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Cream-filled vanilla cupcakes

Creating a 'core' in each cupcake makes for a rich, gooey center.

By The Pastry Chef's Baking / June 27, 2012

Cream-filled vanilla cupcakes with a dash of sprinkles.

The Pastry Chef's Baking

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One of my favorite shows on TV is “Cupcake Wars” on Food Network.  Every Sunday night, you can find me in front of my TV, stressing out with the cupcake bakers on how to pass the taste challenge (Round 1), the taste and presentation challenge (Round 2) and creating a display and baking 1,000 cupcakes in 2 hours (Round 3) with 4 baking assistants and a bearded carpenter clad in plaid. 

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The Pastry Chef’s Baking

Carol Ramos trained to be a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America and has her certification in baking and pastry arts, but she has never baked professionally. Baking is just something she loves to do. Her blog chronicles her baking odyssey as she tests out different recipes. Her goals are to share her love of baking and convert people into becoming bakers, one dessert at a time.

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When I first started watching the show, it stressed me out so much I almost couldn't watch it. It reminded me too much of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and the daily stress of making desserts in time for the lunch deadline (you don't sit down and eat lunch until the desserts are done, plated, on display and your station is clean). I've since gotten used to the show so now I can actually distance myself enough to enjoy the cupcakes they're making rather than cringing in empathic sympathy for what the contestants are going through.

What does fascinate me about the show is all the flavor combinations they put together.  My idea of the perfect cupcake is a well-made, moist, plain (i.e. non-filled) cupcake topped with the thinnest layer of frosting and no decorations that I would otherwise only pluck off and never eat.  “Cupcake Wars” goes to the opposite end of the spectrum and the most exotic (or sometimes just plain weird) flavors are baked into the cupcakes, they're filled with “stuff,” thickly topped with frosting, and decorated in all sorts of ways. Most of them are probably cupcakes I wouldn't eat but some of them sure look pretty. And some do put together flavor combinations I would probably like.

Despite my aversion to cupcake fillings, I decided I'd try it out – namely because I found a cool new baking gadget to play with: the cupcake corer.  Granted, a small knife or the large-enough end of a decorating tip could accomplish the same thing – making a hole or well in the center to be filled with filling.  But for $4.99, no tax, and free shipping, I felt I could indulge in a new baking gadget.

I was meeting my cousin and her son, Vanilla King, for dinner and I needed something befitting his moniker. (I gave it to him, after all, since he's the only kid I know who not only prefers vanilla, but actually doesn't like chocolate.  Doesn't like chocolate.) In any case, what better cupcake for Vanilla King than a vanilla cupcake filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with vanilla icing? I used Martha Stewart's recipe for Yellow Butter Cake and made a half recipe into cupcakes. Turns out I didn't have regular cupcake liners on hand so I used the mini panettone molds instead. They made for a bigger, taller cupcake than I intended.

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