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Perfect Birthday Cupcakes

September 2, 2009

It’s my birthday and I’ll eat cupcakes if I want to!

And I do want to.

If you’ve been reading food blogs for more than about 5 minutes, I’m sure you’ve heard about Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake. (If not, Google it.) I’ve had my eye on that cake since I got Baking From My Home To Yours about a year ago, but I have yet to find an occasion to bake it. Tired of waiting to sink my teeth into that fantastic cake, I decided to make it for myself for my birthday. Since I don’t need to eat a whole cake, however, I decided to make it in the form of cupcakes – beautiful, pre-portioned, easy to pawn off on friends cupcakes.

Perfect Birthday Cupcakes

I can say without reservation that these are my favorite non-chocolate cupcakes ever. The cake is light and tender, with a firm crumb that holds together well when sliced. And the buttercream? Oh my. I’ve only ever made quick buttercream frostings before, the kind that use just butter and powdered sugar. But after tasting this magnificent light, fluffy, silky smooth meringue-type buttercream frosting, I’ll never go back to quick buttercream frosting again. The step that requires cooking on the stove intimidated me, not to mention the horror stories of broken, curdled buttercreams, but ultimately it was easier than it sounds and the frosting came together beautifully. It’s so worth the extra effort.

Perfect Birthday Cupcakes

Dorie’s original cake recipe calls for raspberry jam between the layers of cake, and I knew the cupcakes wouldn’t be the same without it. I couldn’t make up my mind about how I wanted to incorporate the jam, so I did it both ways! The first set of cupcakes were hollowed out and filled with the jam, then topped with the frosting and a sprinkling of coconut. The other set gave me an excuse to play with my new pastry bag and tips that I finally bought. I topped them with a thin layer of the buttercream, piped stars around the edge, then spread a layer of jam on top. The end result looked like adorable mini-cakes!

I really can’t recommend this recipe enough. As a cake or as cupcakes, you should come up with an excuse to make this cake right now. And because it’s my birthday, you have to do what I say.

Perfect Birthday Cupcakes

Perfect Birthday Cupcakes

Adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 12 cupcakes

This is Dorie’s recipe for the Perfect Party Cake, but halved to make 12 cupcakes. Depending on how much frosting you like on your cupcakes, you may have leftovers. With their light, subtle flavors and a mild amount of sweetness, these cupcakes are perfect for grown-ups, though I would be surprised to find anyone who didn’t like them. Don’t like coconut? You can skip it.

Ingredients For the Cake

1 cup + 2 tablespoons of cake flour
1/2 tbsp of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of buttermilk
2 large egg whites
3/4 cup of sugar
1-2 teaspoons of lemon zest
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) of butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of lemon extract

Ingredients For the Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) of butter, room temperature
1/8 cup of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Decorating

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg whites.

In a mixer bowl, combine lemon zest and sugar with your fingers until the sugar is damp. Add the butter to the lemon sugar and beat using the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very light. Beat in the lemon extract. Beating on medium speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients (flour mixture) and the wet ingredients (egg mixture) in 3 steps, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. (So 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 egg mixture, 1/3 flour mixture, remaining egg mixture, then remaining dry.) Once incorporated, beat well for 2 minutes to ensure the better is well mixed and airy.

Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups, filling about 3/4 from the top. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. The cupcakes will still be very light in color, so don’t let them cook until they brown. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and cool on a rack.

Frosting and Assembly

To make the frosting, measure the sugar and egg whites into mixer bowl. Place the mixer bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly until hot (140°), about 3 minutes. The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow. Remove from heat. Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg mixture on medium speed until cool, about 5 minutes. Switching to the paddle attachment, add butter ½ stick at a time, beating until smooth before adding the next ½ stick. Once the all of the butter is incorporated, beat the frosting on medium-high for 6-10 minutes, until thick and smooth. (If the frosting breaks or curdles, keep beating and it will come together again.) Beating on medium speed, pour in the lemon juice a little bit at a time, combining each bit well before adding the next. Finally, beat in the vanilla extract.

Cool cupcakes completely before frosting. To fill with jam, measure the jam into a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 30 seconds or until runny when stirred. Cut a cone-shaped hole in the top of the cupcake, slice off the pointy part of the cone, fill the hole with jam, and place the cake “lid” back on top. (Step by step directions for filling cupcakes, with photos, at Baking Bites) Frost cupcakes and stop with a sprinkling or coconut or a layer of jam, as desired.

Store cupcakes in the refrigerator well covered for 2 days, or freeze to store longer. (As if you’ll have any left to store that long.) Let the cupcakes come to room temperature before eating to enjoy the full range of subtle flavors.

  1. September 2, 2009 9:35 am

    Happy Birthday!!! I’ve made the cake before but never into cupcakes. good idea… the cake itself was much too rich for a big piece!

  2. September 2, 2009 9:45 am

    Happy birthday! I’ve never found the right occasion to make the cake, and now I’m wondering why didn’t I think of cupcakes! *smacks forehead*

  3. September 2, 2009 10:11 am

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!! Such lovely little cupcakes :-D

  4. September 2, 2009 11:06 am

    Happy Birthday to you!! Hope you have a fabulous day.

  5. September 2, 2009 1:10 pm

    Happy Birthday! These cupcakes are so pretty and they sound delicious. I definitely want to get that cookbook.

  6. The Craving Chronicles permalink*
    September 3, 2009 9:12 am

    Thank you so much for all of the birthday wishes! :)

  7. September 3, 2009 4:15 pm

    I’m freaking out a little bit–these look amazing! And the photos are simply gorgeous. Happy birthday (belated by now, I guess).

  8. September 6, 2009 6:58 pm

    How gorgeous are those…happy belated birthday! I baked my own birthday cake too this year =).

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