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Simply Pink Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

  Yay for being girly!  In a very chic, light-pinkish sort of way.  I am in love with this frosting, and this cake.  I had many a fingerful of the most beautiful batter in the world...seriously, I love pretty cake batters.  Fluffy yet dense, flecked with vanilla bean...my gosh. 

 My sister was having a little tea party, aaand these just fit the bill.  I had them totally baked and assembled before noon, and two in my belly before 5:00.  Try not to be like me and my sugar control issues that I seem to be having this week.  

  But hey!  Before the big "New Year diet" fad starts, bring these to a party and eat many of them.  Or not, they're sorta rich.  Especially if you frost them the way I did.  Heaps, mounds...the picture above reminds me of Candyland.  And the picture below: if ballerinas were cupcakes, yup.  I'm actually going to shush my face now and go to bed, nothing more need be said about the most amazing buttercream and vanilla cake you'll ever have.
  Happy New Year's!  I hope it's pink and pearly and cupcake-y.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream
Yield: Approximately 30 cupcakes

Ingredients for the Cupcakes:
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract  

Ingredients for the Vanilla Buttercream**:
  • 40 tbsp. (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. heavy cream 

    Directions for the Cupcakes:
    Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

    In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.)  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute. 

    Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.
    Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

    Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.)  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired. 

    Directions for the Vanilla Buttercream:
    In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.  Frost and decorate cooled cupcakes as desired.   

    **If you plan to frost as much as I did, I'd recommend increasing the frosting by 25%.  I had 17 cupcakes (I halved the recipe), a half batch of the buttercream just barely got me through.  Adjust according to your cupcake yield and preferences.

    Sources: Buttercream from Annie's Eats, originally from Cook's Illustrated--cupcake from Annie's Eats, originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride