I love cupcakes. I love baking them. I love eating them. I love how pretty they are. This summer, I enjoyed pretending I had my own little bakery. For one day a week for four weeks, I turned my kitchen into a cupcake shop and baked for neighbors and friends at the pool. It was so.much.fun. If the world wasn’t already overwhelmed with delicious cupcake shops, I could see myself really enjoying leaving my job to open a bakery. On days when my introversion simply can’t imagine interacting with any more people and diving into their lives, I dream of updating the “Bakery Order” on this site to mindlessly bake away. But alas, cupcakes are much less needed than Jesus, so I will keep my day (and night) job and trust the Lord for capacity to love people well.
I thought I would start with vanilla cupcakes because 1) they’re my favorite, and 2) they’re so versatile and a base for other varieties with fillings and flavors (like Strawberry Passionfruit… another favorite).
Rowan always wants “Gumball Cupcakes” for his birthday, so I’ll add sprinkles to the batter and then top the frosting with a gumball. Add a bit of soft pink to the frosting and pretty white sprinkles for a baby shower. We made them explode for the 4th of July by putting red, white and blue sprinkles in the cake batter and red and blue PopRocks on top of the frosting. Those were SO fun to eat. Surely you’ve seen the piñata cupcakes on Pinterest? Use this little cupcake corer (one of my must-have cupcake tools for making fillings a snap) to hollow out a bit of the center, pour a teaspoon or so of sprinkles in, and replace the bit of cupcake from the corer. Then frost. We did this for school, and the kids were delighted when they took a bite and sprinkles poured out.
So here are my best tips for baking pretty and delicious cupcakes:
- You truly must get a beater blade for your Kitchen Aid mixer (if you click that link for the beater blade, make sure you select the correct size for your mixer). Yes, you can scrape the sides with a rubber scraper, but the beater blade does this and mixes everything together well. It makes your butter and sugar light and fluffy, which makes your cupcake light and airy.
- I cream my butter and sugar for a good while… at least 3-5 minutes. And after that, everything is a quick mix until incorporated, with a 30-second mix on low-medium speed at the end.
- Alternate your wet and dry ingredients. My recipes will include this, so just follow along.
- If you don’t feel like sifting your flour, no judgement here. Just take a whisk and whisk your dry ingredients together. Sometimes I sift, sometimes I whisk…
- Cupcake liners. I love these and will scoop them up when they’re on sale. They’re so pretty. However, for mass baking, I have been using these tulip liners. Sometimes I’ll get these for some color – like for the 4th of July or white for the baby shower. What I like most about the tulip liners is that there’s no chance of filling the cup too much and getting a muffin top look. That would not be pretty. They also add height and protect the frosting if you need to transport the cupcakes. And they look pretty fancy.
- Invest in a cupcake scoop. Most recipes will say to fill 2/3 full or some fraction, and you can surely estimate. But if you want to take the guesswork out and make sure you have uniform cupcakes, use the scoop. I just got one this year and am wondering what took me so long.
- Finally, the frosting… I love Georgetown Cupcake and Joanna Gaines’ Silos Baking Co. frosting styles. So I use this 18-inch bag and Wilton tip 1A and this large coupler. I recommend watching this video with Georgetown Cupcake about how to frost and get that beautiful swirl.
Now bake, enjoy, and feel free to comment about what other cupcake recipes you want to see here!
For the cake
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
For the frosting
- 20 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (optional)
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Make the cupcakes
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy 3-5 minutes. (Don't forget to use that beater blade!) Add the egg and egg white, one at a time, beating well on low speed after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour), beating on low speed until just combined; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed (not needed with the beater blade 😉 ). Beat on medium-high speed just until no traces of flour remain, about 30 seconds; do not overbeat.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about three-fourths full or an even scoop. Bake until lightly golden and springy to the touch, 18-20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack and let cool completely before frosting, about 1 hour.
Make the frosting
Place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beater blade attachment (whisk attachment if you haven't heeded my advice for buying the beater blade yet). Whip on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar to the bowl and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod (if using) into the bowl and add in the salt. Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in the heavy cream and vanilla on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4-5 minutes.
Frost the cupcakes with the buttercream. Garnish the cupcakes with sprinkles or berries or gumballs, or whatever your heart desires.
The frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before eating.
Source: Cake from "Cupcakes" cookbook by Shelly Kaldunski, Vanilla Buttercream from America's Test Kitchen