As many of you know (or are about to learn), Smitten Kitchen was a huge inspiration for me, not only to start cooking and baking more, but to start this blog. I’m super bummed that I missed Deb’s visit to Denver two weeks ago (I wasn’t sure she was going to make it, there was so much snow here), but I am the proud owner of her cookbook, and a fairly dutiful visitor to her site.
Last year, I suddenly got this incredible hankering for yellow cake. In my entire life, I’d probably only had store-bought yellow cake (
I’m pretty sure this is crime), and I’d always been a chocolate cake person anyway. Every birthday in my entire house involved chocolate cake, chocolate frosting, and maybe a dash or two of coffee or raspberry filling. Maybe. But there I was, standing in the weak winter light of Washington, desperately looking for a yellow cake recipe. And it came to me – Smitten Kitchen had featured a yellow cake recipe right before Deb’s son was born. And, having had great success with her other recipes, I went for it.
I wanted cupcakes, rather than a cake, because it’s easier to bake fewer cupcakes, easier to portion them out, and when you’re living on your own, this is suddenly a very important thing. Especially when it comes to cake (or desserts in general, I suppose). So, the first time I made them, I made half a batch and took a number of them to my friends’ house. This worked quite well, and I got to experiment with that cute technique of using parchment paper as the cupcake cups (Walla Walla, to my knowledge, doesn’t have a store that sells cute muffin cups, and they’d be outrageously priced anyway, so we’ll say I went for graceful and simple, rather than just plain cheap).
And these cupcakes? Oh, these cupcakes are to die for. They have a texture that is slightly reminiscent of cornbread, and a flavor that’s spectacular. If you were worried that yellow cake would be bland, this is the cake to dissuade you of that belief. They are one hundred percent perfect, which is why there actually isn’t a recipe in this post. I followed Deb’s recipe exactly, and I honestly recommend that you do the same. So, I’m posting some fancy pictures, and linking you to the original recipe. To make approximately 36 cupcakes, I halve the original recipe.
In spite of this, I will give you two things: a handy tip, and my frosting recipe. Tip first: if you’re like me, and never have anything but regular milk (and I mean skim, people, but if you’ve got anything else, this works just fine, if not better) and you need buttermilk, here’s the trick. To one cup of milk, add one tablespoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar. I don’t exactly understand the science behind buttermilk, but this and a little whisking will make you a perfect substitute for buttermilk. You’ll never know the difference (but if you’re using skim, your arteries will thank you).
Chocolate Frosting (frosts app. 36 cupcakes)
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 1/3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 tbsp high-quality cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup and 2 tbsp milk
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium sized bowl (with electric beaters) combine ingredients. Beat on low until dry ingredients are somewhat combined with butter and milk. Beat on medium-high until the frosting is smooth. Spoon into a pastry bag with your preferred tip, and pipe onto the top of cooled cupcakes.