February 19, 2011

Ad Hoc White Cupcakes

I bought Thomas Keller's cookbook, Ad Hoc At Home, a few years ago with every intention of recreating their famous buttermilk fried chicken.  Well, I never got around to making it.  The thought of deep frying in my small kitchen was a bit too daunting (and messy!) for me.   Fortunately there are plenty of other delicious recipes in the cookbook to try.  

My goddaughter's christening is this spring and, just as I did for her mother's baby shower, I'm going to assemble a dessert table for the party.  The color theme is white - so clean and crisp and  perfect for such a special occasion.  

One treat I definitely want to serve are white cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.  I've found some great recipes for homemade chocolate cupcakes but I haven't had much luck with white ones.  Unfortunately my favorite high ratio yellow butter cake doesn't translate well to cupcakes....I've tried a few times without any success.

So I turned to Ad Hoc At Home for inspiration.  White cupcakes are one of three cupcake recipes found in the cookbook; the other two are devil's food and carrot cake.  Anything from Thomas Keller has to be good and these cupcakes don't disappoint.   The cake is moist and delicious and they hold their shape really well.  I actually prefer them unfrosted but I dare not omit the buttercream for fear of a riot.

Ad Hoc White Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
12 Tbl unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup egg whites (from about 6 large eggs), at room temperature
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two standard muffin tins (12 cupcakes each) with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar at medium speed to combine.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the mixture is pale and thick, about 5 minutes.  Beat in vanilla extract, then add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions.  The batter will be thick.  Transfer to a large bowl.

Put the egg whites in the clean mixer bowl and whisk on medium speed until the whites begin to foam.  Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar, then beat on high until the meringue is thick and glossy and holds almost stiff peaks.  Fold one-third of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites.

Use a large ice cream scoop to portion out the batter in to the 24 paper lined cups.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Rotate the pans and bake for another 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.   Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

Decorate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
makes about 5 cups

1 3/4 cup + 2 Tbl sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (from about 6 large eggs)
3 1/2 sticks (14 oz) unsalted butter, cut in to 1/2-inch pieces, at room temperature
1 Tbl vanilla extract

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Combine the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, set over the simmering water, and whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is hot to the touch (150-160F).

Remove the bowl from the heat, immediately place on the mixer stand, and, using the whisk attachment, whip on high speed until the whites are thick and hold stiff peaks and the whites and the bowl are cool to the touch, 10 to 12 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment.  Beating on medium speed, add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, being sure each batch is incorporated before adding more.  If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to medium-high and beat to bring it back together, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter.  

Once all the butter has been added, check the consistency.  If the frosting is too thin to hold its shape, beat for a few more minutes to thicken.  Turn the mixer speed to low and add the vanilla.


  1. Beautiful cupcakes! I want to make the buttermilk fried chicken too but am a bit adverse to deep frying at home :/

    1. I tried the buttermilk fried chicken, and it was OK, but nothing spectacular. Actually my kids who love fried chicken found it "slippery", it was a bit too moist, almost like boiled chicken, but the crust was nice.

  2. I have been craving cupcakes all day long. These are exactly what I want. Your frosting looks so creamy.

  3. I have some egg whites sitting in my fridge, this would be a perfect recipe to try:D Thanks for sharing!

  4. Anonymous2/20/2011

    Yummy! But I'm pretty sure that's Swiss Meringue Buttercream, not Vanilla Buttercream.

  5. You're right! It is a swiss meringue buttercream but since it's Mr. Keller's recipe I left the name as he has it in his cookbook.

  6. Pure vanilla cupcakes are actually much harder to do than one would think! I'm still looking for my perfect white cupcake and this is definitely going to be tried! They look adorable.

  7. These cupcakes are gorgeous. I bet they didn't need it, but the frosting looks wonderful!

  8. Gorgeous cupcakes! You really can't go wrong with Thomas Keller. The brownies in that book are pretty awesome too...

  9. These could not look more perfect given your frosting to cupcake recipe. I have the book at home and have yet to make these. I think I found my baking project for this weekend. (BTW - just stumbled upon your blog today and I love it.)

  10. I would you recommend making the frosting without a mixer?

  11. Anonymous3/02/2011

    This should say 3 1/2 sticks of butter for the frosting...right?

  12. Oops!! You're so right! The frosting recipe should use 3 1/2 sticks of butter, which is equal to 14 oz. Sorry for any confusion!

  13. i even put less sugar then required... too sweet.. wouldn't make this again.

  14. Sorry the recipe didn't work for you. The recipe is from the cookbook and I had great results.

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