Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies with Toffee and Chocolate Chips

Chocotoffee3

That’s pretty intense, right?  That sounds like a lot in one cookie.  Maybe too much?

 

Rest assured my friend, it is not too much.  It’s quite possibly, perfect.

 

I made you these cookies a few months back.  They were most excellent.  I was inspired to make them when my lovely friend Kerry brought some over one night.  We simply devoured them in a matter of minutes.  I specifically remember telling my husband to hide them before the rest of our friends came over.  They were that good.

 

And when they were gone, I had to have more.  Yet I had no recipe.  I had forgotten to ask for it yet, and decided to just try and fumble my way through it.  It worked out well.

Chocotoffee2

 Maybe a little too well.  I made these cookies for a friend of the family, after his wife of many, many years passed away.  I’m hoping the sugar high filled the hole she left temporarily.

 

I really like these cookies.  They are loaded with chocolate chips and toffee bits.  Had I known at the time how easy it is to make toffee, I would have made my own.  Alas, when I made these I think I used Heath bits from the grocery store.  The cookies are drizzled with caramel sauce when cooled and then sprinkled with sea salt.  It’s a fabulous combination.  Salt and caramel go together like a dog and his boy.  I pretty much order any dessert that involves caramel and salt.  It’s a winning combo.

 

I decided to keep with the toffee theme.  Really it’s because I’m working on an epic post, which I’m having some trouble finishing.  I’ll get it down soon, and you will love it.  Why?  Because it may result in you getting baked goods.  Make yourself some cookies in the meantime.  They’re perfectly wonderful.  I promise.

Choc_toffee_cookie1

 

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies with Toffee and Chocolate Chips

 

            Ingredients

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup butter

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup toffee bits

1 cup chocolate chips

Caramel

Sea salt

 

            Directions

 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

 

2.  Cream together butter and sugar in a mixer.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between additions.  Add vanilla extract.  Add flour in 3 additions, mixing well after each.  Add chocolate chips and toffee, mixing well to distribute.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

 

3.  Using a small cookie scoop, scoop cookies onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for approximately 9 minutes, when tops just begin to set and appear cracked.  Cool completely.

 

4.  Drizzle tops with caramel sauce and sprinkle with sea salt.

 

Caramel

 

Homemade Caramel Sauce

 

            Ingredients

 

1 cup cream

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup corn syrup

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

            Directions

 

1.  In a large heavy bottomed saucepan heat cream, sugar and corn syrup over medium high heat.  Bring mixture to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush any sugar crystals off sides of pan that may form.  Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until caramel is golden brown or registers 250 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Immediately remove from heat and transfer to an ice bath whisking occasionally until cooled.

 

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Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

Melty

It’s the end of summer.  It’s almost fall.  Autumn.  The kiddies are going back to school soon.  It’s about to be my favorite season. 

 

Aaannnnndd I’m wishing I were on vacation.  Somewhere north.  In a cabin.  By a lake.  With my dogs, a boat and a campfire.

 

Sometimes I build a little fire in our fire pit out back.  I close my eyes and try to ignore the sound of the highway just feet from our backyard and pretend I’m in the middle of nowhere.  It almost works.  Almost.

Up_north

Every year around this time I long for the north woods.  For as long as I can remember my family has gone to northern Wisconsin for a week in August.  Being a grown up with a job and responsibilities has made that trip impossible for me the past couple of years.  I have fond memories of running around in a bathing suit, covered in sand, playing until I felt as though I might collapse.  We would go to the local bookstore and would each get to pick out a book for the week that I would devour hungrily at the end of the day.  I remember eating spaghettios and corn, cream of wild rice soup and hamburgers.  And of course at the end of the day, when it finally started to get dark, there would be marshmallows, s’mores and pudgy pies.  It was heaven to a small child.  I remember crying on the car ride home, year after year, having to leave my friends, knowing school was starting soon and I had to go back to real life.  It was a magical place and time, and I often get reminded of it this time of year.

