Hummingbird's vanilla cupcakes on the left, Magnolia's on the right.
Hummingbird's cupcake pulled away unevenly because the batter was coarse while Magnolia's cupcake didn't stick so much to the paper.
Yes, it's cupcakes bake off of the recipes from two of the most famous bakeries in the world, Hummingbird Bakery in London, England and Magnolia Bakery in New York, USA.
I was fortunate to be able to squeeze myself into the Hummingbird Bakery in Portobello Street, London last year. Unfortunately, I had no idea that they were that famous so I didn't bother to queue for their most famous product, the red velvet cupcake. The bakery was so packed with tourists--Americans and Koreans--that I figured that it was one of those tourist wonders, you know the kind of establishments that tourists break their backs for but the locals wouldn't touch. Magnolia Bakery in New York is another one of those top bakeries the world is mad about. My top fave bakery is Miette in San Francisco even though I've never eaten any of their cakes. I am in love with Miette's Vanilla Tomboy, a beautiful, simple but elegant cake of chocolate layers sandwiched with vanilla frosting, with a single pink icing rose on top. Miette's cakes are the closest to my ideas of how cakes should be decorated--plain, simple but elegant. I was delighted that Rose Levy Beranbaum's Heavenly Cakes, a book I just received last month, had the recipe for Miette's Tomboy. Turned out that the girls behind Miette started baking with Rose's first cake cookbook, The Cake Bible. I've made one of Rose's choc cakes and it was superb. Get the book if you like baking.
Just by looking at the recipes, I knew that Magnolia's cupcakes would turn out better than Hummingbird's. Hummingbird's unusual method of mixing the flour and butter together resulted in lumps which were hard to incorporate smoothly with the liquid. If I were to make Hummingbird's vanilla cupcakes again, I'd put everything into the mixer all at once. Magnolia's method of beating the butter and sugar and then adding the flour and milk was more conventional and gave a batter that was fluffy, stiff and smooth while Hummingbird's batter was watery, flat and slightly lumpy. However, there's nearly 3 times more butter in Magnolia's cupcakes and oddly, Hummingbird's cupcake batter though watery, rose more than Magnolia's and didn't fall.
Although both Magnolia's and Hummingbird's vanilla cupcakes tasted good, I declare Magnolia Bakery's vanilla cupcakes way better than Hummingbird's because the texture was soft and smooth and the cake was moist. However, if you like your cupcakes coarse and rustic (a useful word), then you'll be okay with Hummingbird's cupcakes. The only thing is when you serve Hummingbird's cupcakes to your friends, they might insist that their cupcakes are way better than yours.
Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 2 dozens muffin-sized cupcakes/3 dozens cupcakes)
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 1/4 cups all purpose/plain flour
1 cup/2 sticks/225 gm unsalted butter, softened but still firm
2 cups sugar (I reduced by 1/2 cup and it was still too sweet for me)
4 large eggs, room temp
1 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven @ 170 C. Line two 12-cup muffin pans or 3 cupcake pans with paper cups.
2. Cream butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
4. Sift the flours together. Mix the milk with the vanilla extract.
5. Add the flour in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl.
6. Spoon batter into the lined cupcakes/muffins pan, 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Hummingbird Bakery's Vanilla Cupcakes (makes 12 cupcakes)
120 gm plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
140 gm caster sugar (I reduced to 120 gm)
pinch of salt
40 gm butter, room temp
120 ml whole milk
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven @ 170 C. Line a 12-hole cupcake pan with paper cups.
2. Sieve flour and baking powder into a mixer bowl, add sugar, salt and butter and beat with a paddle attachment at low speed until sandy and combined.
3. Gradually pour in 1/2 the milk and beat until just incorporated.
4. Put the remaining milk, egg and vanilla into a small beaker or bowl and whisk until well-combined.
5. Pour the milk and egg mixture into the flour mixture and beat until smooth; don't overbeat.
6. Spoon batter into paper cases 2/3 full and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Note: I think it's even better to put everything into the mixer and beat until smooth.