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it is my belief that birthday cupcakes should be two things: 1) delicious and 2) colorful. these babies cover both those requirements, what with being extremely delicious and ahem, HOT PINK. of course, such cupcakes should also be covered in sparkles whenever appropriate (aka, always). i made these to celebrate my friend maddie’s 24th year of life, and the hot pink color couldn’t have been more appropriate, nor could the sparkles. maddie is the epitome of one of those people who literally lights up a room when she walks in. she’s a ray of sunshine, with a huge smile and a warm, friendly aura towards which people naturally gravitate. as such, she deserved the best of birthday cupcakes, and so hot pink it was.

Hot Pink Birthday Cupcakes Vanilla Buttercreamas it happened, i had a big thing of buttermilk in my fridge. and since buttercream frosting is, well, butter and “cream” (milk) and sugar, i figured why not use buttermilk instead of regular milk and make the frosting just a bit more rich? i mean, if you’ve just hit a ball to the outfield, why not head for a home run, right? these babies were already so calorie-laden, i figured it couldn’t hurt to go ALL.THE.WAY. so i did, swapping milk for buttermilk, and mama mia, am i glad i did. this frosting was light, creamy, and SOO GOOD. melt in your mouth good. perfectly sugary and vanilla-y and oh so amazing.

for the cupcakes themselves, i used smitten kitchen’s “best birthday cake” recipe. everyone needs a go-to yellow cake recipe, and sk’s is mine. the woman knows her cakes, what can i say? speaking of smitten, i’ve long been positively smitten with her blog. if you haven’t read it yet, you are MISSING OUT. she’s got a cookbook coming out in october that i can’t wait to snag, and her recipes are BANGIN. plus her pictures are pretty, with a beautiful contrast thanks to a dark background and bright, colorful dishes. in short, she’s a food genius, a blogarific idol, and seems pretty all around wonderful if you ask me. maybe she even likes cats(!!) – that would just put me over the edge. Vanilla Yellow Birthday Cupcakes

so, here’s the dealio. you’ll want to whip up a batch of smitten kitchen’s cake, and then add some hot pink food coloring. i get mine at NY Cake, which, if you live in NYC, is a baker’s paradise (for those who don’t live in NYC, you can order online). seriously, if you’ve never been, GO NOW. it’s on 22nd between 5th and 6th, and is a floor to ceiling supply shop stocked with everything you never knew you needed. for instance, before i went there for the first time, i did not know that i needed fuschia-colored gel food coloring. but then i saw it on the shelf, and it was like we were meant to be. instant lust. i also didn’t know i needed ten different tips of cupcake liners, but you know what? i do. i also needed edible gold and silver stars in place of traditional sprinkles, and dusting sugar in every color under the sun. like i said, this place is paradise. get yo’ ass over there, stat.

once your batter is made, divy it up into cake pans, or split it into cupcakes, like i did. this recipe should make 2 cake layers (for one cake), or about 24 cupcakes (i had enough for 24 cupcakes AND about 6 minis, and i ate a bunch of the batter).

OKAY LET’S DO THIS.

The Recipe: Best Birthday Cupcakes (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (for new bakers, cake flour is the shiznat. it makes a huge difference…TRUST. i buy swan’s down at my local grocery store)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

to make, preheat your oven to 350 and line your cupcake pans. i spritz my liners with a little bit of pam just in case. if you’re making cake, just spritz two 9″ cake pans with some pam instead. Hot Pink Birthday Cupcakes

start by mixing the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl. set aside. in a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer is preferable here – i have and love my kitchenaid), cream together the butter and sugar. room temperature butter works best here; softening in the microwave means you run the risk of over-melting. i like to take my butter out of the fridge about 30 minutes before i’m ready to bake. by the time i’m ready to use it, it’s soft enough to beat, but not so melted that it’s watery and overheated. stir at medium speed with an electric mixer until the butter and sugar are soft and fluffy, then add in your vanilla.

now, add the eggs in one at a time. make sure you’re scraping down the sides of your bowl to evenly incorporate all the ingredients as you go. once your eggs are added, turn the mixer down to low and add your buttermilk. if the mixture looks curdled, don’t be alarmed. this is normal. mix in your flour in a few batches, and beat until just combined.

now comes the fun part. grab your food coloring (remember, i used fuschia), and squirt about a quarter sized amount into your batter (note: if you’re using regular food coloring, you’ll need a LOT of it to get such a saturated color. this is why gel food coloring is best – you use less and get more color). mix until evenly incorporated. if the batter isn’t bright enough, add a few more squirts of the gel. i’d estimate i used about 2 or 3 teaspoons worth of food coloring total. Hot Pink Birthday Cupcakes

now you should have hot pink batter that tastes exactly like that duncan hines yellow cake mix you used to eat as a kid. go on, dip your finger (or two) in and have a lick. DELICIOUS, right? hats off to miss smitten kitchen.

spoon your batter into your prepared muffin tins – fill about 3/4 of the way. bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick. when it comes out clean, the cupcakes are done.

cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove and stick the cupcakes on a drying rack to cool completely. i made my cupcakes the night before, then my frosting the afternoon of the party – this enabled me to frost the cupcakes when they were completely cooled and hence, i was able to avoid any melted frosting issues.

now, let’s frost these babies.

