Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Anyone who visits the blog often enough knows I have kind of a thing for cupcakes.  Of course, one of my favorite things about cupcakes is the frosting, both because it is delicious and because it makes them look so pretty.  This, however, is a case where the cake itself really shines through.  I’ve made this cake recipe a few times now, as a layer cake, a mini bundt cake, and these cupcakes – and let me tell you, this cake is so good that I love it without any frosting at all.  It is light, tender and moist with beautiful little flecks of vanilla bean throughout.  (If only I had had my new macro lens back when I made these to capture them in the photos!)

One great thing about such a lovely vanilla cake recipe is that it would pair beautifully with almost any frosting you can think of.  This time around I just used my usual quick vanilla buttercream but I think these would be amazing with a Swiss meringue buttercream, or any number of flavored frostings.  Also, for those bakers who take pleasure in a particularly thick, smooth batter, you will absolutely love this recipe.  The batter is one of the prettiest I have ever worked with and once you see it, it is no surprise how nicely the cake turns out.  This is surely a recipe I’ll be coming back to time and time again.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
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3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod (or reserve for another use.)  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.)  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Replace paper liners and bake remaining batter if desired.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Yield: approximately 30 cupcakes

Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride, who adapted it from The Well-Decorated Cake

65 Responses

  1. That looks lovely 🙂

  2. I’m a new reader. Love your site. Sorry about your macro lens. What happened? My camera fell over recently as I watched in horror. My macro lens rolled across the floor. Thought my life was over. Fortunately, no permanent damage was done.

    • Romaine, sorry, I guess I wasn’t clear! I received my macro lens for Christmas, so I didn’t have it yet at the time I made these cupcakes. It is safe and sound!

  3. Looks so good – you do such a great job with the frosting!

  4. Looks like it would taste! YUM!

  5. Great job on the cupcakes! They look soo good and i love the color of the icing! 😀

  6. Love the blue icing!

  7. These look great and I am always looking for vanilla bean recipes since I purchased a large bottle of vanilla bean paste recently.

    The frosting is such a pretty color, and it’s simple and beautiful! Add a fancy wrapper and I would even serve these at a shower or wedding!

  8. They are as pretty as a picture! Happy New Year!

  9. Hi Annie,
    I’m curious what size tip do you use when you frost cupcakes like that? I’ve used an 18 but it is much smaller…


  10. I have been on the hunt for a good vanilla cake… I am trying this one this week! Thanks for the wonderful blog!!


  11. I’ll have to try these, since the cake is my favorite part. I have never been partial to frosting.

  12. Where do you buy vanilla bean and what exactly do you do with it?

    • Sara, you can buy vanilla bean at grocery stores in the spice section, though they are incredibly expensive there (sometimes $6 per bean). I prefer to buy them online in bulk for a far better price. If you read the recipe for the cupcakes, it explains what to do with the vanilla beans. I also have recipes for vanilla bean ice cream and the hot chocolate mix in the blog which both use vanilla beans.

  13. it’s so delicate looking!

  14. Hi Annie! I know you’ve answered this question before somewhere on your blog, but I can’t find it. Where do you get your beautiful icing colors from. Was it Wilton? If so, what set/color is this one? Thanks so much and beautiful cupcakes. I just love looking at it. 🙂


    • Hi Abby,
      Yes, I use Wilton gel coloring, though I think any brand would be fine as long as it is the gel kind. I have heard good things about Americolor as well. You can achieve almost any shade with the gels.

  15. That looks great! Me, well I love the frosting too, but I am willing to be swayed by the cake too!

  16. These are definitely on my to-bake-list!

  17. Love the look of these. What did you use for such a great blue in the frosting? I am going to try these for my sons; and my colors are teal and red/white polka dots.

    • Hi Caldwell,
      I used the Wilton gel coloring – I can’t remember if it was the royal blue, sky blue, or a combination. You can achieve just about any shade you want with gel colors! Have fun with the party 🙂

  18. I have a bunch of vanilla beans sitting in my drawer aching to be used! I love how you frost your cakes.

  19. Hi Annie

    I was wondering if I make this recipe into a cake layer, what size cake pans would I use and how long should I bake it.

