Really. I am not kidding you. There are cupcake pretenders and then there are these:
Anyway, if you want to make these babies (and you do, believe me), here's how you do it:
makes about 24 - 23 if you like to lick the bowl
Note that there is a LOT of vanilla in these and there is no salt. I don't generally like the salty-sweet thing that North Americans are soooo in love with (my fab party mix is an exception here - recipe coming soon). I like my sweets to be sweet. If it is seriously going to mess you up to be saltless here, add some, about 1/4 a tsp. Ugh. I can't believe I just wrote that.
1.5 sticks of softened, unsalted butter (1 stick is just under 125g, so 185g or so)
2 Tbs vanilla (yes, TABLESPOONS!)
2.5 tsp baking powder
1.25 c whole milk
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and put your cupcake liners in a muffin tray.
Cream your butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat, then add your milk. Now technically you should sift your flour and baking powder together then add the wet ingredients to the dry, but I am far, far to lazy to do that. I just dump it into the bowl (I use a mixer) on top of the wet and incorporate it with as few strokes as possible. I do sprinkle my baking powder around a bit so it's not in one clump, and as long as your flour and baking powder are relatively lump-free, you'll be ok.
Now scoop up the batter and plop it into the cases, leaving about 1.5 cm of free space at the top of each case. I like my cupcakes to rise above the case.
Now pop them in the oven for about 20 mins. In my oven 19 is about perfect.
Don't they look gorg? Now cool them on a rack and shoo your toddler away from them until they are cool.
1lb/500g icing sugar
1 stick very soft butter (125g)
1/4c whole milk or half and half (half and half is about 10% fat. You can just add a splash of whipping cream to regular milk to approximate it if you live somewhere where it doesn't exist)
1.5 tsp almond essence if you want to live dangerously or vanilla essence if you're, well, vanilla.
A mixer or food processor is pretty much vital here. Beat your sugar and butter together then add the milk/half and half and essence. keep beating until it's reeeeaaaally smooth and creamy. Now taste it and make sure there's enough essence. You'll probably have to taste it a few times just to make sure it isn't going to kill people (or that's what I tell myself). Try not to eat the whole bowl.
Now take a regular butter knife and swirl some on top of your cooled cakes. I like mine to look homemade, but if you are more of a Martha Stewart sort of person, you could use a piping bag and star nozzle. Now you can go to town with decorating them. I like a single berry on top - a blackberry, blueberry or raspberry is nice. Or sprinkles if you want to go kitschy.
Now feed them to whomever you're trying to woo. Or your clamouring toddler.