Birthdays have always been momentous occasions for me. Today was Roman's first birthday and there was a lot to celebrate. His first time around the sun. First words (mama, papa, "yum") first steps (we're up to 8), the innumerable list of skills he seems to acquire daily.
I've been planning his first birthday cake since some time in July. I have a soft spot for old-fashioned layer cakes, the kind that have all that soft, billowy frosting and that sit proudly on cake stands on imaginary grandma's kitchen counters. And until Roman starts asking for cakes shaped like trucks, super-heros or cartoon characters, I figure I will keep it traditional.
Well, this morning finally rolled around and the butter and eggs came out of the refrigerator early in order to get the cake baked by nap time, and I realized that I only have 2 of the requisite 3 pans required for a super high layer cake. Plan b was cupcakes.
This cupcake recipe comes from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, given to me years ago by my good friend Rita, who loves to bake. I have made these several times over the years- for my sister's baby shower (when my dad claimed he thought they were muffins and ate one when we weren't looking) and for P's 30th birthday a few years back.
While they were cooling on the racks before nap time, Roman spotted them and started saying "yum yum yum" and practically leapt from my arms to grab one, so I caved and let him taste one (un-iced). I think a little indulgence is all right when you're turning one, after all.
Sometime during his nap I realized I had a house full of people and nothing for lunch. After a quick trek to the butcher, I decided to make up a big pot of spaghetti and meatballs. Everyone seemed happy, especially the birthday boy.
Traditional Vanilla Birthday Cupcakes
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery Cookbook (The original called for self-rising flour. You can reduce the amount below by 2 teaspoons and add the amounts of baking powder and salt that I indicate below.)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (do not pack these full)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth, using an electric mixer. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour mixture and add in four parts, alternating with the milk and the vanilla extract, beating well after each addition. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. Spoon the batter into the cups about three-quarters full. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly touched, about 20-22 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on a rack before icing.
Traditional Vanilla Buttercream
I just about halved the Magnolia recipe for icing, and I still had far too much, but then again if you love icing, go for it... here is their full recipe.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
8 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, until icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (you may not need all the sugar). Use and store icing at room temperature, as icing will set if chilled. Can store in airtight container up to three days.