 

In my quest for comfort, I decided to fill the void with cookies.  I have, for quite some time, been trying to perfect the chocolate chip cookie.  I knew this somehow involved more brown sugar then white, and a difference in butter and egg ratio. 

 

Being slightly obsessed with toffee lately and having homemade toffee bits, that I desperately wanted to put into a chocolate chip cookie, I went in search of the perfect recipe.  I buy cookies from Ethel Ann’s every Saturday at the farmers market that come ridiculously close to perfect, and wanted to attempt the same.  When Alton Brown and Joy the Baker both agreed on the same recipe, I knew I had found the right one.  I tweaked it here and there, but pretty much stuck with the straight science of it.

Flour

These cookies may just be the best cookies I have made to date.  They’re soft and chewy.  The toffee adds a bit of crunch and caramel like depth.  They’re dense, but not heavy.  I made 18 of these on Saturday night and my husband, his cousin and best friend devoured them before I could even blink.  I’m pretty sure my husband did most of the damage.  He has a problem with cookies.

Baked_tray

There are a few key things to know about this recipe, and cookie making in general.  Cool that dough!  Once you’ve made your cookie dough, into the fridge it goes, for at least 30 minutes, longer if you have the time.  This allows the butter to solidify again and creates steam inside the cookie while baking.  It is what helps the cookies stay soft and chewy, not thin and crispy. 

Stack

These cookies are also slightly unpredictable.  I used homemade toffee, as should you, but it makes for slightly irregularly shaped cookies.  This toffee has no stabilizers or preservatives so when it heats up and melts, it doesn’t always stay in a neat little package.  It’s ok, those strangely shaped cookies, are still delicious, and the toffee that ‘s spread out, has become so thin and crisp and light, it’s amazing.

All_cookies

These cookies hold up well too.  All too often, cookies come out of the oven beautifully, yet once completely cooled, they are hard, dried, shells of what they used to be.  Not these.  They stay moist and chewy and delicious.  You need some milk on hand for these.

 

Cookies, alas, are not the vacation I so desperately need and want, they are however a good enough substitute.  Comfort in a small, sugary, chocolaty package.

 

 

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies


Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

 

            Ingredients

 

2 sticks unsalted butter

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup toffee bits

 

 

            Directions

 

1.  Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat.  Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

 

2.  Pour the melted butter into a mixing bowl.  Add the sugar and brown sugar.  Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed.  Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.  Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and toffee bits.

 

3.  Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake for 8 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. 

 

Wedding Town

Cake2

I freaking love weddings.  Do you?  Seriously.  I have a problem.  I hate photographing weddings, but I loooove going to them.  Especially if I know the person well.  I get all teary eyed.  I like the grand gesture of it all.  The weight of it.  The formality.  Maybe, I also like cake.

Cheese

My good friend Nick got married today.  We used to work together.  He went out to dinner with me when I was husbandless on weekends while my husband was working non-stop last summer.  He’s kind of the best.  And his wife is even better.  She’s amazing.  She seems reallllly shy, but then you realize she’s like brilliantly sarcastic and funny.  They’re pretty much perfect together.  And they’ve been through a lot to get to this point.  There’s a distinct possibility I started to tear up the second I saw them start to walk down the aisle.  No big deal.

Water

They had their reception at the Monona Terrace.  There was cheese.  Cheese!!!  At a wedding.  It is Wisconsin after all.  

Wine

There was wine.  

Cake

Chocolate cake.

Chocolate_cake

Mmmmmm cocktails.

Cocktail

Red velvet cake.  Soooooooooo good.

Red_velet_cake

I put those flowers on that cake.  And got free drinks for it!!

Message_in_a_bottle

Look, those are empty wine bottles.  And paper for little notes.  Message in a bottle.  Get it?

Place_cards

Place cards.

Dining_room

That’s the dining room.  It overlooks the lake.  Amazing view.

