Cupcakes and Buttercream

If your celebratory cupcakes turn out less than picture-perfect, no one will comment when they’re topped with silky buttercream. Get the recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
Although I’ve been blogging all month in celebration of Twice as Tasty’s 5th birthday, I’ve saved the best for last: dessert. I decided this year to share my first cupcake recipe on the blog, with my favorite way to decorate any celebratory cake: buttercream.

I first made this cupcake recipe when my mom turned 75. We were gathering with CRASH, a group of long-time family friends that over the years had grown to three generations and more than 30 people. So for the birthday celebration, my sister and I decided to make 75 cupcakes.

If your celebratory cupcakes turn out less than picture-perfect, no one will comment when they’re topped with silky buttercream. Get the recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.
I couldn’t make just any cupcakes, of course, and played with many flavors, styles, and frostings. This recipe, that showcased both my homemade jam and a buttery frosting, was one of my favorites. I’ve adjusted it and retested it over the years to get just the right balance of butter in the batter to support the frosting and the right liquid-to-flour ratio to keep the cupcakes light but still hold the weight of the jam.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You just need some baking staples and jam.
1. Cream the buttery base.
2. Mix in the dry ingredients and milk.
3. Bake and cool.
4. Fill with jam, frost if desired, and enjoy.

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Buttery Jam-Filled Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: 2
  • Print
2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup low-fat or whole milk
1-1/2 teaspoons Homemade Vanilla Extract
about 1/4 cup Any-Fruit Jam

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Measure out the milk. In alternating batches, beat the flour mixture and milk into the butter mixture. Stir in the vanilla until just combined.

Fit paper or silicone cupcake liners into a dozen regular-size (about 2-3/4-inch diameter) muffin cups. Spoon the batter into the lined cups until about three-quarters full.

Bake at 350°F for 20–25 minutes, until the cupcakes bounce back when lightly touched. Cool the cupcakes in the muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely on the rack.

Carefully core a small hole in the top of each cupcake and fill it with about a teaspoon of jam, letting the jam mound slightly if you plan on serving the cupcakes as is or making the jam flush with the top if you plan on adding frosting (see below). Makes 12 cupcakes.

Tips & Tricks
  • It’s easy to overmix cake batter: you want to completely mix in the flour, but beat it too long and the final cake gets flat and gummy. As with sourdough bread, I find the best way to avoid overmixing is to make the batter by hand instead of using an electric mixer. If you go with the mechanical advantage, use a medium to low setting and stop the mixer as soon as the powdery flour disappears.
  • This batter is quite thin, like a fruit curd; you should be able to pour it into the muffin cups (and can do so instead of using a spoon if you have good aim). Thicker batter will give a denser dough closer to a muffin.
  • I prefer soft-set jams and usually have no problem spooning them into the cupcakes. If your jam has gelled thickly, warm it briefly before trying to insert it into the cupcakes.
  • These cupcakes are attractive without additional decoration and easier to store and transport than frosted cupcakes. If you plan to frost them, you could leave out the jam, but I love combinations of fruits and herbs and find berry jams pair well with Basil Buttercream (see below).


If your celebratory cupcakes turn out less than picture-perfect, no one will comment when they’re topped with silky buttercream. Get the recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.

Twice as Tasty

If your celebratory cupcakes turn out less than picture-perfect, no one will comment when they’re topped with silky buttercream. Get the recipes at TwiceasTasty.com.Frosting had always been my least favorite part of cakes—until I discovered ganache and buttercream. Instead of the ultrasweet, often slightly gritty texture of sugar-based frostings, these decorative flairs are smooth and silky. I find them easier to work with than standard frosting, even though I’m not a decorating pro. If when they turn out less than perfect, no one comments because they’re so delicious.

One of my favorite frostings from the collection I made for my mom’s birthday cupcake extravaganza was one of the most surprising, blending in basil for a unique flavor and color. The original recipe I followed was more in the quick-frosting mode: a blend of powdered sugar and butter. My other favorite frosting from that session came from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook and was a true buttercream speckled with vanilla bean seeds that I still love when decorating Layered Chocolate Pudding Cake. By inserting the basil into the Dahlia technique, I came up with a surprising flavor that pairs beautifully with the vanilla-and-jam cupcake and makes me think of summer any time of year.

Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
You need just 5 ingredients.
1. Make the basil sugar.
2. Cook and whip the meringue.
3. Add the butter and use the buttercream.

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Basil Buttercream

  • Servings: 2-1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: 3
  • Print
1/2 cup granulated sugar
about 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves (1/2 tablespoon when chopped)
2 egg whites
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Pulse the basil leaves in a food processor until they are as small as you can get them, creating 1/2 packed tablespoon of chopped basil. Add the sugar, pressing the basil into it with the back of a spoon until well mixed. Pulse to fully combine.

Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water that doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Cook, stirring and scraping with a rubber spatula, for 8–10 minutes, until the mixture holds steady at 160°F.

Remove the bowl from the heat and whip the mixture on medium-high speed for 10–15 minutes, until glossy, thick, and cooled to room temperature. Lower the mixer to medium speed and add the butter a tablespoon at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed, until fully incorporated. Scrape down the bowl again, add the salt, turn the mixer to high, and whip for about 90 seconds.

Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a decorative nozzle and pipe the frosting onto Buttery Jam-Filled Cupcakes. Makes about 2-1/2 cups, enough to frost 12 cupcakes.

Tips & Tricks
  • You can make the basil sugar in advance, using it within a few days or freezing it for midwinter use. Another option is to use basil-infused sugar.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, the Dahlia Bakery’s buttercream recipe notes that the egg-and-sugar mixture is ready when it smells like cooked eggs, and it gives these instructions: “The mixture should not be so hot that you can’t put your finger in it, but it should be too hot to hold your finger in it for long.” I find an instant-read thermometer is the best way to know when I can finally stop stirring. My current favorite comes from ThermoWorks; you can order it here while supporting Twice as Tasty through my affiliate link.
  • Unlike cupcake batter, I grab a tool instead of mixing by hand when making frosting. A stand mixer is best; a handheld one will get the job done, but you might struggle to get high-enough speed. In a pinch, I use my high-end immersion blender, but it’s really not the right tool: Holding down the button that long is a pain, and it verges on overheating.
  • As you can see from my photos, I’m no expert when it comes to decorating. It mostly takes practice, but a piping bag and tips are key to anything beyond a flat coating. When preparing to decorate 75 cupcakes, I found some great tips here.


Looking for a fun birthday gift as you serve up cupcakes with buttercream? Order a personally signed, packaged, and shipped copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling directly from me. Upgrade your gift with The Pickled Picnic, a digital collection that comes in an easy-to-read PDF format and uses pickles and leftover brine in a range of recipes. Click here to order both.

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