These Easy Vanilla Cupcakes are fluffy, soft baked treats crowned with creamy vanilla frosting guaranteed to satisfy your sweet cravings. This recipe for a classic, timeless vanilla cupcake will never let you down. Keep them simple and elegant, or turn them into fun and flamboyant party pieces!
The Best and Easiest Vanilla Cupcakes
Do you want to know the secret to divinely delicious vanilla cupcakes that are moist and fluffy even without using an electric mixer? The answers: using oil instead of butter and whisking boiling water through the batter. The beauty of baking is those little nuances that make a world of difference between gloriously good cupcakes and dense and dry baked batter.
I have included my favourite Vanilla Buttercream recipe (heads up, the frosting does need an electric mixer), but you can also try using Cream Cheese Frosting for variation. Or you can go with any of your favourite homemade or store-bought frosting too.
Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients
- Plain (all-purpose) flour
- Can I use gluten-free flour? Sure, just find a brand that works for you and substitute the plain flour with an equal amount of GF flour.
- Baking powder: adding this to the mixture gives the cupcakes enough lift to make them look puffy and golden.
- Can I skip the baking powder? No. Omitting this will result in dense and tough cupcakes.
- Can I use baking soda? Do not swap these two ingredients as they require different ratios and usage.
- Caster sugar / superfine sugar: is light in texture and dissolves quickly, making it easier to mix into the batter.
- Can I use granulated sugar? No problem, you might need more time to dissolve them into the mixture, but they will give the same amount of sweetness and moisture as caster sugar.
- Can I also use brown sugar + granulated sugar? Yes, you can. This combination works really well in making the cupcakes soft and moist with an added depth of flavour from the molasses content of brown sugar.
- Salt: a teaspoon of this will intensify the vanilla flavour of the batter.
- Full-fat dairy milk + vinegar: this homemade “buttermilk” gives the cupcakes a richer flavour and helps make them soft and moist.
- Can I use store-bought buttermilk instead? Of course! Use ½ cup for this recipe.
- Can I use any type of vinegar? Yes, you can. An excellent alternative to use is lemon juice.
- Can I use dairy-free milk? Absolutely! Almond and soy milk works well with this recipe.
- Can I use sour cream or full-fat yogurt? Yes. These are suitable substitutes for buttermilk. Just make sure to thin them out with milk or water.
- Canola oil (or any vegetable oil): oil contributes to tenderness, moistness, and flavour—all of the qualities that make a fantastic cupcake!
- Eggs: Is used to bind the ingredients together. Make sure to use eggs that are at room temperature.
- Can I use cold eggs? Having them at room temperature is better because it helps prevent the fat in the batter from re-hardening, allowing the batter to fluff up more smoothly when the eggs whip up at a larger volume.
- Can I make it vegan? For sure. Use applesauce or flax egg instead.
- Vanilla essence OR vanilla extract: I love how aromatic and delicate tasting this flavouring is! Just a small amount will give these cupcakes a lovely taste.
- Boiling water: Adding hot water not only makes the batter smoother as the ingredients meld together effortlessly because of the heat, but it also makes it even softer and moist!
For the Vanilla Buttercream
- Unsalted butter: use softened butter for this recipe. It uniformly distributes throughout the mixture, yielding a delicate finish.
- Can I use melted butter? No, when butter is too warm or melted butter, it loses its ability to cream and hold air when beaten.
- Can I use salted butter? If this is what you have, then it is fine. It will slightly reduce the sweetness or may have a salty note to it.
- Icing sugar / powdered sugar: using fine sugar is the key to a smooth buttercream.
- Vanilla essence OR Vanilla extract: gives the buttercream a great flavour. Use a good quality vanilla essence or extract, not alcohol-based vanilla flavourings.
- Milk: You can use any type of milk you like. However, take note that using coconut milk or other strongly flavoured milk will affect the taste.
How to Make Vanilla Cupcakes
- Preparations: Set oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan-forced/convection) or 180°C / 355°F (standard). Prepare and line a 12-hole standard muffin tin with paper cases.
- Mix Dry Ingredients. Using a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking powder together then, whisk in the caster sugar and salt until well combined.
- Mix Wet Ingredients. Whisk together the milk and vinegar in a separate medium mixing bowl. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and curdled. Whisk together the canola oil, eggs, and vanilla extract until smooth.
- Combine Dry and Wet Ingredients. Mix the egg mixture into the dry ingredients until everything is well combined. By adding hot coffee or water, will help you get the right consistency.
- Bake Your Cupcakes. Distribute the batter evenly among the muffin tins, filling them only halfway. Bake for 20 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes before transferring them over to a wire rack.
Make the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- Cream the Butter and Sugar. Cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together at high speed in a large mixing bowl or a hand mixer. Beat this for about 4 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add 1 tbsp milk at a time, then beat thoroughly until the frosting is smooth and ready to pipe.
