One of the things that makes Italian pastries and desserts so crave worthy is the inclusion of pure vanilla powder as an important ingredient. Pure vanilla powder, or vanillina as it is known in Italy, turns even the most basic of recipes into something not so basic. The deep flavor and incredibly enticing aroma of vanilla powder is indescribable, not to mention addictive. Although these cupcakes are delicious on their own, vanilla cake makes a great base for any frosting or icing. We’ve topped these vanilla cupcakes with Sicilian imported pistachio cream and candied pistachios for an easy dessert that tastes anything but ordinary.
Pure vanilla powder, sometimes called vanillin in the US, is the pure molecule that gives vanilla its aroma and flavor. If you’ve never used pure vanilla powder in your baking, it is something that I highly recommend trying. Italian imported vanillina is sold in pre-measured packets, so baking with it is as simple as adding it to the dry ingredients in your batter. The powder can be directly substituted in any recipe that calls for vanilla extract; one packet of vanilla powder per recipe is a good rule of thumb as this ingredient has a stronger presence than vanilla extract. The aroma and flavor that comes from pure vanilla powder is simply unmatched by vanilla extract, which is mixed with alcohol. I love it so much that I use it exclusively when its available, adding it to anything and everything from pancakes and waffles to cakes and other baked goods.
When purchasing vanilla powder make sure you are buying pure vanilla powder, not the synthetic version. The synthetic version is cheaper but it does not hold a candle to pure vanilla powder. A good Italian brand to try is Rebecchi Vanillina, it is reputable and you can be sure you are getting the real deal.
In regards to the topping, you can frost these vanilla cupcakes with just about anything. The pistachio cream I used is ready made by a small Italian company called Condorelli located near the town in Sicily where I grew up. They use famous Sicilian Bronte pistachios for their pistachio cream, and it is so good on its own you may find yourself eating it straight out of the jar with a spoon like Nutella or peanut butter. You can, of course, make your own pistachio cream as well.
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 packet vanillina (pure vanilla powder)
- 1 cup olive oil
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 and prepare cupcake pans by lining them with cupcake paper. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla powder in a medium bowl and set aside. In another bowl beat together the olive oil and sugar using a hand mixer. Once combined, add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, about two thirds full, and place in the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool on a cooling rack and frost with desired topping.