Are you ready for three kinds of vanilla stuffed into a humble cupcake? These beauties have a light and sweet cake, are stuffed with rich vanilla pastry cream, and topped with my favorite vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. Don’t let the fancy hydrangea frosting job fool you – these are three simple components that, when combined, make these cupcakes something special. And the hydrangea pattern isn’t required, although it is a lot easier than it looks.
Who’s ready for Mother’s Day next week? You can tell I’ve been thinking about a great Mother’s Day brunch based on what’s showing up on the blog. I had the raspberry morning buns a few days ago, which would be the perfect treat to bring your favorite mother, especially if breakfast in bed is in the cards. In a few days I’ll have an easy and elegant bundt cake that could be the centerpiece at any swanky brunch table. And today I’ve got these lovely cupcakes, which are perfect for any occasion but, with the fancy hydrangea frosting, would be a perfect Mother’s Day dessert. So many choices! I’m just glad my family understands that baking is my way of telling them I love them, and that I’m not trying to kill them with questionable diet choices.
I can get a little sad around Mother’s Day missing my own mom, but having two young kids that are really proud of the special Mother’s Day artwork they made for you helps with that. We’ve also had lots of family visiting in the past few weeks, so I’ve been happily distracted. And if I ever do start to get down, after I feel all my feelings I like to get in the kitchen and bake something up. These cupcakes are a perfect special occasion treat, since they look like they take a lot of work. But the fact is that each component is pretty simple to make, (and if you don’t want to take the extra minutes to make a Swiss meringue buttercream frosting, you could totally swap in an easier American buttercream). It’s my ideal dessert, where simple, beautiful parts create an even more impressive whole.
Once your pastry cream and cupcakes are made and cooled, it’s time to fill the cupcakes. Place the pastry cream in a plastic bag or pastry bag fitted with a large circle tip, and insert it into the cupcake. Squeeze in the pastry cream, slowly pulling the bag back out as you go. I wanted the maximum pastry cream possible per cupcake, so I went down through the top of the cupcake and through the side. You’ll have plenty of pastry cream leftover for other recipes, or to eat with a spoon.
I’ve been wanting to try this hydrangea frosting design forever (or at least since I first bought myself a set of pastry tips), but I was nervous I was going to screw them up and they’d look more like Cookie Monster than my favorite flower. But the design it self was super easy! All you need is a Wilton 2D tip and a pastry bag, and blue and purple food coloring if you want the two-tone look. I split my buttercream frosting into two bowls and got them to the blue and purple I wanted, then scooped them both into a pastry bag fitted with the 2D tip. I wasn’t super careful about keeping the colors on separate sides of the bag, so you’ll notice that each cupcake has slightly different coloring. Then you just pipe little petals all around each cupcake, as high as you want. And since I love a 1:1 cupcake to frosting ratio, I piped them pretty high.
So there you go! A lovely cupcake perfect for spring.
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole milk
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups half and half (or 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 egg whites, at room temperature
- Pinch of salt
- 24 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a muffin pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In a large bowl and using a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes more, until smooth.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to combine.
- Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined, followed by the milk and the rest of the flour. Don't over mix!
- Scoop batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling each hole about ⅔ of the way full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the pan before removing them to a cooling rack. Cool completely.
- Repeat this with the remaining cupcake batter.
- Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and half and half (or cream and milk).
- Whisk the egg-cream mixture into the sugar-cornstarch mixture over medium-high heat. Whisk the mixture occasionally as it heats up, then whisk constantly until the mixture just begins to boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.
- Turn the heat down so that the mixture bubbles gently and continue to cook it a few minutes more, until it coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the butter and vanilla, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, then set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In a large heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl over a small saucepan filled with two inches of simmering water and whisk constantly until the mixture reaches 160°F.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and, using a hand mixer, whisk it on medium high speed until it cools to room temperature and resembles shaving cream. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. by the end, the frosting should be silky smooth.
- Place the pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a large circle tip. Insert the tip into each cupcake, gently squeezing pastry cream inside as you slowly pull the pastry tip out. I did this both into the to of the cupcake and the side.
- Divide the frosting into two bowls and use food coloring to reach your desired colors. Place both colors into two sides of a pastry bag fitted with a 2D (large closed star) tip. Pipe blossoms around each cupcake, starting with the outside and working your way in.