Runaway_bride

There’s the bride and groom running in for their entrance.  They’re so adorable.  I love weddings.  Can I get married again?  It’s sooo fun.  And this time I’ll remember to take it all in, ok?  Wait, I’ve only been married for five years?  I guess I have to wait a while to do that whole renewing the vows thing.  Booooo.  If you’re getting married, you should totally invite me.  I’ll help with tasks.  I’ll make your cake.  And then I’ll eat it.  

Lemon Mojito Margaritas

Finished_drink

How do you feel about cocktails?  Do you like them?

 

I like them.  Quite a lot.  I look forward to going out to dinner for the cocktails, not just the food.  I always check the drink menu online before going somewhere new.  Mixed drinks make me happy.  And not just because they have alcohol in them.  

 

There’s something about a perfect cocktail with a meal that just heightens the whole experience.  When you mix high quality alcohol with fresh ingredients, something magical happens.  I’m pretty picky about my drinks.  I like something unique, but I’ll also go back to the classics. Like Margarita’s, Sangria and Mojito’s.  I order Mojito’s a lot.  It’s probably my favorite drink.  Mint is amazing in a mixed drink.  It’s such a perfect ingredient.  It’s pretty and flavorful.  I decided to make a twist on the classic Mojito that I normally drink last night.  I had take out from my favorite local Thai restaurant, Thai Noodles, and I needed a fabulous cocktail to go along with it.  I had tequila, but no rum, so I decided to combine the Mojito and Margarita.  Here’s how it happened:

Ingredients

First I got everything together.  Including a curious dog.

Lemon_juice

Next I juiced my lemons.  And some agave nectar for sweetness.

Mint

In goes the mint leaves(look, that’s pineapple mint, from my garden!) and you muddle it up until it’s good and minty.

Salt

Salt up that glass.  Or sugar it, come to think of it, I might like a sugared glass better then salted.

Curry

Bring your delicious Thai food outside, it’s a gorgeous night and you needs to be eating outdoors.

Drink_2

Tequila and club soda meet your lemon juice and muddled mint.  Then they get a pretty little garnish of more lemon and mint.  Drink it up.

 

Lemon Mojito Margarita’s

 

Ingredients

 

2 ounces high quality tequila

Juice of 1 lemon

2 teaspoons agave nectar

2 sprigs of mint

Club soda

 

Directions

 

1.  Juice lemon.  Using either a mortar and pestle or a martini shaker, Mix tequila, lemon juice, agave nectar and mint leaves.  Pour into a glass.  Top with club soda.

Maple Ice Cream with Homemade Toffee

Ice_cream

I’m slightly obsessed with toffee lately. It stems from my love of caramel.  It started with these chocolate salted caramel cookies (which I promise to post soon), matured with these toffee sugar babies from the Savannah style bakers at the farmers market, and grew into ice cream.

Sugar_a_butter

Toffee is really easy to make.  It’s just sugar, butter and water.  Throw in a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla if you want.  It’s pretty foolproof.  Except the part where you have to soak the pan for a week to get it clean.  That part is not foolproof. That part is bad news.

Boiling

You don’t even need a candy thermometer.  It you’re scared of molten bubbly sugar go ahead and use one, but it’s not required.  You can tell when it’s ready.  Just make sure you have a greased cookie sheet ready to go.  The larger the cookie sheet, the thinner the toffee and vice-versa.

Boiling_caramelized

This toffee is uber-versatile.  You could smother it in chocolate and almonds.  Throw it in ice cream like I did, or bury it in cookies like I plan on doing this weekend. You can also just put it in the cupboard and hope your husband doesn’t gobble it all up before you can even make the cookies.  The guy who told me he doesn’t like toffee sure likes to eat a lot of it.

Poured

Toffee is super fun to make.  I love watching the sugar melt, then boil, then start to caramelize and finally pour into a perfectly smooth surface on the cookie sheet.  Once it hardens, cracking it up is super fun too.  I used a heavy handled butter knife and just tapped it until it cracked.  Then I put it between parchment and used a rolling pin to get it nice and small for ice cream.

