Over the weekend we celebrated Mike’s birthday while camping in Mackinaw City. We spent the day on Mackinac Island, and the evening hanging out around the campfire. This made a birthday cake kind of difficult, but cupcakes seemed like a good idea. Mike requested yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing that we could take camping with us. This was perfect timing, since I had just found a new cake recipe I wanted to try from Smitten Kitchen.

The cupcakes turned out great. They were everything a cupcake is supposed to be – light, moist, tasty, etc. I was very careful as I made these to not make the same mistakes as the last time I made cupcakes. It helps that recently I’ve managed to acquire a new kitchen tool. I’m not sure what it is (I found it among a group of kitchen utensils in a bag that I think came from my grandma). I don’t think it’s a sifter, but it worked well to sift the flour. I also was very careful not to overmix the batter, and not to overbake the cupcakes. I even used real buttermilk for this recipe – possibly the first time ever I haven’t just attempted to make my own. My attention to detail was well rewarded, because these were great.

I made traditional betty crocker chocolate buttercream icing instead of the sour cream icing recommended by Smitten Kitchen so that I didn’t have to refrigerate the cupcakes. I attempted to use a trick I learned recently to ice the cupcakes – put icing in a sandwich bag, cut off a corner, and use the bag to pipe the icing onto the cupcake. It sounded good in theory, but I failed miserably and had to resort to icing the cupcakes with a knife. They didn’t look the best, but still tasted great. I added sprinkles for a festive touch, and took along a candle for mike to blow out while camping.


I think Mike enjoyed his birthday celebration. He rated the cupcakes a 4, and even had one for breakfast on his birthday. I did notice that they started to get a little stale after a few days, so I would recommend eating them quickly – but hopefully that won’t be a problem. :)

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Best Birthday Cake Cupcakes

Yield: Makes Two 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake layers, about 30-32 cupcakes, two 8-inch squares or a 9×13 single-layer cake

Ingredients:

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 32 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled). Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just Incorporated.
Spread batter evenly in cupcake tins, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.

Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of the cupcakes comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely before icing.