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I don’t always bake cupcakes, but when I do, I bake with this recipe.  A lot of cupcake recipes call for cake flour, which is just not something I keep stocked in my panty.  This recipe uses all purpose flour, and they turn out fantastic!  Its a basic recipe that you can easily alter the flavor, by switching extracts or adding mix ins, or fillings.  This time I made an Almond Cupcake with a White Chocolate filling and a Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting, a Raspberry Cupcake with a Frothy Raspberry “Firework” Frosting, and a Plain Cupcake with a Blueberry filling and a Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.  These were all made in a mini cupcake pan.  I made 1 1/2 batches of the cupcake recipe, and split it into 3 bowls to flavor and color them separately.  I makes it so much easier to serve a variety of flavors without having several different recipes.

Basic Cupcake

1/2 cup butter (room temperature)

2/3 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp flavor extract (optional)

Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each one, then add the extract.  (If you are spliting the batch to make different flavors, dont add the extract)  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder.  Alternately add the flour mix and the milk (a little at a time) while continuing to beat on a lower speed, till its all incorporated.  Line a cupcake pan and fill each liner about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Allow to completely cool before filling or icing.

*variation- Add flavor extracts!  Before baking, split the batch in half and add 1/2 tsp almond extract to one batch, and add 1/2 tsp rasberry extract (and a few drops of red food coloring) to the other.

*variation- Fill ’em up!  Instant pudding makes an easy filling.  Cut a “core” into the center of each almond cupcake, reserving what you remove.  Fill with prepared white chocolate pudding and place the top part of the core back on before icing.  Fruit preserves make an easy filling too!  Just stir in some lemon juice (to taste) to brighten the flavor so its not so syrupy tasting.  Prepare the plain cupcake in the same way as the almond, reserving the cores.  Fill with a blueberry preserve (mixed with the lemon juice) and replace the tops before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz butter, room temperature

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp flavor extract

Beat the butter and cream cheese together, then on low add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, then add the flavor extract.

*I used vanilla extract, but then split the batch to color and use on different cupcakes.  I used 1 drop of yellow food coloring to top the white chocolate filled almond cupcakes, and left the the other half white, for the blueberry preserved plain cupcakes that were colored blue.  Like I said earlier, I don’t make a lot of cupcakes, so I don’t have a pastry bag with fancy tips to pipe beautiful designs on top.  I just put the icing in a plastic bag, cut the tip off of a corner and squeeze it out!

Last but not least is the Frothy Firework Frosting!  It’s actually a variation of another frosting that I make a lot.  Its light and fluffy, and almost tastes like marshmallows!

Frothy Firework Frosting

2 room temperature egg whites

1 tsp flavor extract

1 cup sugar

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1/3 cup water

In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix sugar, water and cream of tartar.  Stir till dissolved over medium heat, then stop stirring and continue to cook.  Meanwhile whip egg whites and extract till soft peaks form.  When the sugar mixture reaches 225 degrees remove from heat and pour into the egg whites in a slow steady stream while whipping.  Continue to whip for about 7 minutes.  At first it will look like your nice fluffy egg whites have just deflated, but don’t worry, they will stiffen back up and turn nice and glossy.

* I used raspberry extract and added red food coloring at the end.  To create the “fireworks” fold in some coarse sugar or pop rocks and then pipe onto the cupcakes!

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