 

And then I threw it into maple ice cream.  This was a brilliant idea.  The strong flavor of really good maple syrup partnered with the crunch of slightly salty toffee is heavenly.  It reminds me of a Butterfinger candy bar.  And Bart Simpson.  Ok that’s the Butterfinger not the ice cream.

 

The ice cream did get a touch icy this time.  I think next time I’ll cut the maple syrup down to 1/2 cup and add some liquor for better texture.  This still didn’t stop my husband and I from eating an entire tub in one day.  Don’t worry there’s still another tub of it too.

Cracked

 

Butter Toffee

 

Ingredients

 

1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

Pinch of salt

 

Directions

 

1.  Grease a cookie sheet liberally with butter.  Add all ingredients to medium saucepan.  Turn heat on medium high.  Stirring constantly bring mixture to a boil.  Stop stirring and allow to boil until mixture reaches brittle crack stage.  This will be approximately 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, or when a bit of candy dropped into cold water turns into threads.  My candy looked about as dark as it could before it would start to scorch.  Don’t worry if the color isn’t even all over.

 

2.  Remove pan from heat.  Gently swirl pan to mix candy thoroughly and pour onto greased cookie sheet.  Let cool completely.

 

Maple_ice_cream

Maple Ice Cream

 

A note on this recipe:  This is what I did, like I said I would cut down the maple syrup next time so play around when adding it.  Also try adding a tablespoon of a liquor of your choice.

 

Ingredients

 

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups whole milk

3/4 cup maple syrup

6 egg yolks.

1/2 cup toffee bits

 

Directions

 

1.  Heat cream, maple syrup and sugar in a medium saucepan until just simmering.

 

2.  Prepare an ice bath.

 

3.  In another bowl whisk egg yolks.    Slowly add hot cream mixture to temper the eggs, whisking constantly, until cream is completely incorporated.  Return to pan on medium heat.  Cook approximately 2-3 minutes until mixture just starts to thicken and coats the back of a spoon.

 

4.  Immediately strain mixture into a glass bowl over ice bath, whisking occasionally until mixture is completely cooled.  Add liquor.  Transfer to ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturers instructions.  Once it reaches soft serve consistency add toffee bits.  Freeze at least 4 hours before serving.

 

Southern Biscuits

Baked

Let me take you to biscuit town

 

Once upon a time I lived in Savannah, GA.  It was hot and humid, and the food and the lifestyle fit that climate.

 

The humidity there is like nothing I have experienced before.  Walking out the door it almost knocks you down.  You can taste it.  You can feel it in your lungs.  Have you ever been in a sauna?  It’s kind of like that.

 

The heat slows things down.  My college classes didn’t start until 9am.  People seem more relaxed.  It’s hard to get really worked up when it’s that hot.  It’s just too much work.  Everything slows down and folks drink sweet tea on their porch swings.

 

And the food.  Oh the food.  That’s slower too.  In a really good, butter filled, Paula Deen kind of way.  The soul food place around the corner from our apartment filled the neighborhood with amazing smells every morning.  I totally searched and searched online and couldn’t find the name of the place, just a blurry photo on google maps.    

Tiny_pup

 This tiny puppy would try to go in on our morning walks and the woman who owned it would say hi to her.  It was totally adorable, just like her at that age.

 

 

I always think about that time and place when I make biscuits.  Eating perfect southern biscuits just feels right there.  True facts.

 

A good biscuit should be light and fluffy but also heavy and filling.  I know, it doesn’t make sense, but really it does.  I promise.  It’s a delicate balance, difficult to achieve.

Mac_and_cheese

I made biscuits this weekend to go with my bacon mac and cheese and roasted broccoli with cream and breadcrumbs.

