A few years ago, I was getting ready to make cupcakes for my son’s first birthday, when I realized I was out of white sugar. (This rarely happens.) It was either use Splenda or brown sugar. I opted for brown sugar.
The result was marvelous. Since then I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit more to get a deliciously moist cupcake that packs a brown sugar punch. (And works well for high altitudes–by the way.)
We decorated these cupcakes for my mother-in-law’s birthday party yesterday. Although I think I’m with my husband–the cupcakes are so good on their own they really don’t need any frosting.
Not even technicolor pink with sprinkles. (And if you don’t frost them, does that mean you can call them “muffins”? Just wondering…)
Brown Sugar Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart Kids
Makes about 24 cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (12 Tbsp.) pure vegetable shortening (I used butter flavored)**
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
For buttercream frosting:
2 sticks butter
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract, optional
a little milk, for thinning out the frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. (For high altitude–375 degrees F.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. (You will probably have enough batter left for 4 or 5 extra cupcakes.)
Whisk dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the shortening and sugar until very light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl down after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.
Starting and ending with the dry ingredients, add the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Only beat until combined. Remove bowl from mixer base and scrape the sides and bottom with a large silicone or rubber spatula to make sure all the ingredients are completely incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the paper-lined cups.
Bake only one pan at a time for 15 minutes, checking after 12-13 minutes. Cupcakes should be lightly golden and springy to the touch.
Let cool for a few minutes in the pan, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.
**EDIT: You can certainly use butter. The cupcakes may be a bit drier, but will have better flavor.**
For buttercream frosting:
Beat the butter at high speed with an electric mixer. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and the extracts (if using). Beat until light and fluffy. Add the remaining powdered sugar alternating with a little bit of milk (no more than 1-2 tsp. at a time), until you reach the desired texture.
Tint if desired with gel food coloring. Frost cupcakes and serve.