I adore Dan Lepard. And I adore his vanilla cupcakes recipe. Dan’s one of those precise bakers and cookbook writers who, when he says “beat for 30 seconds,” means “beat for EXACTLY 30 seconds.” No more and no less. And you better listen, because he not only takes the guesswork out of baking, he always adds a little somethin’ somethin’ to make his recipes sublimely superlative. For example, with these vanilla cupcakes, he’s added a smidge more flour than is customary to give them a buttery, pound-cake-like texture. The vanilla frosting, which in the hands of someone else would have been a standard-issue confectioners’ sugar version that tends to set my teeth on edge, turns silken with the simple yet genius addition of sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream. Oh, hell, stop listening to me and just make the darn things, won’t you?!–David Leite

What if I don’t have a stand mixer?

Making cupcakes—or any butter-rich cake—by hand with a wooden spoon requires a slightly different tactic than the one explained in the instructions below. Warm your mixing bowl with a splash of boiling water, then wipe it dry. Measure the sugar and butter into the bowl, making sure the butter is very soft. Beat them together with a wooden spoon until smooth and slightly fluffy. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add them, a little at a time, to the butter and sugar, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. (We know what you’re thinking. But whereas an electric mixer can produce great results beating the butter, sugar, and eggs all at once, this more gradual method works best when working by hand.) Combine the flour and baking powder with the butter mixture in batches, again adding about 1/4 flour mixture at a time. Stop beating as soon as the mixture is smooth. (And be sure to sift your dry ingredients together first to get the lightest result. The author tested this, it’s true.) Spoon the batter into the paper liners and let them sit for a while for a lighter result, or bake right away if you’re in a hurry . (Don’t stress over this. The difference is slight.)

A vanilla cupcake decorated with white frosting and pink sprinkles on a red book.

Vanilla Cupcakes

4.80 / 5 votes
Vanilla cupcakes with a moist, poundcake-like texture and a stunningly silky icing that begs to be licked off the spoon. Here’s how to make them from scratch.
David Leite
Servings10 servings
Calories450 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes


For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar, (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 9 tablespoons (4 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 5 tablespoons (2 1/2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream


Make the cupcakes

  • In a bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the superfine sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla on the highest speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture, and beat for 30 seconds.
  • Spoon the batter into 10 paper liners placed in the cups of a muffin tin. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • Bake the cupcakes until golden and firm, 18 to 25 minutes. The interior of the cupcakes should be very light and fluffy, and a toothpick or tester inserted in the center of a cupcake should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting

  • The butter should be as soft as possible without being melted. Place it in the clean bowl of the stand mixer, add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, and cream, and beat until smooth and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Swirl the frosting thickly over the top of each cupcake. If by some uncanny turn of circumstances you have any cupcakes left over, don’t worry; the frosting will keep its shape if left at cool room temperature. Originally published April 25, 2014.
Short & Sweet Cookbook

Adapted From

Short & Sweet

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 450 kcalCarbohydrates: 61 gProtein: 4 gFat: 22 gSaturated Fat: 13 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 94 mgSodium: 33 mgFiber: 0.4 gSugar: 49 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2013 Dan Lepard. Photo © 2013 Dan Lepard. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

These tasty little vanilla cupcakes are delicious and very easy to make. I didn’t have superfine sugar, so I put granulated sugar in the blender for about 30 seconds and that worked well as a substitute. I made 8 cupcakes, as the recipe indicated, but will make 10 the next time because they ended up with wide tops that flowed into each other.

The frosting was very sugary and delicious and came together quickly; it took only about 1 minute to get it nice and smooth. It made about double what I needed to frost the cupcakes, though, so next time I may consider doubling the cupcake batter to use up all the frosting. Enjoy these sweet little treats!

This vanilla cupcakes recipe makes a perfectly wonderful and delicious vanilla cupcake. As the recipe promises, the cupcake has a definite pound-cake-like consistency. The flavor is a wonderful combination of vanilla and butter. I’m not a huge fan of confectioners’ sugar icing, but the heavy cream and condensed milk gave it a nice flavor and an added degree of smoothness.

I made the cupcakes in mini-muffin tins and the yield was 24 mini cupcakes. The baking time was 10 minutes. The frosting was super easy to make since all the ingredients get whisked together in the mixer. It took only 2 minutes to get them to smooth and fluffy.

What drew me to this vanilla cupcakes recipe was how simple they seemed to be. That and sweetened condensed milk. I made these with my 5-year-old, and it’s a very easy recipe that’s extremely fast to make.

I substituted half white rice flour and half Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour for the white flour. The end result was very light and fluffy, much as described. This frosting is amazingly creamy and perfect for any person who’s a sweet tooth. Since none of us are extremely keen on sweets, I’ll try to remove 1/2 cup sugar from the frosting ext time. But I must say the frosting was gorgeous and silken and the kind you want to eat with a spoon.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 4 stars
    The texture of the cupcake is more like a pound cake, and it was tasty although I probably over baked mine a tiny bit. The icing is a dream to whip up and FAST. Like others, confectionary sugar icings are not usually my favorite but the condensed milk helped make it smooth and creamy. I used a plant based whipping cream because that’s all I had and it worked well. Overall I liked these and would make again

    1. Those turned out lovely, Jacqueline! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and share your experience.

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe is so simple and quick to do. The consistency and the look of the butter for this cupcake recipes look very similar to a buttercream frosting. Initially I thought the cupcake might not be able to rise up but in the end it rises up and looks very smooth, even, and beautiful. For the butter, I simply wait for it to become super soft and I use a measuring spoon to scrape it out.

    1. GL, magnificent to hear that you love this recipe as much as we do! Great tip on softening the butter, too, thank you!