Updated: Mar 1
Whether you’re a novice baker looking to move beyond boxed cake mix and canned frosting but aren’t sure how to get started, or an experienced baker seeking a couple of foolproof recipes to add to your repertoire, I’ll show you how to whip up a dozen luscious vanilla cupcakes and classic vanilla American buttercream in a few easy to follow steps.
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But first, a moment of truth: When I was a novice baker, I would measure out ingredients just as the recipe said to do, but I did so only when it called for it to be added. Oh, I was so naïve. Don’t do this, for so many reasons, not the least of which is doing so opens up the possibility of measurement errors. And that will lead to subpar outcomes and frowny faces from those who were eagerly awaiting to sample your baked goods.
Instead, adopt and follow these pro-level baking (and cooking) habits that will put you on the path toward producing consistent and scrumptious baked goods.
1. Read, re-read and yes, read through a third time the recipe you’re working with to ensure that you have all of the required ingredients and equipment available and also understand the order of steps the recipe is instructing you to follow.
2. Mise en place – aah, this brings me back to my high school days when I took French as an elective. Actually, I didn’t learn this term then, but as I started to hone my baking skills I quickly discovered mise en place is a must do. It basically means everything in its place. Take the time to measure out all of your ingredients using a kitchen scale, arrange them in the order that the recipe has you using them, pre-heat your oven to the temperature called for and set out and prepare your baking equipment before you get elbow deep in whipping up your sweet treats. Below is the mise en place for this recipe.
And while we’re on the subject, here are few more morsels of wisdom that are not essential to follow, but especially helpful if you plan on baking on a consistent basis:
Placing a couple of oven thermometers (front and center and back and center) in your oven will give you a much more accurate read of the actual oven temperature. In my novice baked goods batches, I couldn’t understand why my treats were baking up so inconsistent, despite me following the given recipe to the letter. Once I started using oven thermometers, I discovered that my oven dial was set to the proper temperature (let’s say 350 degrees) but would actually be anywhere from 325-375 (oven temperature fluctuations are quite common, especially for conventional home use ovens).
In addition to your oven, your 2 other kitchen BFFs will be your stand mixer and kitchen scale. I used an electric beater for quite a while until an avid baker friend of mine introduced me to her stand mixer. It was love at first mix. IMO, using a stand mixer is like having a kitchen assistant to literally free up your hands to tend to other baking tasks. It also produces more thoroughly mixed batters, frostings, cookie dough, etc., which is vital to a delicious end product.
As virtually all baking cookbooks will tell you, baking relies on precise measurements for yielding great baked goods. Having used both volume (AKA the scoop and pour measuring cups, especially for dry ingredients) and weighted measurements using a kitchen scale, I achieve consistently great results and rave reviews when I weigh my ingredients. If you decide to make the investment in acquiring both/either of these items, know that they will be with you for several years to come.
Still, you have to use what you already have in your kitchen. And besides, part of the fun with baking is experimentation, so the following recipe — while written for use with a stand mixer — can be prepared with an electric beater. And measurements for the ingredients are provided by weight and volume.
Thank you for visiting my blog post and kindly let me know how you fared on this sweet adventure by including your comments below.