oil covering the entire piece. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar liberally over the whole piece.
  8. Once the dough is covered with the cinnamon sugar and oil, fold it in half lengthwise. Cut into 3 strips and braid the dough. Gently roll the dough by starting at one end and working all the way down to the other end. This will make the dough a nice long piece that can then be shaped into a circle. Once shaped place on a baking pan covered with piece of parchment.
  9. Allow the dough to rest again until it doubles in size. Bake at 370 degrees F for 12-15 minutes until dough is golden brown.
  10. Let the cake cool and spread the icing on top. Then, sprinkle with your colored sugars. Enjoy!

Eggnog Macarons

Macarons

The macaron. These are probably one of the most intimidating cookies out there. I’ve made them before, but it was in the summer, and humidity was raging. I guess the extra moisture in the air attributed to my macarons ending up with no feet. They tasted wonderful, but they were pitiful flat little cookies. :(

I sort of forgot about these little treats until my sisters and I visited Sucre in New Orleans. It was love at first bite. Pistachio was my absolute favorite out of all the flavors we tried.

IMG_3156
That evening, I was asked to bring all desserts for Christmas. I knew that I had to give these macarons another attempt. I mean, dew point was in the 30s and that’s SUPER rare in Louisiana. So, bye bye to the humidity for this attempt!

That first picture….yep, those were the macarons that I made! I was yelling in excitement to the hubs as I stared into the oven, watching those little feet happen. I totally had my first macaron success!! Best of all? My family thought they tasted just like the ones from Sucre! Win! :)

This was also my first time making some form of a meringue buttercream. Seriously y’all, I thought this was a massive fail, but I remember reading on blogs that it does take a while to come together. After several minutes, just like that, it went from a separated mixture to a gorgeous frosting! I’m in shock that a frosting with so little sugar tastes so much better, too! Definitely making a meringue-type frosting again soon! I ended up filling a few with plain buttercream to see how it would taste (as you can see in the bottom row), but after tasting both, I felt that the spiced eggnog frosting was the way to go here.

Eggnog Macarons
Source: Tartelette

For the macarons:

Ingredients:

  • 90 gr egg whites (use eggs whites that have been preferably left 3-5 days in the fridge)
  • 25 gr granulated sugar
  • 200 gr powdered sugar
  • 110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
  2. Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground.
  3. Add them to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
  4. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F.
  5. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool. If you have trouble removing the shells, pour a couple of drops of water under the parchment paper while the sheet is still a bit warm and the macarons will lift up more easily do to the moisture. Don’t let them sit there in it too long or they will become soggy.
  6. Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store them in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer.

For the eggnog filling:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 sticks (180gr)(6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Put the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like marshmallow cream.
  2. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the meringue on medium speed until it cools and forms a thick shiny meringue, about 5 minutes.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
  4. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg to the buttercream.. Fill he shells with the buttercream and enjoy!

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

I’m so excited that I can pull out the Christmas tree, blast my Christmas Pandora station and start the holiday baking (without getting judgey stares from others)! It’s officially CHRISTMAS SEASON!

I pretty much sang Christmas carols the whole time while making these. My sous chef, aka my four legged friend who just lays on the cold kitchen floor as I work, probably was not very pleased. I will say that the sous chef really couldn’t care less about the Christmas tree so far…whew! :-)

Back to the cookies. The hubs LOVES a good chewy sugar cookie, so when I saw this recipe on Christen’s blog, I couldn’t wait to make these happen! The ingredients sound a little weird at first (cream cheese in sugar cookies?!), but trust me, it works. The hubs said these were probably the best cookies I’ve ever made! SCORE!

Chewy Sugar Cookies
Source: mildly adapted from Cooks Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2010 issue), as seen on Cooking with Christen

Ingredients:

  •  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling the cookies in
  • 3 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted and warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line a baking sheet with silicone mat.  Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, place the 1.5 cups sugar and the cream cheese, then pour the warm butter over it and whisk to combine.  It will be slightly lumpy.  Whisk in oil, mix well then add the egg, milk and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with a scraper spatula until dough forms.
  4. Using a medium cookie scoop, scoop cookies onto a baking pan, leaving adequate space for baking. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, gently flatten each cookie to make them uniform in size. Sprinkle additional sugar on top of each cookie (and sprinkles, if you’d like).  Bake 11-13 minutes, until edges are just set. (This step is much different from Cooks Illustrated, because I found the resulting dough to be too sticky to work with.) This made about 30 cookies.
  5. Cool on wire rack.

Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

Turkey Day Pops
Can you believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving? It seems like just yesterday I found myself still writing 2009 on papers, when it should have been 2010. Now, 2011 is pretty much around the corner. Crazy, eh?

I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time last year. It was so wonderful to have our families in our home together, and at the time, I actually had the Christmas tree up for the family to see. My Dad gave me a hard time about it, but hey, what’s a little early Christmas cheer gonna hurt?

This year, we’re going to my in-laws’ for Thanksgiving, so the hubs and I are only making a couple of dishes to bring over, rather than coordinating a good portion of the meal. While I love hosting a good party, I’m a little relieved to just chill for the holiday. :)

I’ve noticed that I’ve gained some new readers since last Thanksgiving, so I thought it would be fun to share some of my Thanksgiving favorites with y’all. Some of the pictures will probably not look so great in these posts, but hey, I promise these dishes are super tasty!

Some of my favorites:

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving! What are your favorite dishes for Thanksgiving?

4th of July Cupcakes

4th of July Cupcakes

Happy 4th of July everyone! I hope y’all have a great holiday with family and friends!

Today, hubs and I are headed over to the in-laws for a seafood feast. I cannot wait! We volunteered to bring dessert, and I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to make some cute cupcakes!

I’ve been wanting to make a white cupcake from scratch for a while now, and when it came to finding the perfect recipe, a fellow blogger (The Way the Cookie Crumbles) wrote an amazing post comparing white cake recipes to find the best one! In the end, Cook’s Illustrated’s version was one of the front runners (no surprise there).

I decided to go all festive and make red, white and blue batter. Why not?

Festive Cake Batter

I had some fun assembling these cupcakes too. I tried layering (top cupcake) and marbling lightly with a toothpick (bottom cupcake). Both are equally fun and cute!

Cupcakes Dissected

I’ll admit, this recipe is very yummy! It wasn’t overwhelming, like wedding cake, and was surprisingly very moist as well. I topped the cupcakes with frosting that was another recommendation from The Way the Cookie Crumbles. It kicks Wilton frosting’s booty, for sure! Just really yummy and simple to make. I wouldn’t recommend this frosting for making decorations since it is very soft, but for spreading over a cake, heck yes! This is my new favorite. :)

Classic White Cupcakes
Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles (originally from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces)
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites (¾ cup), at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cups granulated sugar (12¼ ounces)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool

Directions:

  1. Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put cupcake liners in cupcake pan/pans.
  2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
  3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
  4. Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
  5. Scoop batter into cupcake liners until 2/3 full. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 14-18 minutes.
  6. Let cupcakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and place on cooling rack. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.

Easy Vanilla Buttercream
Source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles (originally from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:

  • 20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2½ cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
  • 1/8 tablespoons table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:

  1. In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.
  2. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl.
  3. Add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.