Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mini Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes

It's a birthday kind of day on Ambrosia today!  I don't normally post on Sunday's, but today we're celebrating not just one birthday, but two.  Two birthdays for two adorable little twin toddlers turning two!  Technically, they turned two a few weeks ago, but their birthday party is being held today, so I figured it was only natural that I would make a big deal about this and make some birthday cupcakes to celebrate!

The twins in question, Valentina and Federico, are my cousin's kids who live in Colombia along with the rest of my mom's side of the family, and my sister and I just so happen to be the kiddos' godmothers!  We finally got to meet them this past summer when they came over to help celebrate my sister's high school graduation.  They were so cute, and I was so excited to finally be meeting them.  I havent' seen them in person since then, but with lots and lots of regular FaceTime-ing (is that a verb now too?), we've been able to keep in touch and the twins remember who I am!  They can say my name perfectly (it helps that it's only two syllables!) and it's so adorable to watch them on FaceTime.  They're as cute as ever and getting bigger and crazier by the minute, which makes their monkey-themed birthday party totally a perfect fit.  If you remember a post from way back when (last February, to be exact), I shared a recipe for classic chocolate birthday cupcakes to celebrate the twins'  first birthday.  This year, I wanted to make something different, and what could be more polar opposite to a classic chocolate cupcake than a classic vanilla cupcake?

Mini vanilla birthday cupcakes! In the shape of a number 2!  

These mini vanilla cupcakes were incredibly quick to bake up.  The interesting thing about this particular vanilla cupcake recipe is that it uses the reverse creaming method.  Unlike the traditional creaming method, in which butter and sugar are creamed together at the beginning of a cake recipe and the remaining ingredients are then mixed in, the reverse creaming method calls for adding the butter directly into the flour.  This means that you start out by first mixing together all the dry ingredients in your stand mixer to combine them, and then you add in cubes of softened butter.  By mixing up the ingredients in this order, you are coating the fat in flour,  which ends up yielding a slightly denser cake that's super moist and has a lovely crumb.  The reverse creaming method is also really fast...I couldn't believe I had already finished mixing up the cake batter when I was done!  The part that took the longest was actually baking the cupcakes, simply because I had to bake so many batches.  This recipe makes just under 7 dozen mini cupcakes, and I only have 4 mini muffin tins, so it took some time to bake up all the batter.  The wait was worth it in the end though, because I loved how these cupcakes turned out!  They were delicious and adorable little vanilla cakes that could only be made better by a pretty swirl of buttercream frosting. 

I chose to keep the decoration for these birthday cupcakes a little on the understated side.  Because I was set on creating a big number "2" out of my mini cupcakes, I knew that the decoration had to be something sweet and simple, to ensure that the "2" remained highly visible.  Since I was also planning on using different colors of frosting (to match the birthday plates/napkins/monkey theme), I decided to avoid using any colorful sprinkles, simply to prevent the cupcakes from looking too busy while they were all closely arranged together.  I made a batch of my favorite vanilla buttercream (same recipe, just no lemon zest or yellow food coloring), and then divided it among four bowls.  Each small batch of frosting was then colored to match the party theme colors using Americolor gel colors (I believe I used Lemon Yellow, Electric Pink, Electric Green, and Royal Blue).  Whatever colors you decide to make your frosting, be sure to add the color in a little at a time.  It's always easier to make a color a little darker, but it's much harder to lighten it up later!  Once all the frostings were colored, I arranged the cupcakes into a big number "2."  I had a lot of cupcakes left over (just under half), but I think that if this were at a party, it would be nice to have the remaining cupcakes scattered around the dessert table.  I found it helpful to arrange the cupcakes before I frosted them, simply because I was able to get a better visual sense of how big this number "2" was, and how many cupcakes went in to making it.  This way, I could figure out exactly how many cupcakes I wanted to frost in each color, and figure out a nice pattern to arrange all the cupcakes in.  A little bit of pre-planning always helps!  To frost the cupcakes, I simply used a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip, and piped a pretty swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake.  I then added a sprinkling of clear sprinkles to make the cupcakes glisten and they were done!

I may not be in Colombia this year to help celebrate Valentina and Federico's birthday or bake them birthday treats, but until I can be there in person, I'll bake them something from New York instead. I hope their birthday party is a major success, and that they have a ton of fun!  Happy Birthday, Vale and Fede!!!!

Mini Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes
recipe from 52 Cupcakes and Layla


1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self rising
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter), at room temperature, cut into cubes
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Line mini cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Mix for 30 seconds on low speed, just to combine all the ingredients together.  Add the butter, mixing until the butter is just coated with flour.

In a glass measuring cup or large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Turn the mixer on to medium speed.  With the mixer running, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture in three additions, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Mix only until the ingredients are just incorporated, and make sure not to overbeat.  

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared mini cupcake tins (you'll probably have to work in batches), filling the tins about 2/3 of the way.  Bake the mini cupcakes until they are nicely domed and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 15-17 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes in the pans before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat this process until all the batter has been used.  Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before decorating with your favorite frosting.  I used the frosting from this recipe (just omitted the lemon zest and food coloring). 

If you plan on using the cupcakes to form a shape and using different color frostings as I did, I would suggest that you first create the shape with the cupcakes before frosting them.  This way, you know how many cupcakes you'll actually use in your design, and can figure out how many cupcakes to frost in each color.  It may seem like an extra unnecessary step, but it's actually helpful in the long run.  Enjoy!

Makes about 6 1/2 dozen mini cupcakes, or about 30 standard cupcakes


  1. These cupcakes are so cute! I love everything about them is perfect.

    1. Hi Abbie, thanks for the pin! Happy you like the cupcakes :)


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