Vanilla Cupcakes

I’ve thought a lot about what makes the perfect vanilla cupcake… will it be moist? dense? crumbly? cakey? white? cream? vanilla beans? extract? I’ve tried a lot of recipes, but none really taste like vanilla… just plain cake.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes  |

I posed this question to you on Facebook & Twitter, “What ingredients make up the perfect vanilla cupcake?”… and this is what you said:

  • vanilla bean powder
  • vanilla beans
  • coconut flour paired with a good vanilla bean extract
  • vinegar
  • homemade vanilla extract
  • whipped egg whites folded into the batter
  • box of vanilla pudding mix

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes  |

Yesterday, I ventured into the kitchen to make a vanilla cupcake that truly tasted like vanilla.  I began with Sweetapolita’s recipe for vanilla cake and added my own spin on it to really bring out the vanilla flavor.  I did things like steep the milk in vanilla beans, use my homemade vanilla extract and vanilla sugar and of course use the seeds of 2 fresh Madagascar vanilla beans.

And, after tasting them… I’m pretty darn certain that these are one of the most delicious vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever tasted!  I’m definitely adding this recipe to the rotation!

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes  |

PS… Love these liners?  I got them from Sutton Gourmet Paper!!


Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 18-20 cupcakes
Vanilla Cupcakes
  • ¾ cup milk steeped with 2 vanilla beans/pods and strained/cooled
  • ¼ sour cream, room temperature
  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla bean extract
  • 2 cups cake flour, sifted 3 times
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1⅛ cup Madagascar vanilla bean sugar
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, soft & at room temperature
  • 4 Tbsp vegetable shortening
Vanilla Buttercream
  • 12 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound powdered sugar, SIFTED
  • 1 Tbsp Madagascar vanilla bean extract
  • ¼ cup Madagascar vanilla bean infused milk/cream, room temperature (use same method as used for the cupcakes)
  • pinch of salt
Vanilla Cupcakes
  1. Split 2 Madagascar vanilla beans and scrape out the seeds. Combine the pods and seeds in a small sauce pan with 1 cup of milk and bring to a simmer over med-high heat while whisking constantly. Remove from heat as soon as it begins to bubble and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup for the buttercream.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners.
  3. In a small bowl , whisk together the egg whites, egg, vanilla extract, ¼ cup of the vanilla milk and sour cream. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, sift the cake flour three times. Add the baking powder, salt and sugar and sift two additional times.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour mixture with the butter and shortening on medium speed for about 30 seconds or until it looks finely clumped.
  6. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the remaining ½ cup vanilla milk and mix until just combined. It will be thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl again.
  7. Add the egg mixture in three parts, mixing for 20 seconds on medium speed and scraping the sides of the bowl between each addition. NOTE: DO NOT OVER MIX the batter. You want it to be smooth with all the ingredients incorporated.
  8. Fill cupcake liners ⅔ full and bake for 17-19 minutes, rotating pan after 12 minutes. A toothpick will come out clean when they are done.
  9. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Vanilla Buttercream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.
  2. One cup at a time, add the sifted powdered sugar and mix on high until smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and salt and mix until combined.
  4. Add 2 Tbsp of the milk and beat on high for 3-4 minutes or until frosting is smooth and fluffy. Add more milk if necessary to reach your desired consistency. NOTE: Make sure to add as many as the vanilla bean seeds as you can to the frosting!


23 thoughts on “Vanilla Cupcakes

      1. Do you prefer to use your homemade Vanilla sugar, I assume made with regular white sugar? The vanilla sugar I’ve found in stores is a coarse grind and doesn’t seem finely textured enough for inclusion in the baking mix.

        1. Yes I do. I split 2 vanilla beans and add them to my canister of sugar. A few days later I have delicious vanilla infused sugar and use it all my baking! Sometimes, when I don’t use the pods for whatever I’m making, I’ll just throw those right into the sugar as well. 4 or 5 beans in my sugar right now making it yummy! I’ve never actually bought vanilla sugar in the store…

  1. I made these today and they taste delicious!! I didn’t have whole milk, so I used heavy whipping cream. The cupcakes were pretty dense (they had large tunnel-holes – over mixing?). I have a feeling it had something to do with the heavy whipping cream. I did try to mix only as long as you directed, but that could’ve been an issue for me as well. I was going to try again, this time with oil instead of butter (maybe to lighten it up a bit?). Should I have sifted my cake flour before measuring it? I thought too much flour may have been something else I did wrong. Rookie mistakes! I understand that without me following the recipe exactly, it’s difficult for you to help me out, but I would love any advice you have for me. Thanks for all the wonderful recipes and step-by-step instructions!!