Broccoli

It felt like a meal from Savannah.  It was pure comfort food.  There was nothing light about this meal.  It was however amazing and has feed me at least 3 meals since making it.  Not to mention all the breakfast sandwiches my husband made with the left over biscuits.  He’s a bacon sandwich kind of guy.

Meal

If you’ve never made biscuits, it’s really easy.  15 minutes prep, 15 to bake, easy.  No yeast or rising involved.  Try it, you won’t fail.  And you wont go back to those prepackaged canned things.  Read the ingredients on one of those sometime.  Mildly terrifying.

 

Make some biscuits, you won’t be sorry.  Eat em up.  Load em with bacon.  And cheese.  And eggs.  Or smother them with sausage gravy.  Oh man, sausage gravy.

Cut_out

 

Southern Biscuits

 

Adapted from Alton Brown

 

Ingredients

 

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons shortening

1 cup buttermilk, chilled

 

Directions

 

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Turn on mixer at medium speed using paddle attachment.   Add butter, shortening and buttermilk.  Mix until well combined, about a minute.  The dough will be very sticky.

 

2.  By hand add up to 1/2 cup more of flour, until dough is easier to handle.

 

3.  Turn dough onto floured surface, dust top with flour and gently fold dough over on itself 5 or 6 times. Roll out into a 1-inch thick round. Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch cutter (or a glass), being sure to push straight down through the dough. Place biscuits on baking sheet so that they just touch. Reform scrap dough, working it as little as possible and continue cutting. (Biscuits from the second pass will not be quite as light as those from the first, but hey, that’s life.)

 

4.  Bake until biscuits are tall and light gold on top, 15 to 20 minutes.  When they look almost done, brush the tops with melted butter and bake 2 more minutes.

Raspberry Peach Crumble with Brown Butter Ice Cream

Peaches

 

I need land.  Like space.  Lot’s of it.

 

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.  Where and what we want when we decide to buy a home.  I need space.  Lots of it.

 

I need to be able to grow every type of fruit, vegetable and plant I want.  And that includes trees.  Apples, pears, cherries, peaches.

Fruit_mix

 

Especially peaches.  I’ve had peaches on the brain for a while now.  A few weekends ago I picked up some fresh ones from the farmers market and they were amazing.  They were juicy and sweet and perfect.  I wanted to eat them every day.  They were the kind of peaches so sweet and ripe, if you don’t eat them they start to bruise just from sitting on the counter.  So sweet.

 

The raspberries from my garden have been pretty amazing lately too.  They are somehow sweeter then any other raspberries.  Far better then those in the store and somehow better then those at the farmers market too.  I had to build a small fence around them to keep the dogs out.  Seriously they were out there eating them non-stop. 

 

So I decided to put them together.  Right now I have raspberry peach rum infusing on the counter.  And I made you this crumble.  It was really good.  The ice cream I made to go with it was even better.  I couldn’t get through writing this late night blog post without eating a small dish of it.  See?

 

Img_1148

The crumble topping gets crisp and sweet.  The spices add depth.  And the fruit.  Well, really do I even need to tell you?  It’s raspberries and peaches, COME ON!

 

The ice cream I made to go with it was phenomenal.  Brown.  Butter.  Ice.  Cream.

 

Ice_cream

It really shouldn’t be legal to add that much butter to that much cream and egg yolks.  I think we all know it’s not healthy.  But it is probably one of the most wonderful desserts I have ever tasted.  It’s smooth and creamy and beyond rich.  I could hardly keep from eating it before I had to take the crumble to a cookout.  It was really difficult.

 

The brown butter adds a rich nutty flavor to the ice cream.  It makes it almost caramel like.  It’s pretty special.  Here’s the recipe I used.  Follow it.  It’s easy and it works.   

 

Yolks_and_butter

It’s really easy to put this all together.  Make the ice cream base the night before; keep it in the fridge over night, and into the ice cream maker it goes in the morning.  Then make the crumble.  Right before you serve it all, heat up the crumble.  Then try to stop yourself from eating the entire batch.

