I've tried dozens upon dozens of different vanilla cupcake recipes. Seriously. When I did my most recent search, I printed out this recipe first and another one second. Of course I started with the other recipe first and tried five different variations of that one. Five. It was a recipe that had melted butter and oil in it so I tried it that way and then all oil and then all butter and then half apple sauce (which had great texture but tasted like apples not-so-surprisingly) and then with an extra egg (which made it taste like egg cupcakes-disgusting!). So I was about to give up and go with the half butter/half oil mixture but I told myself to try the other recipe. Just. In. Case.
And then I did a happy dance. In the middle of my kitchen with my dogs wondering what the heck I was doing. That was two weeks ago, and I've made this five times since then. It is by far the best recipe I've found. To clarify, I haven't eaten it five times since then, just made it. I have, however, wanted to eat it all five times.
A couple of notes: when you make this, you are going to question everything you've ever read on here because there's no way this recipe can be that good when there are really large chunks of butter in the batter. Trust me. It will work. That's how it's supposed to be. However, the amount of butter in these is slightly ridiculous (but worth it--don't skimp!), and you will probably pour some out of the cupcake tins after they bake. Just roll with it. Place the cupcakes on a paper towel while cooling to soak it up, too. Let the cupcakes cool completely before trying them. Also, these are the best the day they are made. I don't recommend making them a day before you're going to serve them.
I had to adapt this recipe for high altitude so I made a few changes, but it's nothing too complicated. Be sure to check those out if you're baking at high altitude (in bold below). Also, since it's the Superbowl on Sunday, I recommend tinting some frosting to celebrate the Ravens and 49ers.
Makes 24 cupcakes
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*Note: The high altitude adaptations are in bold.
For the cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon (*2 1/2 teaspoons*) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup (*+ 2 tablespoons*) whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
For the vanilla buttercream:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla (clear vanilla keeps it white)
1 pound powdered sugar (about 3.5-4 cups)
1 cup shortening
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (*350 degrees for high altitude*) and line muffin tins with liners.
To make the cupcakes, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of your mixer and mix on low until combined. Add the cold butter into the dry ingredients and mix on low using the paddle attachment just until the butter is coated with flour.
In a large glass measuring cup or bowl (preferably with a spout), whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. With the mixer on medium low speed, add the wet ingredients in three parts, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat until all the ingredients are incorporated but don't overmix. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full or with about 1/4 cup of batter. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 17-20 minutes (*high altitude about 16-18 minutes*). Place the cupcakes on a paper towel to cool completely.
To make the buttercream, place the butter, milk, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium using the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer) until everything is blended. Add in half the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Add in the shortening and mix on medium until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and mix on medium high until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again and mix until smooth. If the frosting is too thick, you can add more milk one teaspoon at a time.
Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a spatula or a piping bag to frost the cupcakes and add whatever decoration you desire. Serve the same day.
Cupcakes adapted from Billy's Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes