Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Fresh off of a weekend with a bunch of girlfriends celebrating a bride-to-be, it’s back to business this morning. My friend Katy is getting married in a couple months and we hung out up in the poconos, rented a boat, cheers’d to the bride, and laughed the whole darn time. But this morning I’m trading my sunglasses for my nerd glasses…
Are you ready to GEEK OUT about homemade vanilla cupcakes? Let’s get right into it.
Remember the mimosa cupcakes from the other week? It’s a new cupcake base I’ve been trying out. Champagne makes the cupcakes incredibly fluffy and light. I also really loved how soft they were– just as soft as cupcakes made from a box mix, but with a homemade taste. I couldn’t stop thinking about the cupcakes and imagined how they’d be as pure vanilla cupcakes. Take out the champagne (sorry!) and orange flavor and ramp up the vanilla. Could this work?
The answer, my friends, is yes. In fact, it’s HECK YES!!!
These homemade vanilla cupcakes are simply perfect. By far the fluffiest cupcakes I’ve ever made, not to mention soft and cakey with buttery and vanilla notes sprinkled throughout each crumb. In this post, I’m going to explain exactly how they are so jaw-droppingly awesome so you can (1) understand what the heck’s going on inside the batter and (2) be inspired to try them out in your own kitchen.
We’ll begin with the dry ingredients.
The base of this recipe comes from my very vanilla cupcakes, which have been my go-to vanilla cupcake for the past 3+ years. I love that recipe because it’s crazy simple. You don’t even need a mixer to make the batter! While they’re soft and fluffy, they’re not as cakey and light as I want vanilla cupcakes to be. So what I did was switch out the all-purpose flour for cake flour. Cake flour helps to produce the softest, lightest cakes and cupcakes you’ll ever eat. It’s sold right there by the regular flour in the baking aisle and I promise that you’ll use up that entire box in no time after you taste these.
We’ve also got baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Baking soda for lift, baking powder for extra lift given the amount of cupcake batter we’re working with. Remember when I explained to you why recipes call for both? It’s interesting what’s happening! (Nerd glasses game is strong right now.)
So that’s the dry ingredients. Now the wet ingredients. Lots of stuff happening here! Unlike my very vanilla cupcakes where you use melted butter, you will cream butter and sugar together here. This helps to produce an all-around cakier cupcake. I mean think about it: a fluffy mixture of butter and sugar is a fantastic base for making FLUFFY cupcakes, right? And then there are the egg whites. No egg yolks allowed. You’ll use 3 egg whites to give the cupcakes their structure, while also keeping them pristine white. Since we are losing a little fat from the missing egg yolks, we can add that back in via sour cream and whole milk. Baking’s so cool isn’t it?!?
Sour cream is a power ingredient here; it lightens up the crumb. Though my fave Greek yogurt could be used in its place, I find that cupcakes made with sour cream are less dense. Light and fluffy is the goal and sour cream is how we’ll reach it.
Vanilla bean is also pretty important. When I was testing these homemade vanilla cupcakes out last week (did you catch it on my Instagram story?), I found the overall flavor was lacking when I just used vanilla extract. Enter vanilla beans. ♥ I’ve gotten a lot of questions about where to purchase vanilla beans. I can usually find them at Whole Foods, but lately I’ve been ordering them offline. So simple.
The batter is moderately thick. Here’s what it will look like when everything’s mixed up. I like to run a whisk through it all a few times when it’s done in the mixer; this helps pick up any pieces of butter that could be at the bottom. Check out all those fancy vanilla beans!
Rewind to when I was testing this recipe last week. I wasn’t going to post this picture, but thought it would be fun to show you what two cupcake prototypes looked like. This is batch #2 and batch #3. Batch #2 (left) used 3/4 cup whole milk and sifted cake flour. That was way too much liquid and the flour was too airy from sifting. See how squat it is? It was practically wet inside! Batch #3 (right) was just perfect. 1/2 cup whole milk, no sifting the cake flour. Just enough liquid and flour, oh-so-fluffy and divine.
Batch #3 is the winner! Don’t they look fabulous inside? This is the texture all homemade vanilla cupcakes should be!
For the frosting, you can use anything. Pictured here is my go-to vanilla frosting. I tinted some of it pink with 2 drops of red food coloring. But your frosting options are essentially endless. Here are some suggestions: rainbow chip frosting, chocolate fudge frosting, strawberry buttercream, marshmallow frosting, white chocolate frosting, milk chocolate frosting, raspberry frosting, or cream cheese frosting.
Sprinkles not optional, but you already knew that.
Alright, time to quickly recap and take these nerd glasses off. Here are the power ingredients making these the most simply perfect vanilla cupcakes ever:
- Cake flour
- Sour cream
- 3 egg whites
- Whole milk (1/2 cup, no more)
- Vanilla bean
Here are my favorite chocolate cupcakes if you’re interested 🙂
Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
- 1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour1
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract2
- seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
- 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature3
- 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature3
- 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 4 - 5 cups (480-600g) confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- salt, to taste
- optional: 2 drops red food coloring to tint pink, sprinkles
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners - this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
- Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
- Pour/spoon the batter into the liners - fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
- Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
- Frost cooled cupcakes. I simply used an icing knife.
Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
- For best flavor, pure vanilla extract is strongly recommended. If using imitation, increase to 1 Tablespoon (3 teaspoons).
- Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.
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SHOP THE RECIPE
Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe. The sprinkles are by Sweetapolita called the Masquerade twinkle sprinkle medley.
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