 

Baked

 

 

Raspberry Peach Crumble


            Ingredients

 

For the crumble:

 

1 cup flour

1/2 cup oats

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 stick unsalted butter cubed and chilled

 

For the filling:

 

4 cups sliced peaches (4-5 peaches)

4 cups raspberries

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ginger

 

            Directions

 

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl mix together peaches and raspberries.  If using frozen, thaw and drain juice before mixing.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  Set aside.

 

2.  Make the crumble.  Mix flour, sugars and spices.  Using your hands, add butter.  Mix until all butter is blended into dry ingredients and well incorporated.  The mixture will hold together slightly when pressed.  Take out 1/4 cup of crumble mixture and add to fruit.

 

3.  Spread fruit into serving dishes.  You can use a 9×13 pan like I did, or use adorable matching ramekins, which if I had enough I would.  Pretty much any baking dish will work.  Top with crumble.  Bake for 30-45 minutes until crumble is golden brown and fruit is bubbling.

 

White Cupcakes

Frosted

What do you do on a cold rainy day?  I heart heart heart cold rainy days.  When I have off of work that is.  They are my fav.  I could totally use one right now.

 

I love to sleep in late, listening to the sound of the rain.  I love sitting in the hammock on my back porch watching the rain come down in buckets.  I love the way it smells.  I love feeling trapped in my house by it.

 

I get a lot done on these types of days.  On just one of these such days a few months ago, I made some cupcakes.  My husband’s cousin was visiting for the first time in almost a year.  And for some reason when the two of them spend time together, they pig out.  Come to think of it, this happens with both cousins that we spend the most time with.

 

They wanted a bunch of junk food and I decided to make cupcakes.  While trying to decide on flavors and asking their opinions, she suggested plain white cupcakes.  At first I thought, no, too boring.  Then as I began to think about it I realized it was genius and I needed to seize the opportunity.  Building the perfect white cupcake would be the foundation of all future cupcakes of the non-chocolate variety.

W_rasps

 And they were good.  I decided to pop a raspberry on top of them, and frankly if you filled them with raspberry purée they would be like the best classic wedding cupcakes ever.  For realsies.

 

 

These were moist and delicious, adorable and simple.  They were phenomenal.  To be honest I don’t even know the exact recipe I used for the frosting.  I had frozen egg whites, which I thawed in hot water.  I mixed in sugar until it “felt” right to me.  Cooked it over a double boiler until it seemed the right consistency and then whipped it up until stiff peaks formed and it was cooled.  Then I added butter until it felt like the buttercream I know and love.  A splash of vanilla and it was done.

 

Some people are intimidated by swiss meringue buttercream.  Not I.  Be brave, mix mix mix until it’s no longer curdled and it will come out perfect every time.  I’ve never had a problem with it.  Ever.  It’s all about nerves.

 

Try these cupcakes.  It’s the building block for all sorts of cupcakes.  They’re good.  Real good.  And easy.  I had frosted perfect cupcakes from start to finish in an hour and a half.  Including frosting and cooling time.  True facts.

 

Unfrosted

 

White Cupcakes

 

 

            Ingredients

 

 

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour          

2 cups cake flour

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 cups sugar

6 eggs

 

           Directions

 

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12-cup muffin tins with baking cups.

2.     Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Stir milk and vanilla in another small bowl.  Beat butter in mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.  Add sugar slowly while mixing.  Beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time, mixing after each addition.  Scrape bowl and beat until smooth.

3.     Reduce speed and slowly add 1/3 of flour mixture.  Alternate adding milk mixture and flour mixture until all ingredients added.   

4.     Divide batter among muffin tins.  Using a small cookie scoop is the easiest way to do this, filling each cup with two large scoops (one scoop if doing mini cupcakes).  Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes (about 14 minutes for mini cupcakes).  Cool completely.  Frost with buttercream frosting.