All Natural Cupcake

Who doesn't like a cupcake?

With fall gatherings, tailgates, and birthday celebrations—why not make a homemade dozen rather than buying store bought version, sans the preservatives. Here's my crowd pleasing recipe for traditional vanilla cupcakes and a choice of vanilla or chocolate icings. Your gathering will certainly know the difference.

Enjoy.

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Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes about 2 dozen 

chefgeorgehirsch.comGeorge Hirsch Lifestyle

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/4 teaspoons Baking Powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, beaten

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream butter on medium speed until smooth. Scrape bowl, add the sugar gradually and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 

Add the eggs in three stages one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three stages, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over mix. Scrape down the bowl after each addition to make sure the ingredients are well blended. 

Fill cupcake liners approximately three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a toothpick or skewer inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the muffin pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing. 

Ice the cupcakes with either Vanilla Icing or Chocolate Icing

Vanilla Icing

Makes icing for 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla 

Place room temperature and softened butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed beat until smooth and creamy 3-5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition approximately 2 minutes, until the icing is thick enough for spreading consistency. 

You may not need to add all of the sugar. 

Optional: Add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. Icing is best used at room temperature, as it will harden when chilled.

Note: Use and store the icing at room temperature as icing will set if chilled.

Chocolate Icing

Makes icing for 2 dozen cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla 

Sift cocoa powder into six cups of the confectionary sugar. Place room temperature and softened butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.Beat on medium speed beat until smooth and creamy 3-5 minutes. Scrape the bowl and gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition approximately 2 minutes, until the icing is thick enough for spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. 

Note: For deeper chocolate; heat just until melted,2 Tablespoons chocolate chips in the microwave and combine with butter and sugar before adding milk. Use and store the icing at room temperature as icing will set if chilled.



Rome Italy: Cup of Espresso

A good espresso, or should I say, a great espresso is hard to come by stateside. It's a long way to travel for a cup of espresso or cappuccino, but worth the trip. I suggest you stay for a few days and really enjoy it!

A good cup of espresso should be enjoyed this way; stop and sip from a proper cup. Meaning, the cup is not made of paper, styrofoam or other disposable materials. Then participate in certain social etiquette. Don't drink it in a car or while walking on-the-go. Take a few minutes, sit or stand at the counter at the coffee bar. BTW, in Italy the price of an espresso and cappuccino is fixed no matter where you go- imagine that. You'll save a Euro or so for standing at the counter, but I enjoy to sit and take-in centuries old customs. 

I've decided it's all the circumstances combined that make that cup taste so good; the list is long, so let's just say Romans know how to make a great cup. Everyday, when in Rome, I stop at Gargani's for double espresso and a sfogiatelle, my favorite Italian pastry and savored every moment. Can't wait to return. Tip: The cafe goes from empty to packed in minutes, so don't hesitate, just sit. Then just enjoy the food frenzy; waiters rushing, tables turning and piles of small plates. Anyway, here's where to go- when in Rome: 
R Gargani
Via Lombardia, 15
00187 Roma (Lazio), Italy

images: George Hirsch