    • Hi Jackie,
      I believe I increased the amount of batter by 50% and baked in two 9-inch round pans. In hindsight, I don’t think it was necessary to increase the batter at all because I ended up with enough extra to make a mini cake, and the cakes overflowed a bit. I would suggest using the regular amount of batter and starting with a baking time around 30-35 minutes. You’ll just have to keep an eye on it and do the toothpick test to check for doneness. I don’t remember exactly how much time it took.

  20. Hi Annie,

    Can you substitute cake flour w/ AP flour? Would it make a big difference in taste/texture? Thanks!

    • Hi Diana,
      You can Google substitutions of all-purpose for cake flour. You can sub, but if I remember correctly, it is not a 1:1 substitution. Cake flour has less protein and makes for a more tender cake, so I believe you use less AP flour in place of it.

  21. Do you use Tahitian, or Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans?

  22. I feel I am constantly on the look out for the best vanilla cupcake recipe-this one looks like a winner, can’t wait to try it out!

  23. These looks great! I’m going to try this this weekend, but only half recipe for the kiddos. Great blog!

  24. Think I could sub vanilla bean paste for the vanilla bean?

  25. Annie – I made your vanilla buttercream frosting but I think I may have done something wrong…it was WAY too buttery!! I do know I measured correctly, so can you tell me…does the temp of the frosting affect how strong the butter flavor is? I let it get close to room temp to make it easier to pipe from my #18 tip….

    • Hi Amanda,
      Sorry you didn’t have good results. I usually have my butter at about room temp when I make the frosting and I’ve never had a problem. I’ve made this so many times I can’t count and never had a problem with it. I wish I had some advice!

    • Perhaps you aren’t mixing long enough? I’ve made buttercreams in the past and have ended up way too buttery…but I believe it was because I was only mixing until it looked like frosting texture. This time I made sure to beat it for the long 4 minutes, per the instructions, and it turned out excellently. Just keep whipping, I think…

      • Taylor,
        Who is your comment directed at? I love this vanilla buttercream and I didn’t say anything negative about it in the blog post. I make it all the time, always beat it for the recommended amount of time, and it’s always delicious. I was simply saying this cake would be great with any number of frostings.

      • Annie – I am pretty sure Taylor was addressing my question …I made the buttercream from your recipe and it was just way too buttery,…I was sure I did something wrong! LOL I will take her advice and mix longer,…she was right that I mixed until it visually had the frosting texture adn forgot to actually time it….I am also using a hand mixer, as I don’t have a stand mixer yet. Thank you so much for your tip!! I really do appreciate it 🙂

  26. I was wondering if this recipe was ever going to make the website =)

  27. Would you happen to have a substitute for the vanilla bean? Like how much tsp would this need if ever I was to used pure vanilla extract instead?? 😀 thanks!!

  28. […] the other cupcake I wanted to send to H work for monthly birthdays I found this great recipe on Annie’s Eats. I wanted a very deep flavored, vanilla-y cupcake and these looked perfect and baked up sooooo […]

  29. Just have to say, these lovelies are baking right now…and it’s a wonder any of the batter made it into the pans! 🙂 Absolutely gorgeous thick batter, with amazing vanilla flavor. What a great way to use up my last vanilla bean. I ended up using 2 12-cup cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) and one small round cake pan. This just may become my go-to cake recipe. I am going to be making homemade chocolate frosting for these, but I think you are right that the cake will be scrumptious all by itself! Can’t wait till they come out of the oven…Thank you for posting this recipe (just in time for my birthday, too, hee hee!). 🙂

  30. I just stopped by to tell you that I made this recipe today…except made it as a layer cake. I frosted it with the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate frosting. It turned out awesome!!!!! Thank you for sharing all of your delicious recipes…I LOVE coming here and seeing what new things you’re creating! You rock!!!

