Countdown cupcakes suited for a celebration


Some kind of cake tends to be present at most celebrations. One of my college friends’ families can attest to that. There is always cake to be had when something good happens in their household.

One of my friends had her engagement party yesterday and, as usual, I wanted to bake something for the occasion.

I have struggled with making cakes at high altitude so, instead of taking a chance on a regular recipe and trying to make it work, I turned to the few high-altitude cake recipes that the Joy of Cooking had to offer. I settled on the 1234 cake, which got its name because its formula at sea level calls for 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs. I call them countdown cupcakes because I always remember the recipe in the reverse order. The recipe below notes the changes for the cake at 7,000 feet.

I’ve previously said that I dislike decorating baked goods, and I hold to that, but I do believe there’s a time and place for it. This was one of those instances. I came up with the frosting I wanted, but wanted to do something appropriate for the celebration. I wanted to work hearts into the decoration, so I used a box cutter to cut a heart out of a piece of parchment paper. I placed the cut-out on each cupcake and used a sieve to sprinkle powdered sugar over it. I was really pleased with the way it turned out. For the mini cupcakes, I cut a smaller heart out of a piece of parchment paper and put the larger piece of paper on each cupcake so it served as a sort of stencil. They were adorable. My friend loved them.

This recipe made 16 full-size cupcakes and 24 mini cupcakes, but could easily be turned into all regular-size cupcakes or all mini cupcakes. For mini cupcakes, bake 8-10 minutes.

With Valentine’s Day less than a week away, I hope you find something delightful to make for your loved ones.

3 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted all-purpose flour (add two more tablespoons at 7,000 feet)
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 1/2 at 7,000 feet)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups minus 1 tablespoon sugar (subtract 2 tablespoons at 7,000 feet)
2 teaspoons vanilla
5 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk or heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (350 degrees F between 6,000 and 7,000 feet altitude). Line a muffin tin with paper liners. If at high altitude, spray the liners with a nonstick spray such as Pam.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until well blended. Scrape down the bowl and beat for 1 minute. Add three eggs and beat again, scraping down the bowl afterward. Add remaining two eggs and combine until well blended.

Add flour mixture to butter mixture in two parts, alternating with buttermilk. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute, or until batter is smooth and creamy.

Fill each cupcake in the pan three-quarters full of batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 teaspoon salt

Beat butter until creamy. Add powdered sugar, cocoa powder and sour cream and beat until combined. Add extract and salt and frost cupcakes.

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