- Pipe the frosting. Using a star-tip nozzle, fill the piping bag with 3/4 of the frosting and twist the bag to secure. Pipe a ring around the mound going towards the center of the cupcake creating a swirl. Or, you can decorate to your liking.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Do not fill the cupcake casing. Use a ¼ cup measurement to scoop the batter. This will fill a standard paper case half full to prevent the batter from leaking out during the baking process. You might get extra 1-2 cupcakes from this recipe.
- Half quantity of vanilla buttercream frosting: the frosting recipe makes enough for large swirls on each cupcake. If you just want to spread a bit of frosting on the top of each cupcake instead of swirls, halve the frosting recipe. Beat together 125 g (4.5 oz / ½ cup) of softened butter, 1 ½ cups of sifted icing sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla essence together until fluffy. Beat in up to 2 tbsp of whole dairy milk until pale and smooth
- Do the toothpick test to check if the cupcakes are thoroughly baked. Just stick one in the centre; if it comes out neat, it is done baking.
- Make sure that the cupcakes are completely cool before adding the frosting, or you will end up with sloppy mini cakes that will not look appetizing.
Simple Decorating Ideas
Do you need something quick yet pretty? A few quick tweaks can instantly give these cupcakes a bakery-worthy look.
- Sprinkles are colorful and exciting, and they’re not only for kids but for adults too! They’re a great way to give your desserts some color and texture. Jimmies, nonpareils, quins, dragees, sanding sugar, and coarse sugar are only a few examples.
- Fruits. Any fruits in season, from strawberries to mangoes to blueberries, will brighten up your cupcake. So go ahead and put your favorite fruit on top of your cupcakes.
- Candies. Candies can turn these simple cupcakes into festive goodies. Crush a peppermint candy cane and sprinkle them on top with chocolate chips to make holiday cupcakes!
Storing your Vanilla Cupcakes
- Frosted Cupcakes will stay moist at room temperature for up to 3 days. Keep them refrigerated to keep them a few days longer.
- Unfrosted Cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container and can last up to 4 days in the fridge or 2 months in the freezer.
- Buttercream frosting will last a week after being used to frost cakes/cupcakes.
For the Vanilla Cupcakes
- 1 ¼ cup plain flour / all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 cup caster sugar / superfine sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup whole dairy milk
- 1 tbsp vinegar (any kind) OR lemon juice
- ½ cup canola oil (or any vegetable oil)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp vanilla essence OR 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup boiling water
For the Vanilla Buttercream (large quantity, see notes)
- 250 g (9 oz / 1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups icing sugar / powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tsp vanilla essence OR 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3-4 tbsp milk, as needed
For the Vanilla Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F (fan-forced/convection) or 180°C / 355°F (standard). Line a 12-hole standard muffin tin with paper cases.
- Sift flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in caster sugar and salt until well combined.
- In a separate medium mixing bowl, whisk together milk and vinegar. Stand for 5-10 minutes or until thick and curdled. Whisk in canola oil, eggs and vanilla until well combined.
- Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk together until well combined. Whisk in hot coffee/water. The batter will thin out.
- Distribute the batter evenly among the paper cases. Do not fill more than half-full. Overfilling the cases will cause the batter to spill over when baking. Depending on how you measured your ingredients, you may have enough batter for an extra 1-2 cupcakes.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- In the large bowl of an electric mixer (or using a hand mixer), cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of milk at a time, beating well in between, until the frosting is smooth and of piping consistency.
- For swirls: ensure cupcakes are completely cooled before frosting. Fit a piping tip with a star-tip nozzle. Fill the piping bag ¾ full with frosting and twist the top to secure. Pipe a small mound of icing in the centre of a cupcake. In one fluid motion, pipe a ring around the mound then continue to pipe in a circular motion towards the centre of the cupcake to create a hi-top swirl.
- You can store the frosted cupcakes unrefrigerated for up to 3 days (they will stay moist). They will last 4 days without frosting.
Substitutions & Tips
- Half quantity of vanilla buttercream frosting: the frosting recipe makes enough for large swirls on each cupcake. If you just want to spread a bit of frosting on the top of each cupcake instead of swirls, halve the frosting recipe as follows: Beat together 125 g (4.5 oz / ½ cup) of softened butter, 1 ½ cups of sifted icing sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla essence together until fluffy. Beat in up to 2 tbsp of whole dairy milk until pale and smooth.
- Measuring the cupcake batter: I use a ¼ cup measurement to scoop the batter. This will fill a standard paper case half full (take care as sizes differ).
Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1 Cupcake with Frosting
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 500Total Fat: 27.6gSaturated Fat: 11.7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5.6gCholesterol: 75.6mgSodium: 330.3mgCarbohydrates: 60.5gFiber: 0.4gSugar: 50gProtein: 3.4g