  31. […] adapted from The Well Decorated Cake via Annie’s Eats and Confections of a Foodie […]

  32. I made these today and they were AWESOME! I made them with your vanilla buttercream frosting and decorated them for Valentine’s Day. They tasted amazing and got rave reviews from everyone! I got 28 cupcakes from the batter. Thank you for giving me a go-to cupcake recipe!

  33. I baked this as a cake last night. It was BEYOND good. I think it was the best cake EYE’VE ever made, which really isn’t saying much, but it’s still saying something.

  34. Do you use self-rising cake flour or regular cake flour? It’s not specified and usually authors will state whether or not to use either flours so I’m going to assume the former in this recipe but any clarification would be very useful!

  35. To make mini cupcakes, how long would you cook them? Same temperature?

    • Lindsey, I’d probably start at about 8 minutes for mini cupcakes. The time can vary a lot though and I haven’t tried with this batter, so just keep a close eye on them. You always bake at the indicated temp no matter the size/shape of the cake.

  36. Hi Annie,

    Just stopping by to say a huge thank you for posting your Vanilla Bean cupcake recipe.

    I bake a lot and had a fav vanilla cake recipe. That was until I read your blog! I couldn’t help myself after i read your description of them.

    I have to tell you they are amazing I have never baked a cake so moist, light a fluffy! I now have a new favourite for sure.

    I have eaten three lavished with Swiss meringue buttercream!!! oops just couldn’t resist!

    So thank you once again, keep up the good work!

    P.S I used s/r cake flour not sure if that was right but they were perfect!

  37. I have to say I just made these cupcakes and they were amazing! I’ve become quite the fan of your website and have decided to make my way down the cupcakes you have posted! I started a cupcake of the week club and these have been the favorite thus far! I don’t think I”ll ever return to a box cake mix again after making these. Thanks for sharing!


  38. My friend Tara introduced me to your blog. We are great friends and we love to try out new recipes on each other, I must admit she makes more!! Your blog is awesome!! I will be making plenty of cuppycakes! ❤

  39. I made these awhile back and just wanted to say they were delicious! The first cake from scratch that has turned out moist and fluffy! I frosted with a lemon/lime buttercream, which added a fabulous balance to the sweetness of the vanilla cupcakes.

  40. Hi Annie! I found your website about two weeks ago and I’ve made 2 of your cupcake recipes already for parties (and the chicken caesar sandwich). Today I made the vanilla bean cupcakes for my son’s baseball team party. I loved the buttercream frosting! Super easy and so so good! Thank you!

  41. Hey Annie! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe! It’s FANTASTIC and RIDONKULOUSLY GOOD!! I love everything vanilla and used a vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream to pair with the delicious cupcake. I bought my vanilla beans online, put my used pods in some sugar, and voila! Vanilla Sugar!

  42. This is the best vanilla recipe that I have found:))) They were so moist and almost creamy!!

  43. omg i luv this website!!

  44. Holy hell!! These are AMAZING!!! I was going to give some away, but I don’t know if that is going to be possible after having one!

    Quick Question: Can you freeze cupcakes? Not for long, but like a week?

  45. Normally I don’t follow up on blogs where I find recipes at, but oh my gosh this one demanded a follow up! These were wonderful!!!!!!!!!! The batter was a total dream to work with, and they came out soo fluffy and tasty and light! I used vanilla bean paste and it was perfect. Thanks for the awesome recipe, I’ve been on a mad obsessive search for a go-to vanilla cupcake recipe and you’ve given me the perfect one!

  46. I’m going to join the chorus of praise for these cakes. OMIGOD. I also used vanilla bean paste, and they are just. . .perfect. My dog agrees. He snatched six of them while I was letting them cool. I found one buried in my bed. But I can’t say that I blame him.

    Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I look forward to many years of making and sharing these little bits of heaven.

  47. I made these cupcakes last weekend for my daughter’s 8th Birthday Party.
    They were AMAZING!!

  48. OMG!!! Made these cupcakes last night and they are sooooooooooooo good!!!! Best Vanilla Cupcake recipe by far…. Thanks Annie

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