Vanilla-Almond cupcakes

   I have been busy busy busy in the kitchen baking cupcakes lately! Every week on my Facebook group "Reesie B's Confections" I post a new "flavor of the week." This past week I decided to mix it up and have a contest; the winner got to choose the flavor of the week! I also promised to share the FULL recipe here on the blog! This weeks flavor is...a vanilla cake topped with an almond buttercream! YUMMERS! So as promised, here is the recipe step by step.

Below is a list of ingredients you will need:

Cupcakes:1 1/4 cup flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 large eggs, 1 egg yolk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup canola oil, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 large spoonfuls sour cream

Buttercream: 1 cup butter (2 sticks), 3 cups confectioners sugar, 2 tbs almond extract, 2 tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream. Sliced almonds for garnish.

I absolutely LOVE this vanilla cake recipe; this is my "go to" recipe I use for all of my vanilla cakes!

First: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin by mixing your ingredients. Be sure to mix the dry ingredients separately from the wet. In one bowl you will mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the second bowl you will mix the sugar, eggs, vanilla, oil, and sour cream. *Do not add the milk yet!* I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix the wet ingredients first.

***TIP: If you prefer a more dense/moist cake add an extra 1-2 egg yolks. If you prefer a lighter/fluffy cupcake only use 2 eggs and skip the extra egg yolk. I find that using the two whole eggs and adding one extra egg yolk gives it the perfect balance of being extra moist but not too dense.

***Also...The sour cream is optional. I use it to make sure the cake is extra moist. If you want a lighter/dryer cake then use less sour cream or skip it all together!

Second: Now you can begin mixing all of the ingredients. I mix the wet ingredients first with the mixer. Then add a little of the dry ingredients. Let that start to come together then add a little of the milk. Continue to alternate between the dry mix and the milk until everything has incorporated to make the batter.

(I agree, it is a pain in the you-know-what to have to mix all of the ingredients separately before mixing together. I promise, it is important and a step you don't want to miss! If you add all the ingredients together at once you can end up with cupcakes that have little clumps of baking powder or flour, etc. because the ingredients weren't fully incorporated. This is no bueno for yummy cupcakes!)

Next: Portion the batter into your cupcake tin so each liner is 3/4 full.

One day a friend of mine was over while I was baking. She watched me as I attempted to fill each cupcake liner up efficiently. I tried spoons, ladles, measuring cups...it didn't matter, they all made a mess. About a week later a package arrived on my doorstep. It was a batter spoon! It looks just like an ice cream scoop and I promise it is worth the investment! I can now fill the cupcake pans with hardly any mess and in half the time! What an awesome friend!

Next: Your oven should already be preheated to 350 degrees. Place the cupcakes in the oven and decrease the temperature to 325 degrees. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. I prefer to take mine out closer to 20 minutes to prevent them from over cooking (overdone cupcakes equals dry cupcakes...yuk!) I use a toothpick to test the center to make sure they are done. They will continue to cook in the pan even after you take them out of the oven so I remove them from the pan immediately and let them cool down on the counter.

I bake mine about 1-2 days before I actually need them. I store them in an airtight container; this also ensures a moist cupcake.

Next is the frosting! I typically do not frost on the same day as I bake. If you need to, then make sure the cakes are completely cooled off before topping them with frosting. Otherwise, the heat from the cupcake with melt the frosting and you just have a hot mess!

I make my frosting using my mixer with the paddle. Start with room temperature butter and mix until soft. Slowly add the powdered sugar a little bit at a time while the mixer is running. You will want to start at a slower speed; otherwise you will end up with powdered sugar all over your kitchen (learned that the hard way!). Then add the almond extract and a touch of milk (about 1-2 tbps). The milk just helps to make the frosting smoother and easier to decorate with. I also like adding heavy cream instead of milk. Once all of the ingredients have been incorporated then you can turn the speed up a touch and mix until you have a bowl of fluffy perfection!

Now I is time for the fun part! Decorate your cupcakes however you like! I prefer to using a piping bag because I think it is easier and it makes them oh-so-pretty!

To garnish: I placed some thin almond slices onto a baking sheet and baked at 250 degrees until the slices were toasted (about 10-15 mins). (Toasting the almonds adds another depth of flavor.) Then I just sprinkled the almonds on top. Of course this step is completely optional!

     This last step is the most important! It is imperative that you send your final product through a rigorous quality control process to ensure it has met expectations. It is a challenging and demanding job that carries a heavy responsibility, but luckily for me, I have staff on site that are up for the challenge!

Ta-da! Vanilla cupcakes, topped with an almond buttercream and garnished with toasted almonds!

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