These Vanilla Cupcakes are a classic you will love! With delicious vanilla flavor and a gloriously tender crumb, the only thing that makes it better is the Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting on top!
A cupcake classic you’ll love!
Despite the influx of new and unusual cupcake flavors, I can’t help but still yearn for the classic Vanilla Cupcakes. I love trying all sorts of things, but I always seem to circle back to classic flavors eventually. In some ways I suppose it’s sort of like a palate cleanser, but I find there’s also comfort in knowing you can rely on the classics to satisfy your cravings any day.
The recipe for these Vanilla Cupcakes has become one of my favorites. It’s a delicious cupcake that produces a surprisingly tender and bouncy crumb. By that I mean it’s fluffy, but not in the regular airy way– it’s more like the dense kind of fluffy where running your fork through the crumb doesn’t make the cake shrink in on itself. Instead it… fluffs back up. Gosh I don’t even know how to explain this. I guess it’s easier to see through the video.
The other thing I love about these cupcakes is how it has great flavor even if you don’t use vanilla beans. While that would be best, not everyone will readily have some on hand. (It can also be expensive.) At the time I filmed the video above, I only had vanilla extract– no beans, no vanilla seeds paste either– and ended up using 4 entire teaspoons of the stuff. It’s unsurprising the vanilla flavor really shined in the cupcakes.
However I will not deny that these will taste and smell even more nuanced and amazing with vanilla beans or vanilla seed paste, so I will recommend my favorite vanilla product: Sonlie Vanilla Seeds Paste. I now use this for all of my vanilla-flavored bakes. It’s super potent and a little goes a long way so I don’t much mind the higher price tag because you get your money’s worth. My pantry is now never without it, and funnily enough I get antsy when my jar is about to run out lol. (I only use it for vanilla-dominant applications, mind you.)
For this recipe, I used my stand mixer because it requires a lot of mixing. It’s interesting how this recipe actually asks you to keep mixing after adding all the dry ingredients, as opposed to majority of cake recipes which tells you to mix “just until incorporated” to avoid too much gluten formation. In most cases, over-mixing guarantees tough cakes, but not here! You actually want your batter to be very well mixed and to look silky and smooth. In fact, after adding in the last batch of dry ingredients, you want to give the batter an extra 90-seconds of mixing to aerate it. I suppose we have the egg whites and milk to thank for maintaining the gorgeous cupcake crumb.
I was able to fill 18 cupcake liners with the amount of batter this recipe yielded. Using a large scoop that can hold about 3 tablespoons, I filled each cupcake well a good 3/4 of the way full and was rewarded with nice rounded tops.
The thing you have to watch out for here is actually the baking time. No matter what happens, do not over-bake these babies or they will dry out! Not only that, the bottoms might brown too much, taking away from the delicate flavor and texture of the Vanilla Cupcakes. My magic baking time is 18 minutes, but yours could vary depending on your oven. Watch the cupcakes and start checking at the 18-minute mark.
A berry special frosting
Now I know I’m talking about classic Vanilla Cupcakes here, but I did make a concession toward changing it up just a bit. Instead of using a regular vanilla frosting, I made a strawberry one. I always use cream cheese-based frostings these days because they taste better than regular buttercream (and use less sugar too), but rather than just add vanilla again, I decided to use freeze-dried strawberry.
I found these on Shopee. Normally, freeze-dried strawberries are expensive in these parts, but I was lucky I came across these as they were inexpensive but pretty legit. They don’t keep well though so use immediately after buying! I used the diced ones for the frosting, and I had to pound them to separate them as they had started to stick together due to moisture.
When you initially add them in they will just sit on the cream cheese, but keep beating for 3 to 5 minutes, and soon you will see them tinge the frosting pink. This means the freeze-dried strawberries have released their scent and their flavor, and if you give your frosting a taste… Well, let’s just say it will be a challenge not to take a spoon to this!
You might ask, can I use freeze-dried strawberry powder? Short answer is yes, but I recommend the diced ones so that you’ll have these softened bits of strawberry surprise as you eat these cupcakes! Trust me, it’s a great experience. (And no they will not get stuck in your piping tip. Don’t worry!) The garnish is totally optional, by the way.
Some final recipe notes
- Use vanilla beans or vanilla seeds paste for best flavor. Since this is a vanilla cupcake, its flavor hinges entirely on the vanilla you use. I have nothing against extract or essence, and in fact it will work well with this recipe, but for optimal results use the good stuff! I realize beans can be expensive so instead I recommend the very potent Sonlie Vanilla Seeds Paste. (I only wish this was sponsored lol.) I am a true fan of this product so this is an unsolicited endorsement. A small jar is on the pricey side, but it’s so worth it because a little goes a long way. I always have this in my pantry now.
