Why they’re so good!
These vanilla bean cupcakes are truly the best vanilla cupcakes recipe. Now I realise the word ‘best’ is subjective but there are loads of reasons these are an absolute favourite around these parts.
- Flavour – these vanilla cupcakes are buttery and loaded with real vanilla flavour
- Texture – they’re tender, light, soft and fluffy all at once
- Moist – they’re moist and stay that way for days
- Easy to make – these are the easiest ever cupcakes to make, pinky promise
But a cupcake isn’t a cupcake without a gorgeous swirl of buttercream on top and this one takes the (cup)cake. It’s creamy, perfectly smooth and loaded with vanilla flavour. This vanilla bean frosting is almost as easy to make as any regular buttercream but it is much lighter in sweetness so it won’t have you rolling out the door after eating just one.
You’ll love these vanilla cupcakes with Oreo buttercream too.
Table of contents
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These lovely vanilla bean cupcakes have all the ingredients you’d expect, many of which you will have on hand. I’ve added some substitutions below in case you need them.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
Flour: I use cake flour for these cupcakes which gives cakes a lovely soft texture. If you can’t get it, it’s a simple combination of plain flour (all purpose flour) and cornflour (called cornstarch in the US). The ratios are written in the notes of the recipe card below. Plain flour or cake flour will work in the pudding base for the buttercream (see more about that further down).
Baking powder: Make sure to use baking powder not baking soda as they work very differently.
Sugar: I use caster sugar (superfine sugar) here in both the cupcakes and the vanilla buttercream. You can also use granulated sugar. Don’t use powdered sugar/icing sugar.
Buttermilk: Buttermilk has a wonderful way of adding tenderness to cakes. You can also use a combination of milk and sour cream in a 50:50 ratio.
Eggs: Use large eggs here.
Butter and oil: The combination of butter and oil in the cupcakes gives great flavour to the vanilla bean cupcakes but also keeps them moist and tender. Butter is also used in the buttercream.
Vanilla beans: These cupcakes are a real special treat using a whole vanilla bean in the cupcakes and another in the frosting. Vanilla beans will always give you the best vanilla flavour but they aren’t necessarily cheap so if you want to make these a little more affordable, use vanilla bean paste in its place. Just keep in mind vanilla bean paste will add some colour, especially noticeable in the buttercream so that it isn’t as close to white as it would be with the seeds from a vanilla bean.
Whole milk: The buttercream starts with a base of milk and flour (I promise it’s magical stuff) and I find whole milk will give you the best flavour.
How to make vanilla bean cupcakes
These vanilla cupcakes are so quick and easy to make and they boast an amazing texture and flavour. The cake portion doesn’t even require a mixer and the cupcakes can be in the oven within 10 minutes. The vanilla buttercream is best made using a mixer but is still very simple and you’ll be rewarded with the most silky smooth and creamy buttercream you’ve ever had.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
1. Mix the dry ingredients
Start by sifting the flour and baking powder, then add sugar and salt and give it a good whisk to combine. The sifting and whisking is important since we aren’t beating butter and sugar together (where you would normally add plenty of aeration).
2. Add the wet ingredients
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, buttermilk, melted butter and oil. Pour it all into the dry ingredients and gently whisk until combined and smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the cupcake batter at this point as that can make your cupcakes tough.
3. Divide among cupcake pans and bake
Divide the batter between 12 cupcake papers in a muffin pan. I use a ¼ cup volume cookie scoop/ice cream scoop for this to make them all even. Bake the cupcakes turning after 9 minutes until just baked.
4. Make the buttercream base
A little different to your regular buttercream (aka that gritty type you make with powdered sugar), this one is silky smooth and it begins with a milk and flour base. It does not taste like flour, don’t worry. Just heat together milk, flour and some sugar until very thick, then transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
5. Beat butter and sugar
Now beat together butter and sugar until really light and creamy, then mix in the vanilla seeds.
6. Add the pudding
Now add that pudding mixture a big spoonful at a time and give each one a chance to mix in before adding the next. Once it’s done, you’ll have a big bowl of creamy and fluffy vanilla frosting.
