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The Best Vanilla Cupcakes

 

These vanilla cupcakes are velvety, rich and delicious. They embody my ideal vanilla cupcake and hopefully they do the same for you.

Best Vanilla Cupcakes

Dear baking world,

Sometimes I do this thing where I start looking up vanilla cake recipes and then I start making a list of recipes I have to try. And then it turns into this whole ordeal where I spend an entire Thursday evening trying different vanilla cake recipes and then turning my nose to up all of the different results.

Here’s the thing. There are two types of people in this world: those who like fluffy cupcakes and those who like velvety cupcakes. I am of the last group. I prefer a more solid cupcake with a velvety smooth texture. Through a few scientific experiments, I’ve discerned that reverse creaming method produces the most velvety texture, as opposed to the classic creaming method. How does reverse creaming method work? Well, it’s also called the “One bowl” method because you only need one bowl. First you mix the flour, sugar and oils together. The oil coats the flour and prevents it from forming gluten. As opposed to the traditional creaming method, you don’t whip the butter with the sugar which creates fluffy cupcakes due to the air pockets. Because of this, the reverse creaming method yields more velvety, denser cupcakes.

Best Vanilla Cupcakes

A few tips when baking cupcakes:

  • This recipe calls for cake flour. Cake flour is the only flour I use when I make vanilla cupcakes because vanilla cupcakes can sometimes taste like cornbread. We’ve all had that homemade vanilla cupcake that is gritty and weird. But cake flour fixes that. It has an extremely low protein content, which yields softer cakes. If you’re in a pinch and don’t have cake flour, there is  a handy equation of that: 1. One (1) cup of all purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons (1c – 2tbsp) is equivalent to 1 cup of cake flour.
  • Another tip: make sure your eggs are at room temperature and mix them in one at a time. Room temperature eggs incorporate into the batter better and result in a smoother, more even crumb. If you forgot to take your eggs out in advance, you can fill a bowl with warm water and let the eggs sit in it while you prepare the flour and sugar mixture. Second, mix your eggs in one at a time. America’s Test Kitchen did an experiment and found that cakes are softer when you mix an egg in one at a time, because it actually takes less  time to incorporate all eggs individually than all at once. As a result, less gluten forms.
  • And my final note: I made this recipe with half butter, half oil. Previously I only used oil, but after the great butter vs. oil experiment of the century, I decided that butter has the best flavor, oil has the best texture and a mixture of both yields something out of this world. However, if you’d like just oil, use 3/4 cup of oil. If you want just butter, use 1 and 1/2 sticks butter. Why? Butter has water in it, unlike oil, so to get the same amount of fats, you need to use a little bit more.

Best Vanilla Cupcakes

The question is: is this really the best vanilla cupcake? And yes, I would say so. But here’s the catch: every person has their own idea of a perfect vanilla cupcake, and this is mine. So if you like velvety and dense with a fine crumb, (and less fluff) this is your cupcake.  I’ve tested so many vanilla cupcake/cake recipes that I am pretty sure it’s the only dessert I’ve consistently eaten almost every week for the past six months. That’s fine, that’s fine, because the end result is a great one.

**UPDATE**: I’ve had a few users mention that when they made my vanilla cupcakes, they had issues with exploding and sinking cupcakes. I re-tested the recipe last night with a few alterations. For the first batch, I made the same recipe but ditched the baking soda and used whole milk instead of buttermilk. For the second batch, I reduced the amount of baking soda and baking powder but used buttermilk. (Too much of either can cause a cupcake to explode and then sink.) In addition, I modified the amount of oil in the recipe and decreased it by two Tablespoons.

I had great success with both recipes, although taste testers did seem to prefer the whole milk cupcake because it was more velvety and had a better after taste. The buttermilk cupcake, according to myself, had a delicious taste but it was definitely a richer flavor than the whole milk cupcake. But really, I’m splitting hairs here. Both recipes are really fantastic.

So instead of just one “perfect” cupcake recipe, I listed two recipes in the recipe section. The first is with buttermilk. The second is with whole milk. Both are delicious. Both recipes use the same method for mixing, so follow the same directions for both.

Here are major differences between the two recipes:

Buttermilk Vanilla Cupcake:

  • Uses buttermilk for the liquid
  • Decreased amount of baking powder
  • A tiny bit of baking soda to offset the acidity of the buttermilk
  • Richer, heavier flavor
  • More airy crumb

Whole Milk Vanilla Cupcake:

  • Uses whole milk for the liquid *use whole milk because it is fattier and creates a moister, richer cupcake
  • No baking soda
  • Normal amount of baking powder
  • More delicate, sweeter flavor
  • More velvety texture
  • Tighter crumb

Enjoy these two recipes! My taste testers aka coworkers raved about these two cupcakes. Tell me what you think and what kind of results you had!

