Simple yet festive, these tender buttermilk-vanilla cupcakes are topped with a white chocolate meringue buttercream that is both silky and sumptuous. I admit the flavors do not shout (or even whisper) Mardi Gras, but the sprinkles certainly do. It’s all about those symbolic Mardi Gras colors: The purple represents justice, the green faith, and the gold power. Three great reasons to celebrate – with a cupcake (or two). Laissez le bon temps rouler!
Makes 21 cupcakes
Golden Vanilla Cupcakes:
- 1 ½ cups (171 g/6 oz) cake flour
- ¾ cup (96 g/3.3 oz) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons (10 g/0.35 oz) baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 14 tablespoons (200 g/7 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¾ cups (350 g/12.3 oz) granulated sugar
- 4 large egg yolks (save the egg whites for the buttercream)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon (12 g/0.4 oz) vanilla paste or extract
- 1 cup (242 g/8.5 oz) buttermilk
White Chocolate Buttercream:
- 1 cup (200 g/7 oz) granulated sugar
- 5 large egg whites
- 3 tablespoons (44 g/1.5 oz) water
- 32 tablespoons (454 g/1 lb) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 3.5 oz/100 g high-quality white chocolate, chopped
- Mardi Gras sprinkles (available here)
Make the cupcakes:
- Position two racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 20 cupcake cups with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder and salt. Whisk gently to combine and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, then increase the speed to high and beat for about 5 minutes, until very light. Add the egg yolks and eggs, one at time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture one-third at a time, alternating it with the buttermilk in two additions. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and stir the batter with a rubber spatula a few times to make sure that it is evenly blended. Scrape the batter into a large pastry bag and pipe the batter into the lined cups, filling each two-thirds full. Bake the cupcakes for 30 to 40 minutes, switching the position of the cupcake pans halfway through baking, until they are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the center cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely on wire racks.
Make the buttercream frosting:
- Pour enough water into a skillet so that it comes 1/2-inch up its sides. Bring the water to a simmer; reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a simmer.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, egg whites, and water. Place the bowl in the skillet of water and whisk gently until the mixture is hot to the touch and registers 160°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Transfer the bowl to the mixer stand and, using the whisk attachment, beat at medium-high speed until the meringue is cool and forms stiff, shiny peaks, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds; beat the seeds (or paste) into the buttercream. Beat at high speed until the buttercream is smooth, about 1 minute.
- Place the white chocolate in a small bowl with 1 ½ tablespoons water and place the bowl over a small pot of barely simmering water. Heat, stirring frequently, until melted and smooth. Add the melted chocolate to the buttercream while mixing at low speed and mix until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and mix the buttercream by hand with a rubber spatula until completely smooth.
Frost the cupcakes:
- Scrape the buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip (such as Ateco #6). Pipe a generous swirl of buttercream on top of each cupcake. Garnish each with Mardi Gras sprinkles. The cupcakes should be served at room temperature. The buttercream will harden up if refrigerated, so let it soften at room temperature for at least an hour before serving the cupcakes.