Perfectly vanilla. Slightly crisp and caramelized on the top like a sugar cookie. Super soft in the middle.

These are the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever tasted.

This recipe is The One.

The cake doesn’t really need filling. It doesn’t even need frosting.

And just as cool…it’s totally freaky how this batter is put together.

Rather than creaming butter and sugar together, the softened butter is slowly beaten into the flour mixture, kind of like pie dough. 

In fact, at first, the dough looks and smells a lot like pie dough.

Awesome. 

My little sister Katie had everything to do with this cake.

This was her first time going boxless, taking a from-scratch go at the oven and a cupcake pan.

Katie discovered the Ming Makes Cupcakes site, narrowed down a few top picks from Ming’s fab-looking list of 33 cupcakes and finally picked this one.

The perfect vanilla cupcake.

Oh yeah. She’s good. Real good.

This was our first time making real live curd. It requires a lot of over-the-stove whisking…but Katie and I took turns.

We traded off. We shared. Kind of like when we were young(er), but without the scratching or spit smears on the face.

Then we stuffed each cupcake with a spoonful of the lemon filling — a gooey lemon kiss right in the middle.

My little sister, the artist-barista-student-soon-to-be-sonographer, is going to have to add baker to her list of descriptors.

She’s going be busy, too. Very busy.

Afterall, Ming has 32 other cupcake recipes.

That’s about 384 cupcakes.

We’ll need aprons.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Lemon Filling

adapted from Ming Makes Cupcakes

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature, cut into 8 tablespoons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk, room temperature

Lemon curd

  • 1 egg and 1 yolk
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare a cupcake pan with paper liners.

In a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on medium, beat in butter, a tablespoon at a time, until butter is thoroughly blended with flour mixture. After all the butter was added, I continued beating until the flour-butter mixture pulled together into a soft ball that mostly held together around the beater paddle.

Beat in sugar until well-blended. With mixer on low, add eggs, vanilla and milk. Beat until just combined.

Fill cupcake liners, distributing mixture evenly. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes (I start checking after about 15 minutes), or until toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached.

Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for about 2 to 3 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan. Allow to cool completely on rack.

When cupcakes have cooled, cut a small cone-shaped hole from the top of the cupcake that extends most 0f the way — but not all the way — to the bottom. Fill hole with lemon filling. Trim the pointed end from the conical “plug”  and discard (or eat). Place the top of the “plug” back on top over the filling, creating a neat cap that (mostly) hides the lemon curd.

Dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with glaze or frost (see note).

For the lemon filling:

In a heatproof bowl, beat together the egg and yolk. Set bowl over a pot of simmering water and continue whisking. Beat in lemon juice, butter and sugar. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick, like pudding (ours took several minutes). Pour into bowl and allow to cool slightly.

Note: Due to the richness of the lemon curd, the filled cupcakes don’t really need frosting. Next time, I’ll probably just dust them with powdered sugar.

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