Vanilla Cupcakes (Small Batch)

Cake. A lot of people say that it’s a vehicle for icing. Sometimes that’s true, I think. However, if you’re going to take the time to bake a cake yourself, the result should be able to stand on it’s own.

My mission was simple: make a really good cake. I decided to start out with a basic vanilla cake. Well, a small batch of vanilla cupcakes. An entire cake is too much for my family.

I started with the often praised recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes in The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook. I scaled it back to make just six cupcakes, and tinkered with the ingredients quite a bit. My final recipe doesn’t look much like Magnolia’s, but I did glean an excellent piece of information from the book: cream your butter and sugar A LOT. I know it’s obvious, but it’s something that I’ve skimped on before.

The cupcakes are very moist. They aren’t too sweet, but they are surprisingly rich. I compare the richness to that of a yellow cake, just without all the egg yolks. They’re the perfect canvas for any icing, so use your favorite.

Vanilla Cupcakes

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 15-20 minutes
Yields: 6 cupcakes

Ingredients

2/3 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. cream
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
5 tbsp. butter, softened
1/3 c. sugar
1 egg

Instructions
- Prepare your ingredients: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a liquid measuring cup, mix together the cream, milk, and vanilla.
- Make the batter: Using a hand-mixer, whip the butter for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar, and cream until very light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, just until incorporated. Now, switch to a whisk to add the dry ingredients in three installments, alternating with the wet ingredients. (Add in this order: dry-wet-dry-wet-dry.) After each installment, stir just until combined. Batter will be thick.
- Bake: Line a muffin tin with six liners. Distribute batter evenly between the liners; it should fill them about 3/4 of the way. Bake in a preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Cool on wire rack before frosting.

Notes
- When creaming the butter and sugar, you do not need to worry about over-mixing. In fact, you should probably mix more than you think you need to! The creamed butter and sugar should be almost white in color.
- Now, when adding the wet and dry ingredients, you DO need to worry about over-mixing. That’s why you switch from an electrical mixer to hand-power.
- These puff up in the oven, but the tops flatten after a couple minutes. So if you get flat tops, you didn’t do anything wrong.

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21 Responses to Vanilla Cupcakes (Small Batch)

  1. Christine says:

    These look so yummy! I want one!

  2. janelle says:

    This is perfect for my son’s fourth birthday (which falls on my other’s boy’s 9th, of all things!). I need a flat top as once they’re iced, the kids get to decorate them with frosting pens, so this will work wonderfully. Any ideas on a frosting firm enough to stand up to fat little hands with frosting markers? Thanks for the recipe!

  3. Alicia says:

    Janelle – I’m glad you like the recipe. :D Here is a great resource for frostings.

    I’m usually pretty inexact with my frosting recipes, but here are some ideas to work with the smaller batch..

    I would go with a chocolate ganache — it tends to be pretty sturdy, and it would go great with the vanilla cake. I think 4 ounces of chocolate and 1/3 cup of cream would give you plenty enough to frost these.

    If ganache sounds too rich for the kids, a firm buttercream could work too. Try mixing 4 tablespoons butter, 1.5 cups powdered sugar, and a tablespoon of milk. You can add extra butter and sugar to the recipe to increase the firmness. It also helps to start with a slightly firm butter.

    Of course, royal icing is going to be the firmest thing, but I don’t have any experience with it. Here is a recipe.

  4. Jessica says:

    Hi Alicia! I’m new to your site, and I have to say the frosting on these cupcakes looks just GLORIOUS! What is it and can you pass on the recipe?

  5. janelle says:

    Alicia! Thank you so much for your wonderful response, resources, and your time! I’m on my daughter’s cake now (we have 4 bdays in 3 weeks) and then I can take a cake break. I appreciate you and your site so much and apologize for taking so long to thank you for your response.

    Now. I’m going to go bake a cake in a flower pot. I really hope I can stay out of the frosting this time. I’m getting a little full. :)

  6. Alicia says:

    Jessica – Thanks for reading! The frosting recipe is from the back of a can of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa — the reason I didn’t post it originally is because it requires that ingredient. I halved it and added a tablespoon of Kahlua, which is why it’s little runny — but OHSOGOOD. Here’s the recipe:

    2 tbsp. butter
    1 tbsp. milk
    1 tbsp. Kahlua
    1/4 c. Ghirardelli SGC&C
    1 c. powdered sugar
    dash salt

    You could probably sub the Ghirardelli with 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, though I haven’t tried it. I picked up the Ghirardelli at Cost Plus World Market.

