Vanilla Cupcakes

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.

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

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.)

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 20 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Makes 10
4.7/5 - 3 reviews
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  • For the cupcakes
  • For the frosting


Make the cupcakes

In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder 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.

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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.

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