    1. I sometimes use heavy cream in my cupcakes too… but for these I believe I used skim milk, cause that’s what we drink at home. And yes… they are a hefty cupcake, but that’s what I like about them. They hold up to anything you want to fill inside of them or top them with. I’m not sure how they’d be with oil instead of butter… I don’t typically bake cupcakes with oil. I’m a butter girl. As for the flour… I don’t sift before measuring, but I make sure the flour isn’t packed, so I loosen it up a little bit with a spoon or a cup to add some fluffyness to it. That gives a more accurate “one cup” measurement. I wish I could be in your kitchen and we could bake together!! Just keep practicing!! That’s what I do… I have lots of mix ups and disasters but I just keep at it!! xoxo <3 Betsy

      1. I’ll definitely give skim milk a try (that’s actually what we drink too, but I thought the lack of fat would cause the cupcakes to taste a little flat- I’m so glad you told me that’s what you used!). I made a second batch- this time subbing the butter/shortening mixture for 5T butter and 5T oil, sifting so many times that I lost count, decreasing the cake flour to 1 3/4 c, and increasing the baking powder to 3t. It was a little lighter (yay for air bubbles!), but more dry than I liked. Topping them with lots of your fabulous icing will suffice until I free up some cupcake tupperware for another trial batch (and perhaps get my butt to the gym). I really appreciate your encouraging reply, and thanks again for everything you do!! I always look forward to the weekend when I can try another one of your amazing recipes 😉

  2. Awesome recipe! I have been finding some really delicious recipes and have had a lot of compliments can’t wait to try this one out! Where do you get your vanilla beans from? I have been ordering from

  3. This is really the kind of cake I would like to make for my daughter’s birthday. May I know how can I make vanilla milk with vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean? Thank you!

    1. Hi Mabel – You won’t get the same strong vanilla flavor by using an extract. The idea behind using the vanilla bean is to infuse the seeds of the beans in the milk. No worries though…. just skip the infusion step. Your cupcake will still be delish! 🙂 Happy baking!

  4. Could you tell me what gel food color you used to get the beautiful color on this cupcake? Doing this color for my grandson’s birthday next week and want that exact color. Thanks!

  5. Ok Betsy – will you entertain one more dumb question from me? LOL I’m going to make these on Friday. I’ve never used cake flour and I’ve never bothered sifting. I’m going to this time. Do I measure the flour right out of the box, then sift it – or sift the flour, then measure three cups out of what’s been sifted? I’m aiming to make 80 of them, so I really don’t want to mess them up!

    1. No worries, Brian. Ask a million questions. I’m here to help! So, when I measure flour I typically fluff up the flour before I measure it with a spoon, fork or the measuring cup I’m about to use to scoop it out. You want the flour not compact before you measure it. You get a more accurate amount of flour that way. Us Americans like to do things the Imperial way… unlike the rest of the world who likes precise measurements and weighs their flour with the metric system. Silly Americans, making everything hard. haha So… after you fluff the flour, measure out the number of cups you need for the recipe. Then sift, sift, sift sift. The sifting in this particular recipe really helps to create a great texture in the cake.

      Let me suggest something else for you. Before you bake all your cupcakes, fill 2 liners in your pan with two different amounts of batter to test them. One with a little less than 2/3-3/4 full and one with a little more then bake. I always do this with new recipes so that I can 1) see how much is the perfect amount in my pan and 2) determine the perfect baking time. Everyone’s oven is just a little bit different, so it’s best to test and make sure yours is the right temp for baking these cupcakes. Also, if you have an extra oven thermometer, you can put it in the center toward the back of your oven and test to see how accurate your oven temp is. Adjust oven temp if needed.

      You’ll do great! Good luck! And let me know if you have any more questions!

      PS… Can I say how totally impressed I am that a Dad is making the cupcakes!! Way to go, Brian!! hehe 🙂 Please, send me lots of pics of the cupcakes and the birthday boy!

  6. Hi!

    What is the vanilla bean sugar you mention in the recipe for the cake? Can I use regular granulated sugar?

    1. Hi Rebecca – vanilla bean sugar is just granulated sugar that has been infused with a split vanilla bean. This is optional, but if you’re going for a strong vanilla taste in your cupcake, I’d go for it! It’s super easy… a few days before you want to bake, split a vanilla bean, scrape out the seeds for later use and add the pod to your container of granulated sugar and close the lid tight! After a few days, the sugar will be infused with the vanilla! Super easy and so yum! Happy baking!

  7. Hello, I want to make this as a cake, what size pans do you recommend..Also,I would like to make the frosting a day ahead, can the steeped milk mixture stay over night?..Thanks

    1. Hi! To make one cup of cake flour, put 2 tbsp of cornstarch in the bottom of a 1-cup measuring cup, then fill the cup as usual with all-purpose flour and level top. Hope this helps 🙂

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