I'm sort of a traditionalist when it comes to cooking. Blame it on my mom, but, the thought of taking shortcuts on items such as homemade whipped cream (Cool Whip? Sacrilege.) or birthday cakes made from scratch (Duncan Hines? Get a rope.) makes my inner-Julia Child wince and run for cover. Sacré bleu.
So when my son, the cupcake junkie, [frequently] asks to make cupcakes, visions of a 'too-much-to-worry-about-right-now' endeavor fill my head. Until recently.
A friend has convinced me that, especially when it comes to kids, it really doesn't matter if the cupcake comes from a box, as long as it's topped with something delectable and homemade like buttercream — so Sandra Lee (of Semi-Homemade fame), right? But when the alternative is one of those sticky-icky cardboard cupcakes covered with foam that they sell in the grocery store bakery, it makes sense.
In anticipation of the new Disney Pixar Cars 2 movie that opens this weekend, my son, Aidan, has Lightning McQueen on the brain. And yesterday, as we were strolling along the baked goods aisle at Hannaford (on one of our regularly-scheduled trips for powdered sugar and flour), he saw the rows of cake mix boxes and begged for Cars cupcakes.
My inner Julia flinched a bit, but ultimately relented. And my inner Sandra rejoiced (although I did choose the "moistest" cake I could find); however, I drew the line at the canned frosting, opting instead for the real McCoy — buttercream.
In the end, Aidan got Lightning McQueen, and I didn't feel like a total sell-out.
All in all, a sweet compromise.
Vanilla buttercream frosting
- 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
- 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted (don't skip this step!)
- 1 teaspoon milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Add butter and sugar to mixing bowl and beat at medium-high speed until blended.
Add milk and vanilla and continue to beat for another 2-3 minutes, or until smooth and creamy.
frosts 12 cupcakes