Buttermilk Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks of butter, softened

6 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 – 1/2 cup buttermilk

buttercream frosting is just about the easiest thing to make on the planet – mostly because you can customize it to your taste. i like the measurements above, but if you wanted it thicker, you’d add more sugar, thinner, less. if you wanted more vanilla taste, add more extract. maybe you want some more creaminess in there – add more buttermilk. essentially, all you need to do is whip your softened butter until smooth, then add the buttermilk, extract, and about 2 cups of the sugar. beat until all are combined. now, add a cup at a time of sugar until the frosting has reached your desired consistency. for me, that consistency is pretty thick. i like the kind of frosting you can simply swirl on with a spatula.

i covered my cupcakes with some rainbow colored dusting sugar for a bit of extra pizzazz – but you could leave them be. they’d be pretty spectacular either way, thanks to the fuschia food coloring.Image

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a few weeks before i started my blog, my friend alissa emailed me a recipe for grapefruit bread – to which i immediately responded something along the lines of, “i hate grapefruit with a passion but i’ll happily make it for you!” fast forward a month or so, when i sent out an email to my friends and family notifying them that i’d started the blog, asking them to request their favorite recipes/anything they’d like to see on sarah’s sweets. alissa, of course, wanted to see her grapefruit bread.

well, liss, here it is. and you know what? it’s damn delicious. yes, i still hate grapefruit. i think it’s the bastard child of the orange – pretty but way too sour. i don’t really like oranges either, mind you, but grapefruits…those i really can’t stand. i’m not a huge fan of those folks who eat a half grapefruit for breakfast, either. as if that sort of thing could sustain a person any longer than 20 minutes. so this recipe is not to say i’m on team grapefruit, because i’m not. i remain firmly on team cantaloupe, thank you very much. but that being said, i’ll admit – this bread (or cake, really, because there’s enough sugar in it to be called cake, i’m only calling it bread because it’s in bread form) is DELISH. as in, i may or may not have brought it to a rooftop party on sunday and eaten multiple slices myself. i also may or may not have eaten another slice for breakfast the next morning. 

it’s perfectly moist – like a really good cupcake, and the zest in the batter gives it a sweet, citrusy flavor that can’t be beat. it’s perfect for summer brunches, would be delectable dipped in a cup of tea, and would also make a great gift, if you’re into gifting baked goods (which i am). it’s best if eaten within the first day, but it’ll last a few if you wrap it tightly. but judging by how fast mine went, it probably won’t last long. the best baked goods never do.

i used this recipe. i added a bit of extra vanilla (always do when i’m baking) and used my (enormous) grapefruit for both the zest and the juice. ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, babyyyy…

note: this recipe looks longer and more complicated than it really is. don’t be alarmed. it’s easy!

The Recipe

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*

For the syrup:

1 cup grapefruit juice
2/3 cup granulated sugar

For the glaze: 
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grapefruit juice

*i used 2 teaspoons

to make, preheat your oven to 350. line a bread pan with parchment paper and trim the edges so you have about 1″ of overflow on all sides. if your paper doesn’t want to stay, throw something heavy in there to hold it in place. i used a soup can.

mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium size bowl. set aside. in the bowl of your stand mixer (or just a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer), mix the zest and sugar together with your fingers, until the sugar is fragrant. it’ll smell delicious. i dare you not to shove some in your mouth at this time. Image

next, beat the eggs, one at a time, into the sugar/zest mixture. beat on medium speed for about three minutes, until the mixture has thickened. add the next three ingredients in this order, with the mixer on as you go: milk, oil, and vanilla. 

turn the mixer down to low, and add the dry ingredients. beat until just combined. pour batter into your bread pan (remove the soup can first). spray a butter knife with nonstick spray and run it down the middle of the batter. this helps to create that even cracked line down the middle of the bread, ie, it makes you look like a real pro.

bake for 30 minutes, then rotate your pan and bake another 30 – or however long it takes (mine took about 40 minutes). you’ll know it’s done when you insert a toothpick in and it comes out with tiny grapefruit-y crumbs on it. 

while your bread is baking, make the syrup. combine the sugar and the grapefruit juice in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. stir to dissolve the sugar, then simmer another minute. remove from heat. 

when your bread is done, take it out and sit the pan on a cooling rack. immediately, take your toothpick (or a fork) and poke tiny little holes in the top of the bread. brush the bread with your syrup – it’ll soak in through the little holes you just made. don’t be surprised if you can’t use all the syrup; i couldn’t. but brush that baby up good. trust it’ll make for a better bread. 

let the bread cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then remove it (parchment paper and all) from the pan and put it on the cooling rack. then, let the bread and the cooling rack get to know one another for a while. once the bread is at room temperature, whisk the confectioner’s sugar and the grapefruit juice together to make the glaze, and drizzle that bad boy. glaze is what makes this bread a cake, i think. or maybe it’s shit ton of sugar you put in the batter. whatever. it looks like a bread so i call it a bread. tomato, tomahto, bread, cake. 

et voila! you’ve got yourself a citrusy cakebread that’s perfect for BBQs, brunches and more. thank you, alissa, and thank you, grapefruit. you’re alright, i guess.