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Buttery Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

(recipe, Tom Douglas)

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These light, fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes are based on the same batter as our buttery layer cake. As with the butter layer cake, room-temperature ingredients are important for a properly aerated and emulsified cake. Warm the eggs in a bowl of hot tap water for a few minutes before breaking them, and be sure your butter is softened and your buttermilk is room temperature, not cold. If your mixer bowl is cold, warm it with warm water, then dry it.


  1. 1½ cups (7½ oz./215 g.) cake flour
  2. ½ tsp. baking powder
  3. ¼ tsp. baking soda
  4. 1 tsp. kosher salt
  5. ½ cup (4¾ oz./135 g.) buttermilk, at room temperature
  6. 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  7. 9 Tbsp. (4½ oz./127 g.) unsalted butter, softened and cut into several pieces
  8. 1 cup (10 oz./300 g.) sugar, preferably superfine
  9. 1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  10. Fluffy Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting, enough quantity for cupcakes


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.
  2. Into a bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Sift twice more, then add the salt. Set the dry ingredients aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract, and set aside.
  4. Combine the butter and sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale, light, and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. (It's important to cream the butter and sugar together really well. If your butter is not thoroughly softened when you put it in the mixer bowl, start your 4-minute count from the time the butter is soft enough to smear easily.)
  5. Add the whole egg while beating on medium speed, then turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. Beat the batter on medium-high speed for 15 seconds. The batter should look very smooth. Add the yolks on medium speed, then turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 20 seconds. The batter should be shiny and glossy. Scrape down the bowl and paddle. (It's important to scrape the bowl and paddle thoroughly so that you can work the dry ingredients in as quickly as possible without a lot of scraping of the bowl.)
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, folding by hand with a rubber spatula, add the dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with the vanilla-buttermilk mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Work quickly and gently to fold everything together.
  7. Scoop the batter into the lined muffin cups, using about ¼ cup batter per cupcake, dividing the batter evenly among the wells of the pan. (Note: There is just enough batter to make 12 cupcakes. Be sure to scrape every bit of batter out of the mixer bowl and off the paddle.)
  8. Place the muffin pan in the oven and bake until the cupcakes are lightly browned, slightly domed, and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. (For the best rise, don't open the door for the first 20 minutes, after which you can open the oven door and check the cupcakes to see if they need more time.) A wooden skewer inserted into a cupcake should come out with a few crumbs clinging but no batter. Remove the muffin pan from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before unmolding.
  9. Cool to room temperature before frosting the cupcakes.