The rules are different in Vegas. You can never have a bathing suit that’s too small. It’s never too early to be drinking a margarita (pregaming breakfast? Absolutely!) You can dress up like Pikachu and not be pegged as that creepy old guy with a pokemon suit. You can play slots at 3 a.m, poker at 4:30, and roulette at 5. You can never eat too much food.
Wait is it even possible to eat too much food? Is that a thing?
In true American fashion, we partook in some of that culinary excess a few weeks ago. Tapas (bacon-wrapped figs TO DIE FOR like I LITERALLY DIED), french fries by the pool (bloated tummy + bikini = reaching for that coverup), huge alcoholic slushie bars, the Bellagio Buffet, and the best vanilla cupcake I’ve had in my 20 years of LIFE.
We picked up some treats from Jean Phillippe, a bakery at the Bellagio, after our BACON WRAPPED DATES TO DIE FOR. Because obviously bacon must be followed by dessert. Vegas rules.
That’s where the inspiration for these cupcakes came from. A few weeks ago, we drove down to Vegas for a getaway. I’d never been there before, and I had to remind myself to close my gaping mouth as we walked down the strip. Poor little Midwestern girl, dressed in her flannel and jeans, lost in the big city with the sparkle-breasted showgirls.
But god damn, that big city makes some great cupcakes.
We ordered an eclair (fairly tasty), some gelato (pretty yummy), and a blueberry cupcake. The actual cake was incredible, and after a few (8 or 9) bites I decided that the magic was in those gorgeous specks of vanilla bean.
So I decided to bring that magic back home.
Obsessed — OBSESSED — with this stuff. It creates an unbelievable depth of flavor far beyond vanilla extract. Subtle, lovely, vanilla perfection. I got this at Sur La Table, but I think any specialty baking store should carry something like this. It’s really worth the extra couple of dollars — promise.
Those specks. Those specks! Like fairy dust in your cakes. But the good kind of fairies. Not like the True Blood demon fairies.
Mmmm obscure references.
I simply replaced the vanilla extract in my favorite cupcakes with this vanilla bean paste, and magic ensued. I topped it with a super-fruity, fresh-tasting strawberry buttercream because it’s summertime, people. Fruit it up.
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
Makes 12 cupcakes
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 whole eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
Whish together dry ingredients in a bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the milk. Once mixed, add remaining dry ingredients.
Line muffin tins with cupcake liners. Using an ice cream scoop, fill liners about 1/2 full with batter. Bake cupcakes for 15-18 minutes.
Adapted from Best Friends for Frosting
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup strawberry preserves
2 cup powdered sugar
Beat butter until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla bean paste and strawberry preserves, being careful not to overmix. Add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.
You can strain the preserves for a smoother frosting, or add them straight if you’d like little strawberry chunks. I personally prefer the latter option.
Bake, frost, and eat at least 2 immediately. Vegas rules.