What was supposed to be a simple day of making cupcakes turned out to be an adventure driving all over the valley trying to find Tahitian vanilla extract and beans.
Cher came across a recipe for Tahitian vanilla cupcakes. Just reading the recipe had my mouth watering. She graciously offered up her kitchen (and KitchenAid stand mixer:)) this weekend so I could make a mess these cupcakes. We had regular vanilla extract and Madagascar vanilla beans, but no Tahitian-specific vanilla ingredients. After trekking to Fresh & Easy, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Ralphs, Gelson’s and World Market, we still came up Tahitian vanilla-less. World Market had Madagascar vanilla extract and beans, so we ended up using those instead…4 or 5 hours of shopping later! I have absolutely no idea what the difference is, but since Madagascar was another faraway exotic locale, I figured it would suffice.
The ingredients and the beautiful appliance:) Also subbed in regular granulated sugar over superfine sugar and 24% cacao white chocolate chunks as opposed to something over 30%…yet another impossible to find ingredient!
This was my first time using vanilla beans, and I was fascinated. They smell ah-mazing and the beans are stuffed full of tiny little specs of vanilla:
The recipe calls for just a bit of lemon zest to intensify the vanilla flavors. I was ecstatic when I saw “lemon zest” because that meant I got to de-virginize my new Microplane zester!
This is where I wish I could send you readers smells through your computer screen. Here, I have all of the cake ingredients mixing together. It was like smelling the most phenomenal pure vanilla bean ice cream, but even better. I’m not a cake batter bowl-licker, but I caved for this batter. Incredible.
While the mini cupcakes were baking, I started on the frosting. Here I am melting the white chocolate in Cher’s amazing kitchen (and in my favorite apron, no less. You unfortunately can’t see the lovely little ruffles on the bottom hem:))
After letting the frosting sit in the fridge for 20ish minutes, it was still way too gooey to properly spread over cupcakes. 15 more minutes in the freezer, and we were set.
Like my carrot cake cupcakes, these guys have perishable ingredients in their frosting (cream cheese and sour cream), so they are currently being stored in my fridge.
The cake is super moist with a lovely happy medium between too fluffy and to dense. You can really taste the loads of vanilla in these…and it’s mind-blowing. The frosting. Oh, the frosting. The only sugar comes from the white chocolate, so you can pile it onto the cupcakes and it’s not overwhelmingly sweet. I’m not much of a fan of white chocolate, but seriously, I could eat a whole bowl of this stuff. I’m really at a loss for words how to describe these little cupcakes. And I can’t talk right now anyway, since my mouth is full of vanilla cupcake:)
The recipe, as posted on “The Spiced Life” blog.
2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup (160 g) full fat sour cream
seeds from 3 Tahitian vanilla beans
1 T Tahitian vanilla extract
1 t lemon zest (to amp the vanilla–I was not going for a lemon flavor here)
2 cups (200 g) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) superfine sugar
1/2 t baking powder’1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 T, 170 g) unsalted butter, between 65-75 F (Beranbaum says this part is important, because my house was 68 F and because I left the butter out overnight I did not bother verifying)
Line 16 cupcake cups; lightly spray the pan/s with oil. This will ensure no sticking of the liners (this is my trick–maybe this cake wouldn’t stick, who knows? but I have been burned often enough that I am now cautious). Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, the vanilla seeds and extract, the lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with hand mixer), mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt with the flat beater for 30 seconds on low. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the dry ingredients; mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and a higher speed will not cause the flour to fly out of the bowl. Then mix on medium speed (high for hand mixer, 4 for Kitchen Aid) for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Then add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl in between. Finish by hand if any parts have not incorporated so as to not overbeat.
Fill each cupcake 3/4 full (or use a #30 disher–which I did not have). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely before frosting.
The “Dreamy Creamy” Frosting
9 oz/255 g of good quality white chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled (I used Valrhona; I suggest at least 30% cacao)
12 oz cream cheese, cool room temp
6 T unsalted butter, cool room temp
1 1/2 T sour cream
1/2 T Tahitian vanilla extract
1/2 T lemon zest
Process everything but the melted white chocolate in a food processor until smooth. Add the melted white chocolate and pulse until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and place in the fridge to chill 15-30 minutes, until firm enough to spread.