Friday, June 13, 2008

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

I’m not feeling so good today (I’m convinced I caught something while riding the nasty Greyhound bus earlier this week), so I’m going to keep this short.

I’ve tried lots of different vanilla cupcake recipes, including the three that most people consider to be the best: Martha Stewart, Amy Sedaris, and Buttercup Bakeshop. However, I’ve never been fully satisfied with them, mostly because the texture wasn’t right (a little too dry and coarse-crumbed for my taste).

Armed with scientific knowledge (here’s where my many years of being a molecular biologist helps!) and my love for cake, I created my own recipe for vanilla cupcakes, and you know what, I think they’re damn near perfect. They’re soft, moist but not chewy, light but not feathery, and the turbinado sugar adds a depth of flavor that really accentuates but in no way detracts from the vanilla. They’re so good that they don’t need any frosting; in fact, I think it’s a shame to cover them up with frosting, because they're just that good.


Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes
(makes 9 regular or 27 mini)

¾ cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup turbinado sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
½ cup milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla (I use Nielsen-Massey)


Heat an oven to 350 F. Line the wells of muffin pan with papers and set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set it aside.

Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg, and mix well until combined.

Add half of the flour mixture, the milk and vanilla, and the remaining flour mixture, mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition.

Evenly distribute the batter among the lined cups and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs attached and the edges are pale golden, about 17 minutes for regular sized cupcakes and 12 for minis.


M^2 said...

Absolutely delicious

alliemaddyn said...

I'm not sure I've ever come across turbinado sugar. How is it different from other kinds of sugar, and where should I look for it?

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

I'm always curious to try a new vanilla cupcake recipe. What is turbinado sugar??

:o) said...

In my grocery store, turbinado sugar is in the Mexican food isle.

Delicious said...

I'm curious, where does the scientific knowledge come in? I can't tell, myself, but that's not surprising.

"Nasty Greyhound bus" is redundant, btw.

malini said...

Yum yum. This looks delicious. This will be the very first thing I would like you to make, you know when!

roopa said...

Turbinado sugar is commonly referred to as "raw sugar" - it is less refined than granulated sugar so it still contains some molasses content, giving it a pale brown color and slightly caramel-like flavor, and it has the consistency of sanding sugar (large crystals). It is different from brown sugar in that brown sugar is refined granulated sugar that has molasses added back in, so it has a finer texture, a higher moisture content and a stronger molasses flavor than turbinado (light brown has 3.5% molasses added and dark brown has 6.5% molasses added).

Delicious - the scientific knowledge is everywhere, from determining proportions of liquid to dry ingredients to which types of sugar to use to which types and how much of each leavening agent to use.

Celeste said...

Hey girl, I was absolutley blown away by this recipe, and included it on my blog, I really hope that's cool. I gave you props & all that. It's here at
Genius is what those are, amazing texture & very simple recipe. Thanks for sharing

Haley said...

We would like to feature this recipe on our blog. Please email if interested. Thanks :)


CindyC said...

just curious
what does 1 cup mean?
which measurement of cup would this be.
i'm used to seeing measurements in Grams.
would like to try this recipe of yers.

Lauren said...

Oh my GOD, I found this blog the other day and tried this recipe tonight. I tried one as it was cooling and ended up eating three in one sitting. These are INCREDIBLE. Absolutely the world's most perfect vanilla cupcake. Thank you thank you thank you thank you!

roopa said...

Celeste, Lauren -

Thank you! I'm glad you had success with them and love them as much as I do. :)

Jessy. said...

These really are the PERFECT vanilla cupcaes! Thank you SO much for posting this recipe. I did a vanilla cupcake bake off at and you won HANDS DOWN! Even the batter for these is amazing.

Jenna said...

I'm curious to know if these have the "perfect dome" shape that cupcake eaters love to see. I will be trying them soon-ish, but I'd love to know before I make them so I can plan accordingly on how to use them.

roopa said...

Jenna - the cupcakes come out as shown in the photo, they have a flat top. I dislike domed cupcakes, as it makes it difficult to pipe on frosting. If you want a dome shape, I recommend piping the frosting onto the cupcake in a swirl. I suppose a dome works if you want to just spread the frosting on, but I think piped cupcakes are just so much prettier. :)

Anonymous said...

can you double this recipe? also can I use cake flour instead of AP?

roopa said...

anonymous - You can certainly double the recipe, I've even tripled it and it's come out just fine. This cupcake has a pretty delicate crumb so I wouldn't use all cake flour but I think half would work out fine.

Anonymous said...

thanks (about the double question). i made a single batch and LOVED them. will be making these again with some cooked flour frosting. thanks for a great recipe!!!! i love vanilla cupcakes and this was such an easy and good version of it!

Anonymous said...

can you freeze these without the frosting? thx, Mary

Anonymous said...

These were bland.
maybe I just didn't use nice enough vanilla, but "perfect vanilla cupcakes" is stretching

roopa said...

Mary - you can most certainly freeze these cupcakes, then defrost them in the fridge for a day and proceed as you normally would. I've done it in the past and no one was the wiser.

Anonymous - sorry you thought they were bland. The quality of vanilla you use makes all the difference. The McCormick stuff just won't cut it - make sure to use really high-quality extract (such as Nielsen-Massey) and enough of it.

I think these cupcakes are perfect because of their texture - as I had mentioned, I have tried out many many vanilla cupcake recipes and was not satisfied with the texture, and these seemed just right to me.

JohnB04 said...

I've been searching for the perfect vanilla cupcake and can't wait to try these! You mentioned that they have a "pretty delicate crumb," so I'm wondering if they would stand up to being filled? Thanks!

roopa said...

John - they would definitely be able to handle it. They're not delicate like a white cake, but they are definitely softer and more pillowy than the vanilla cupcakes from many other bakeries (which are often chewy!).

Alexis said...

I just finished up a batch, and they looked so good I couldn't wait for them to cool before I tried one! Thanks so much for posting such a great recipe.

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