- Make sure to mix the batter until it’s smooth and silky. For this recipe, I actually used my stand mixer because it requires a lot of mixing. While majority of cake recipes tells you to mix “just until incorporated” to avoid too much gluten formation, this one asks you to mix until it’s super duper well-combined. After adding in the last batch of dry ingredients, give the batter an extra 90-seconds of mixing to aerate it. In most cases, over-mixing guarantees tough cakes, but not here! Thanks to the egg whites and the milk, the cake remains tender. After mixing with the machine, you want to give the batter a few more turns with your spatula. Run your spatula along the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure nothing is stuck there and everything is incorporated into the batter.
- Be generous when filling the cupcake liners. Using a large scoop that can hold about 3 tablespoons, divide the batter among the 18 liners, filling each a good 3/4 of the way full. You will be rewarded with a nice rounded top.
- Do not over-bake! Over-baking will dry out the crumb. Not only that, the bottoms might brown too much, taking away from the delicate flavor and texture of the Vanilla Cupcakes. My magic baking time is 18 minutes, but yours could vary depending on your oven. Watch the cupcakes and start checking at the 18-minute mark.
- You can use freeze-dried strawberry powder for the frosting, but I recommend the diced version if you can get your hands on them. The strawberry morsels soften in the frosting and turn into these chewy bits of yummy strawberry surprise!
Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
For the Vanilla Cupcakes
- 2¼ cups (270 grams) cake flour*
- 1 Tablespoon (12 grams) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (2.5 grams) sea salt
- 1¼ cups (300 mL) whole milk, room temperature
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1½ cups (285 grams) sugar
- Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean, or substitute with 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1½ teaspoons vanilla seeds paste
- 2 teaspoons (10 grams) pure vanilla extract
For the Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
- ¼ cup (56.5 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 bar (227 grams) full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (20 grams) freeze-dried strawberries, plus more for garnish if desired
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (113 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted if clumpy
For the cupcakes
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Line 18 cavities out of two cupcake pans with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a measuring jug, whisk together the milk and egg whites.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds (if using) at medium speed until the mixture is creamy and very light. Beat in the vanilla extract. (You can add in all the vanilla extract at this stage if you're not using any beans.)
- Stop the machine a moment to scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add in 1/3 of the flour mixture. Slowly bring the speed up to medium so flour doesn't fly everywhere. Beat until most of the flour is incorporated.
- With mixer on low, slowly drizzle in half of the milk-egg mixture and mix just until incorporated. Once again, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Add in half of the remaining dry ingredients. Slowly bring up to medium speed once again and mix until incorporated. Drizzle in the remaining milk-egg mixture, beating until the batter is smooth. Finally, add in the last of the dry ingredients and mix until well combined.
- At this stage, give the batter an extra 90-seconds of mixing to aerate it. Detach bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to mix the batter a few times more, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as you go to ensure no unmixed ingredients remain.
- Using a large scoop that can hold about 3 tablespoons, divide the batter among the 18 liners, filling each a good 3/4 of the way full.
- Bake cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Make sure not to over-bake so the bottoms do not brown too much. Cool briefly in pan and remove to wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting
- In a large bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. It should look like a smooth and fluffy homogenous mixture once you're done. This will take about 3 minutes.
- You can either grind your freeze-dried strawberry into powder (yields about 2½ tablespoons) or chop them into bits. Either way, mix it in at this stage with the salt until fully combined and the frosting changes into a pink color. For chopped freeze-dried strawberries, it will take a few minutes of mixing before the frosting is tinted pink.
- Mix in powdered sugar until the frosting is completely smooth. This frosting can hold its shape even without a lot of sugar added in. You can taste and adjust the sugar to your liking.
- Transfer the frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto the tops of your cooled cupcakes as desired. This recipe is just enough to pipe a single layer of frosting onto the cupcakes, which is what I recommend so that the vanilla cake base does not get overpowered. If you like piling on the frosting, you can double the recipe.
- Top piped cupcakes with whole or sliced freeze-dried strawberries, if desired. Enjoy!
- Cupcakes will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Make sure to take them out at least 30 minutes before eating to let them come to room temperature. (Or eat them cold I guess. They'll taste great either way.)
Watch how it's made
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