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A moist and tender basic vanilla cupcake made extra flavorful with vanilla bean infused cream. Topped off with vanilla bean buttercream, these cupcakes are vanilla heaven!
It does not get more classic than a vanilla bean cupcake.
Pure, unadulterated vanilla flavor, with a creamy vanilla bean buttercream to match… It’s just heavenly, and you’re going to love every little crumb of these cupcakes!
This recipe comes to you (originally in 2015!) from a day I completely immersed myself in writing my cookbook.
On Good Friday, I had the day off of work, but I was up at 4:30am making all kinds of puppy chows, preparing to photograph all of them in the later afternoon sunshine.
At 8am, Matt emerged from the bedroom and couldn’t believe his eyes (or his nose) when I had the kitchen completely torn apart, cereal and powdered sugar everywhere, chocolate on every pan and spatula I own…
It was a mess.
He convinced me to take a break and go to the gym with him.
I’m so glad I did, because it gave me some time to devise a plan of attack for my photoshoots and also figure out how I was going to clean up my puppy chow-ed kitchen and whip up some cupcakes for a birthday celebration later that night.
My BIL’s girlfriend (now wife!) turned 21 on that Good Friday, and she invited us out to dinner with her family, so I offered to make some cupcakes. When I asked her what flavor she would like, she requested vanilla bean.
Her exact words: “I’m so vanilla for loving vanilla.” No, no, you are not. Not one bit!
Since that original publish in 2015, these cupcakes have graced many a kitchen, with mostly positive reviews.
The negative ones, however, truly warranted revisiting this beloved vanilla cupcake recipe, just as my beloved funfetti cupcakes did a few months ago.
The amazing thing about having been blogging for over six years is that I have grown immensely as a baker.
I know better now what works best for specific flavors and textures, and revisiting lots of tried-and-true recipes that I’ve published and then baked again for my own enjoyment is something on my never-ending “to do” list.
The original vanilla bean cupcake recipe from many years ago still stands true, but with updated and more specific instructions, and of course, a little glow-up with fresh photos.
Not only that, but since 2015, vanilla crops have taken a giant hit due to tropical storms and other natural disasters.
Vanilla beans can sometimes be hard to come by, and super expensive if you find them, so I’ve updated the recipe to include the use of vanilla paste as an alternative.
Whether you use vanilla beans or vanilla paste, you’re guaranteed to have the best vanilla bean cupcake recipe I can offer you, because believe me, this recipe has been baked and tweaked and baked again many times over its existence.
There is something so amazing about straight up vanilla. You can only get so much vanilla flavor from extract (even homemade), and using fresh vanilla beans (or vanilla paste) is so worth the effort to get those beans out of the pod.
If you go the pod route, you’ll need two beans for each batch of this recipe: one for the cupcakes and one for the frosting.
If you’re using paste: one teaspoon in each the cupcake batter and the vanilla bean frosting give the same rich vanilla flavor and the iconic black specs of the seeds.
You can buy vanilla beans and vanilla paste at most grocery stores (in the baking aisle with the spices). If you think you’ll use a lot of beans, the best bang for your buck is in bulk!
These cupcakes are essentially the same batter as my mini cookies & cream cupcakes, just with a few tweaks.
In that recipe, I say you can use any milk (I actually used almond), but in these very vanilla cupcakes, it is absolutely imperative you use a full or high fat dairy.
Cream or whole milk– either of these will work.
You’re going to use this cream/milk + one whole vanilla bean or one teaspoon of vanilla paste to make vanilla infused cream/milk.
Split your vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seeds with the knife, and throw everything (including the pod) into a small saucepan with your cream.
If you’re using paste, just put it right into the liquid.
You’ll heat this just until it starts steaming, remove it from heat, and allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
During this time, the cream/milk will take on this incredible flavor and aroma, prepping to get vanilla flavor all up in your cupcake batter. You will add a little bit of vanilla extract as well, but this vanilla infused cream/milk is the bread and butter of the flavor.
After 30 minutes, fish out the pods with a fork or tongs, and your cream/milk is ready to go. If you used vanilla paste, no need to do anything. Your cream/milk is ready to go.
You’ll need one more vanilla bean or teaspoon of vanilla paste for your buttercream, which is the same vanilla buttercream I use in this chocolate cake and in these cookies & cream cupcakes, just with more straight up vanilla.
Again, slice the pod in half, scrape the beans right into your buttercream, and discard the pod.
Use a piping bag without a tip, fitted with a 1M tip, or simply a large zip top bag with the end snipped off to make a very vanilla buttercream swirl right on top of your decadent cupcake.
You’re going to love these moist and tender cupcakes that are absolutely jam-packed with vanilla flavor.
The creamy vanilla bean buttercream cloud that sits on top is the perfect counterpart, and I’m sure you’re going to agree… There’s nothing “vanilla” about these vanilla bean cupcakes!
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
- ¾ cup (180g) whole milk or cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1 and ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (113g) unsalted butter melted and allowed to cool
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg room temperature1
- ¼ cup (61g) full fat yogurt or sour cream room temperature1,2
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 4 to 5 cups (480-600g) powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ to ⅓ cup (60-80g) milk or cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan. If using a vanilla bean: using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half, scrape out the seeds, and put everything into the saucepan with your cream. If using vanilla paste, simply pour into the cream and stir to combine.
- Heat the cream over low heat until it just starts to steam. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes, remove the pods with a fork or tongs. Cream is now ready to use. If you used vanilla paste, it is ready to use after the 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line the wells of a 12-count cupcake pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, sugar, egg, yogurt, infused cream, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until no flour pockets remain. Gently push out large lumps by scraping them against the side of the bowl with your spatula. Small lumps are ok.
- Fill the cupcake liners ⅔ to ¾ of the way full with batter. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before decorating.
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer, or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk or cream. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth, about 3 minutes. If frosting is too stiff, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Add salt to taste.
- Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag or a large zip top bag with the corner snipped off. Cupcakes will stay fresh covered at room temperature up to 3 days. Store in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
- Room temperature ingredients: these are always a good idea when using room temperature butter as it makes for easier incorporation into the batter. To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, place eggs in a bowl of warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Full fait dairy: it is imperative to use full fat dairy in this recipe for moisture, since we’re using melted butter, therefore removing some natural moisture.