Sunday, 28 October 2012

Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes and a review

Do you remember my homemade vanilla marshmallows? Shauna Sever the author of Marhsmallow Madness has written another book entitled Pure Vanilla. On the inside jacket, it says "Who says vanilla isn't sexy?" Quite right as I do love a good vanilla cake. All too often, I'd choose different flavours or unusual pairings but you just can't go wrong with a good vanilla cake.

The book is published by Quirk books and has 159 pages in total including the index. There is a short introduction which covers the history of vanilla, from orchid to extract, vanilla in all its forms, vanilla origins, varieties and tasting notes - basically everything you ever wanted to know about vanilla!
It is then divided into 6 chapters and I've listed a few interesting recipes for each section here

Breakfasts - vanilla, brown sugar and black pepper bacon, vanilla bean popovers, honey-vanilla granola clusters
Cakes and Pies - vanilla cloud cake, cherry-vanilla shortbread cake squares, twinkie bundt cake
Cookies and Bars - heirloom vanilla sugar cookies, vanilla creme cookie sandwiches, vanilla latte cookies 
Candies and Confections - vanilla butter minds, golden pear-vanilla jam, vanilla lollipops
Custards and Creams - honey-vanilla panna cotta, creme brulee, floating islands 
Drinks - vanilla mojito, fruity vanilla iced tea, malted white hot chocolate 

The recipes are clearly set out with an introduction in bold and ingredients required down the side. There are bullet points for the method with the first few words of each step highlighted in bold making it easy to read. The font is a nice size and most recipes fit onto 1 page. There aren't a lot of photos in the book which is a shame as the photos that are there are beautiful. 

My verdict - A nice little book all about vanilla and vanilla recipes. Vanilla is such a versatile ingredient, it's great to have a little collection of recipes such as these. My main dislikes about the book would be the lack of photos (personal preference) and the ingredients list in cups and ounces but I do realise it's an American book. 

I made 2 recipes in the book - ultimate vanilla cupcakes and honey-vanilla granola clusters. The cupcakes were absolutely divine - the best vanilla cupcakes I've eaten and is now my go to vanilla cupcake recipe.  I used my homemade vanilla extract in the recipe which I'm sure made it better :) 
The granola was easy to make and the variations are endless. Perfect for breakfast or a mid-morning snack! 

 I want to eat the cupcakes from the page! 

 flour mixture + sour cream/egg mixture

 ready to be frosted 

 lots of lovely vanilla buttercream 

 honey vanilla granola clusters 

Recipes reproduced with permission from the publisher

Ultimate vanilla cupcakes 
Makes 16 cupcakes 

For the cakes
125g flour + 1 tablespoon cornflour (original recipe states 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour + 1/2cup plain flour )
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
113g butter
225g sugar
1.5 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 eggs yolk

For the frosting  (I needed 1.5 batches to frost my cupcakes with the high swirl as shown)

250g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
200g butter

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. 
  • Sift the flours, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugar, vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  • In a measuring jug, whisk together sour cream, eggs and egg yolk until smotth.
  • Pour half of the wet ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture and beat until smooth.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low and stir in half of the flour mixture.
  • Repeat with the remaining dry and wet ingredients. 
  • Turn off the mixer and fold batter by hand several times to make sure it is well mixed. 
  • Fill cases until 2/3 full. 
  • Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 22-25 minutes. 
  • Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • To make the frosting, place the icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. 
  • Add milk, vanilla extract and salt and mix on low speed until sugar is evenly moistened. 
  • Add butter and gradually increase the speed from low to medium-high. 
  • Beat until fluffy and light in texture, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Beat in the vanilla bean paste during the last minute. 

Honey Vanilla Granola Clusters

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
100g light brown sugar
85g honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
315g rolled oats

  • Preheat the oven to 160C.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, brown sugar, honey, oil and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Add oats and stir to coat evenly.
  • Spread mixture onto prepared sheet in an even layer. 
  • Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden and fragrant, stirring once or twice and rotating pan 180 degrees halfway through baking. 
  • Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and let granola cool on the sheet.
  • Break into clusters and store in an airtight container. 
  • If you like, add your favourite nuts and seeds during the last 5 minutes of cooking. 

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to review free of charge. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own. 


  1. That is a very impressive cupcake. And by being named ultimate it is a reputation that it seems to have lived up to!

    1. They are definitely ultimate cupcakes to me :)

  2. Isn't it great when things you've baked look exactly like the photo in the recipe book? These look very impressive, although I would go for a smaller amount of frosting myself.

    1. It doesn't always happen but yes it's great :) I'm a frosting girl so I'm very happy :)

  3. They look really great, lovely buttercream swirls - I do love vanilla as a flavoring - good to see it being used as the predominant flavour instead of a combo.

    1. I love vanilla too and it's too often understated or undersold.

  4. I never understand why people think vanilla is bland - it is the all time best flavour...ever!
    Your cupcakes look amazing

  5. I love vanilla - just smells and tastes warm and comforting somehow. These cupcakes sound great, as the soured cream probably helps them not be over sweet. Love the frosting too! :)

    1. I totally agree! I've also made these with yoghurt instead of sour cream - still delicious!

  6. Those clusters look great, and I love your cupcake wrappers!

  7. Oooh, that vanilla and honey granola looks yummy!! I love vanilla - I am self confessed vanilla addict!

    1. You'll love this book then as it's all about vanilla :)

  8. I've seen this book pop up a couple of times now ... each time it makes me want to have it on my book shelf just a little bit more. I go positively lala over fresh vanilla, wonder if Santa has this on his sleigh????

    1. If you've been good this year, maybe Santa has one for you indeed :)


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