Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

3 cups cake flour
2 cups vanilla sugar
4 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups milk
5 egg whites
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust racks to upper and lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Blend well on low speed. With the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla seeds out of the bean and add to the flour mixture. Add the butter and 1 cup of the milk, mix on low to blend. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes (batter will be light and fluffy).

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, remaining milk, and vanilla extract. Add to batter in 3 additions, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Stop when the egg mixture is just incorporated into the batter. Do not overbeat.

4. Using an ice cream scoop or a liquid measuring cup, fill each muffin tin 3/4 of the way with the batter. Bake until cupcakes are set on top (about 10-12 minutes), then rotate pans. Bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until tops spring back lightly when touched. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove to wire cooling racks.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

adapted from Sky High