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Vanilla Almond Cupcakes

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes
Adapted from Sugar and Snapshots
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 ¼ cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 egg whites
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Almond Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
3 egg whites
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 teaspoon almond extract
Food coloring (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. While butter is creaming, in a measuring cup or medium bowl, combine milk, egg whites, and vanilla bean seeds, and whisk well to combine.
5. Add flour mixture and milk mixture in alternating additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Once all the ingredients have been added, mix on medium speed for 1 minute.
6. Divide batter into prepared liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan for about 5 minutes before transferring cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. While cupcakes are cooling, make frosting: In a bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar until well combined. Whisking constantly, heat until sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. (To test whether the sugar is melted, rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers. It should feel smooth, not grainy, and be warm to the touch, but not hot. If testing with a thermometer, it should reach 140-160F.)
8. Pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch and the whites have formed stiff peaks.
9. Add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, beating until each is well combined before adding the next (about 15 seconds in between). If the mixture looks soupy after adding the butter, put it in the refrigerator to chill for about 5 to 10 minutes before continuing to beat.
10. Once the butter has been added, switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (The mixture will probably break and look curdled at one point—don’t worry it’s totally normal. Just keep beating away. It’ll come back together.) Once the buttercream is fluffy, add almond extract and food coloring, if using, and beat until well combined and fluffy. Pipe immediately onto cooled cupcakes.

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