Sam Bakes: Cultural Food Night

The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake

http://www.cupcakeproject.com/2011/09/ultimate-vanilla-cupcake-test-baked-by.html

Adventures of a Hopeless Foodie Rating:  5/5

The Background

I am obsessed with cupcakes.  I have to try them everywhere I go, and compare them, and know where I can find the best one.  I’ve had them all over the country.  I know all of my favorites.  And just recently, I decided if I was going to be such a major cupcake critic, I had to start making them, too.  And thus began my love of baking this summer.  However, I had a big problem:  even though I would make only about 6 cupcakes at a time, I still would end up eating more than half of them.  I had no critics albeit my mom and my boyfriend, who of course I wasn’t going to trust with giving me honest reviews (they love me too much to be mean).  So once school began, I stocked up on baking supplies and began cooking for my roommates.  And to my pleasant surprise, they loved my baking!  So now, of course, my dream is to drop out of school and become a baker.  But I currently have no plans of actually doing that (yet).

The Recipe

My absolute favorite, go-to recipe for any occasion is The Cupcake Project’s Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe with her Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.  Now, I made a lot of vanilla cupcake recipes over the summer, and this one was by far the best that I or anyone that I know has personally home baked.  In fact, it’s better than just about any bakery I can think of.  And to top it off, I bought my dream ingredient to start off the school year, Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract by Nielsen Massey.  ImageNow, they say that the average person can’t tell the difference between real and imitation vanilla extract, but I really believe this product adds a whole new dimension of flavor to your baking.  At around $18 for the entire bottle, it really isn’t all that much more expensive than normal vanilla extract which comes in a bottle about 1/3 of the size.  Go pick some up at your local William-Sonoma today!  Or I think a lot of supermarkets in NYC actually have it in their spices section.

ImageNow, I have a few concrete examples of just how amazing this recipe is.  I have a friend, she absolutely HATES anything vanilla (I’m sure she’d tell me this is untrue, but I can’t think of any time I’ve ever seen her eat vanilla voluntarily).  She LOVES these.  She thinks the frosting is to die for, and she jokes that I should just make her a huge bucket of frosting.  Well, I think it’s a joke.  Seriously, this recipe is amazing.  I’ve also received compliments from my friend who works at a bakery and two of my roommates that cook on a regular basis.  So if you’re going to make any one cupcake recipe, choose this one.  It’s simple and delicious.  The cake is moist and densely packed with flavor, and the frosting is like buttery-vanilla heaven.  Now, I didn’t feel like buying any vanilla beans, so I substituted with the 1 vanilla bean=1 tsp. vanilla extract rule, and for the vanilla paste in the frosting, I just used an equivalent amount of vanilla extract.  I really don’t think it detracts from the flavor.

The Event
ImageSo why was I making these cupcakes?  Why, for cultural food night!  Several of my friends and I got together to cook some food from each of our cultures.  Because all I can do is bake, I made “American” cupcakes (lame excuse for a cultural dish, I know).
My Jewish friend made delicious potato latkes and matzo ball soup, both great.
My Greek friend made amazing little spinach-cheese pie-like things in filo dough, and brought these amazing cookies that were covered in powdered sugar, and she got some baklava.  I love Greek food, but I’ve never really been into baklava.  But the ones she bought at this Greek bakery were amazing!  Image

Someone that we didn’t even know was coming brought garlicky green beans and potato salad from Whole Foods, which were both amazing, as one can expect when eating just about anything from Whole Foods.  And finally, my southern friend couldn’t find buttermilk (In NYC.  Somehow.)  and ended up making biscuits out of a can (still tasty, though).  Then we had our friend who always shows up to everything, eats all of the food, and brings nothing.  But we love him anyway.  It was tons of fun, and I highly recommend that if you have a bunch of friends with varying cultural backgrounds to throw your own cultural food night!  You seriously won’t regret it.  Even if you’ve had the food before, there’s nothing like having home cooked food by someone that was raised eating that culture’s cuisine.

Until next time, eat up!

~Sam