7. Top the cupcakes
You can transfer the buttercream to a piping bag and pipe it on top of the cupcakes or just spread it over with a spatula.
Tips and tricks
- Weigh the flour: It’s so important in baking to at least weigh the flour as the way people measure a cup of flour can vary. If you want the best vanilla cupcakes, you need to do it right. If you don’t have/don’t want to get a kitchen scale, fluff up the flour in your container, then spoon it into your cup measures so that it’s heaping. Now, without tapping it down, level it off with the back of a knife.
- Don’t overmix: Another tip for great cupcakes (or any cake for that matter) is not to overmix. Just mix gently and only enough to combine the ingredients. Overmixing can develop gluten in the flour and cause your cupcakes to be tough.
- Add more vanilla: If you want to make them extra special add another vanilla bean to the recipe, dividing the seeds among both the cake and the frosting.
The cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in a cool place like the pantry for 2-3 days (unless it’s very warm in your home) or in the fridge for 4-5 days. They can also be frozen. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Best thawed in the fridge overnight but it can be done at room temperature for about 45-60 minutes.
Did you try this recipe for vanilla cupcakes? Show it some love in the comments below.
FOR THE VANILLA BEAN CUPCAKES
- 227 g cake flour, see notes (1 ¾ cups)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup caster sugar (or white granulated sugar) (200g / 7oz)
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- ¾ cup buttermilk, room temperature (180ml)
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 85 g unsalted butter, melted (3oz)
- 1 tablespoon neutral flavoured vegetable oil (notes 1)
- 1 vanilla bean
FOR THE VANILLA BEAN FROSTING
- 1 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar) (200g / 7oz)
- 1 cup whole milk (250ml)
- ¼ cup plain flour (all purp flour) or cake flour (33g / 1.2oz)
- 226 g unsalted butter, softened (1 cup / 2 sticks)
- 1 vanilla bean
- Pinch of salt
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- FOR THE VANILLA BEAN CUPCAKES:Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan forced) / 350F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar and salt and whisk to combine.
- In a second mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla beans until just combined. Add the buttermilk, butter and oil and whisk to combine.
- Tip the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and use a whisk to gently mix until combined and smooth.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the cupcake liners (to about ⅔ full).
- Bake for 16-18 minutes until a toothpick comes out with just a crumb or two attached.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- CREAMY VANILLA FROSTING:You can make the frosting base immediately after putting the cupcakes in the oven, then let it cool to room temperature before turning it into the frosting.
- In a small saucepan over low-medium heat, whisk together the milk, half of the sugar and the flour. Continue to heat and whisk gently but regularly for another 3-4 minutes until you have a very thick paste (like thick pudding).
- Transfer it to a plate, spread it out to about 1cm thick, then cover it with plastic wrap pressing the plastic wrap to the surface. Let it cool to room temperature before using (you can speed this up in the fridge but make sure it’s not cold when you use it).
- In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter and remaining sugar for about 5 minutes on medium-high speed or until very light and creamy – scrape down the sides of the bowl every so often.
- Meanwhile, use a paring knife to cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, then use the back of the knife to scrape out the seeds.
- Add the vanilla seeds and salt to the butter mixture and beat for 20-30 seconds to combine.
- Now add the milk paste mixture a dessert spoonful at a time, beating on low-medium speed for about 30 seconds between each. Again, scrape down the sides often.
- Now beat for a good 5-6 minutes on medium-high, until it looks creamy, thick and smooth. If it looks like it’s splitting, just keep beating, it will come together.
- Transfer the buttercream to a piping bag and pipe or spread with a spatula onto the top of the cooled cupcakes.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It’s appreciated and so helpful.
- Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons). Check yours before measuring.
- If you can’t get/don’t have cake flour you can use 195g (~7oz) plain flour/all-purpose flour and 32g (~1oz) cornflour/cornstarch.
- Nutrition details are approximate only – scroll below the recipe to find the full nutritional information.
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