To top these off (pun intended), I also settled on the vanilla buttercream frosting. I'm a picky icing girl. I can't stand the buttery film the majority leave coating my mouth. Nor am I fond of the type so grossly sweet it makes my teeth hurt. I think this one's spot on: light, not-too-sweet, not-too-buttery/filmy. A little added whipped cream makes all the difference. I tried it out a few different ways--once as a plain vanilla, then as a mint buttercream, and finally as a peanut butter frosting (killer). Oh, and I (finally) bought a few piping tools and got to exercising my mad decorating skills (right…lots to learn). There's nothing so fun as creating dozens of lovely, lofty icing swirls. You can, however, simply shmear the icing on with a knife, or even cut a small hole in the end of a ziplock bag and pipe the icing through there. Piping tools are readily available at your local craft store, and even most groceries, though, if you feel like going the extra mile. Give it a go and let me know what you think! I'm pretty sure these will rock your world.
adapted from this recipe
yields 2 dozen cupcakes (or 1 round, 2-layer cake)
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken and at room temp
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup very hot water
buttercream frosting (recipe below)
1. Fill cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside (If making cake, butter two round cake pans, line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter again). Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into large bowl and stir carefully until combined.
3. In smaller bowl, stir buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla just until combined.
4. With mixer on low speed, gradually add wet ingredients to the dry, scraping the bottom of the bowl and mixing only until the dry is just incorporated. Add hot water in and stir a few times to combine. Batter will be runny.
5. Using a 1/4 cup measure or a cookie dough scoop (or what have you), fill paper-lined tins half-way and bake for approximately 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are springy, yet sticky to touch. Let cool entirely before icing (If making cake, pour batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 5 minutes in pans, then invert onto racks and let cool completely before frosting.).
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(with suggested variations including mint and peanut butter)
adapted from Gale Gand's recipe
yields enough to heavily frost 2 dozen cupcakes or a two layer cake
4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
2 cups butter, room temp*
2 teaspoons vanilla extract**
4 tablespoons whipping cream
a good pinch of salt
*sub 1 cup of peanut butter for 1 cup of the plain butter to make peanut butter frosting
**sub 1/8-1/4 teaspoon mint extract in place of equal amount of vanilla to make mint frosting
1. Cream butter and sugar on low speed until combined, then beat on medium speed for several minutes (the time here is crucial in order to obtain a lighter frosting, so don't skimp.)
2. Add vanilla, cream, and salt and beat on medium speed for another couple minutes, adding more cream if you want an even lighter consistency (here's where you would add food coloring, too, if you'd like).