  7. Alicia says:

    Janelle – Wow, that’s a lot of birthdays.. and a lot of cake! Of course, the hardest part of baking is keeping your fingers out of the frosting. Sometimes I chew gum to try to stop myself, but it doesn’t always work. ^^;

    Good luck with your cake-in-a-pot; I’ve always wanted to try that.

  8. shannon says:

    I know you posted this a looong time ago, but I was searching for a small batch of cupcakes (sweets dont disappear around here unless in cookie form, and I crave a good cake!) Well, I made the mistake of writing down 1/2 cup sugar. It felt kinda grainy mixing with the butter, so I checked, sure enough i screwed up. But I was out of butter and decided to go with it. I think the cupcakes about tripled in size, then when they were done melting into the oven, flattened down to nothing! Darn!
    I really really want this to work so I’m going to try it again some day, now that I’ve triple checked what I wrote down. Thanks for providing this recipe!

  9. Kim says:

    So far I’ve made 2 batches of these cupcakes and they were delicious! Not too sweet and buttery. My family enjoyed them a lot as well. I’ve made Magnolia vanilla cupcakes before and these tasted very similar to them. I’ll be making these cupcakes again tomorrow to take to my seminar group for the next day. There will be 9 of us at seminar, so I’ll use mini cupcake liners and less batter for each cupcake, it’ll just leave more room for my yogurt frosting!

  10. Monica says:

    I made these and they didn’t flatten at all! Nice and puffy. I divided the batter into 5 rather than 6 cupcakes. Thanks for the recipe!

  11. This is like my third time coming by your website. I always like the content and the way you write. Very smooth and descriptive at the same time .

  12. Molly says:

    hi! :) i was just wondering if you could replace the cream with milk so in total it’d be just 4 table spoons of milk.

  13. Myra says:

    I just made cupcakes using this recipe and it is TERRIFIC! The cakes are moist with a wonderful crumb! I even used a timer to time the creaming of the butter & sugar. The batter was thicker than I was used to, but I trusted the recipe & I’m very happy with the results. Next time I’m going to make whoopie pies using this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Katja says:

    Mine are in the oven right now! I’m gonna frost them with a firm buttercream icing and cover them in sprinkles! I can’t try one though as I am wheat intolerant, they are for my friend who’s bday is tomorrow, I’m sure she’ll love them!!

  15. Asha says:

    Hello Girl,

    I was looking for a small batch easy cupcake recipe and yours was the least complicated, so I tried it out but used glass ramekins instead. They rose and did not flatten and were just perfect. Thank you very much, I’ll be making pink ones tonight for valentines.

  16. Ruchi says:

    Why did mine crack from the top?

  17. Carol says:

    OMG! I just made these and they are so delicious!!! I don’t like vanilla cakes personally but these are to die for, Thank you for sharing!
    p.s. Do you have the full recipe? (bigger batch) :)

  18. I just made this recipe because I was randomly craving some vanilla cupcakes at 11pm and didn’t want to make a whole bunch. I just had to write a comment on these, because they were absolutely the most delicious, moist, not-too-sweet cupcakes I’ve ever made…No joke. I substituted almond extract for the vanilla and they were DIVINE! They are very rich but super moist and a beautiful white color with the browned bottoms. Bravo! Satisfied my midnight craving! :) Thank you. ♥ Tisch from Rocksterize.com

  19. Maddy says:

    Hi! Im Maddy and Im 12, and Im getting in to baking at the moment, and Ive just made these! They are in the oven, and looking pretty good! Im making dessert for my family tonight, and I put the batter in icecream cones, and I am going to ice them to give the illusion of icecream, but of course, it will be yummy cuocake inside! I hope it turns out well, there is 6 in my family so this recipe sounded perfect, thank you so much!

  20. It’s nearly impossible to find educated people about this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

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