Lots of baking love,

Brita

Best Vanilla Cupcakes

Best Vanilla Cupcakes
Author: Brita (adapted from Buddy Valastro)
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 21
These velvety, delicious, vanilla cupcakes are my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe and I wanted it to share with everyone else. These are far from vanilla.
Ingredients
  • Version 1 – Made with Buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cubed
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Version 2 – Made with Whole Milk
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cubed
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Frosting:
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate, chips or chopped
  • 9 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chips or chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners. Cut the softened butter up into cubes.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix together cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, butter, oil and vanilla extract. Mix on slow until incorporated then mix on medium for another minute.
  3. Add one egg at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. When all are added, mix for a minute. This will ensure that the sugar is fully incorporated.
  4. Add a half cup of milk. Then the next half. Continue mixing until the batter appears smooth.
  5. Bake cupcakes for 15-18 minutes.
  6. Frosting:
  7. Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50% power for 30 second intervals, stopping to stir after every interval, until smooth.
  8. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, salt, vanilla and corn syrup. Stir in the sour cream until nearly smooth.
  9. Add the melted chocolate. Beat on low speed until very smooth–it will get stiffer as you go, so beat just until it’s a nice spreading consistency and don’t over beat.
  10. Add the powdered sugar until at desired sweetness.
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33 thoughts on “The Best Vanilla Cupcakes

  1. Have about 4 vanilla cupcake recipes on my ‘list’ to try but I stumbled upon this entry just now and I’ve made it a priority to try first. Your words could describe my vanilla cake journey and preference exactly.

    1. I struggled FOREVER with finding a perfect vanilla cupcake recipe! Happy you empathized with my struggle. 🙂 They’re really really delicious.

      Another good edit is ditch the buttermilk and baking soda and use a cup of whole milk. Those are excellent too.

  2. These cupcakes taste fantastic. Buttery vanilla yumminess! However, they are incredibly soft. There is no firmness, which I consider essential in a cupcake, especially to hold frosting and pick up and eat. They also bake flat, rather than up. I filled the papers about 3/4 full and they flowed over immensely! Kind of a big mess and not able to be frosted. Thinking the measurements might be a bit off.

    1. Hello! I am really sorry that you had that result. Every time I’ve made them they’re firm, beautifully domed and hold up a large mound of frosting. I’ve tried tons of recipes to get this result, so this stinks to hear. I’m very sorry.

    2. I also just tried to make these and I only filled the liners 1/2 and they overflowed like crazy! They also sunk in the middle… sad, I was hoping to make these for a graduation party. The batter was delicious though!

      1. Hi Annie! Thanks for the comment! I appreciate any and all feedback. I tried the cupcake recipe and did some tweaking and updating. Hopefully you are willing to try the recipe again. -Brita

  3. Hi Brita, was just wondering how long these lasted before drying out? (of course assuming they are unfrosted and put in an air tight container)
    cant wait to try this recipe!

    1. Hi Sam! I would say don’t go over two or three days. That being said, I think cupcakes taste best eaten right out of the fridge, so if you store them in an airtight container in the fridge they could last probably three days! Thanks for your comment and let me know how they turn out! -Brita

      1. These cupcakes are fantastic! I made the buttermilk version and they were moist and delicious. I did not have an issue with overflowing although they didn’t “dome,” but I like my cupcakes to be flat for decorating so I thought they were perfect! I filled with a little homemade strawberry jam and topped with cream cheese frosting. They were a huge hit, brought 24 to a small gathering (10-14 people and they were gone!!! Thanks so much for the recipe, I think this is going to be my “go-to” vanilla cupcake recipe!

      2. Hello Melissa! Thank you so much for your feedback! I am so so happy you had good success with them, not to mention that everyone gobbled them up! 🙂

  4. Hi Brita, quick question: I tried the whole milk version and loved them. I was wondering though if I should put baking soda in those as well? Mine didn’t rise very much, which isn’t a big deal but a little bigger would have been nice. Not sure it’s because I didn’t put the baking soda in but your Version 2 didn’t mention baking soda. I would appreciate your help as I’m making these for my daughter’s 6th birthday this week. Thanks!

    1. Hi Daniela! That is a great question. The reason why I don’t use baking soda in the whole milk recipe is because there isn’t an acid, such as buttermilk. In the buttermilk recipe, there is an acid so it needs the extra boost of baking soda. In my past experience, the baking powder has been sufficient to get enough lift. That being said, your baking powder may be expired. Baking powder expires within three months and will not produce a lot of lift. So I would try new baking powder! 🙂 I hope this helps! – Brita

  5. I tried this recipe tonight and the cupcakes did come out velvety and yummy.. I subbed the vanilla for almond, the only change I made

    1. Hi Ray! A number of things could’ve happened, but the type of flour can make all the difference. I recommend cake flour to prevent cornbread-y tastes. I hope this helps! Sincerely, Brita

  6. Thanks for the great recipe! I made the version with buttermilk, and they were delightful! Light, but not too light, airy, but not too airy, and not too sweet, too, so that left me with freedom to pile as much frosting on top as I wished…. mwa-ha-ha…. 😀

  7. Hi, How would you half this recipe? I would like to try this because I love an dense cake but since I’m just beginning and I dont want to waste ingredients.

    1. Hi Lauren!

      Here’s how I would halve the recipe:

      1 1/4 cups cake flour
      1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
      1 teaspoon baking powder
      1/4 teaspoon baking soda
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      1/2 stick (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened and cubed
      3 Tablespoons oil
      1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
      2 eggs, room temperature
      1/2 cup buttermilk

      Also, I recommend checking out my vanilla cake recipe! I actually prefer that to either of these!

      Thanks for your question!

  8. If I wanted to adapt this recipe to make a 2-layer cake (in an 8-inch round cake pan), what would you suggest?

    Thanks!

    1. Hello!

      You can simply put the batter into round pans and then bake for 15-18 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when you put a knife in the middle and it comes out clean! Don’t forget to spray the pans.

      Enjoy!

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