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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!
This is the Best Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
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.
Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients
For the vanilla cupcakes, you will need:
• whole milk or cream
• vanilla bean or vanilla paste
• all-purpose flour
• baking powder
• baking soda
• granulated sugar
• full fat yogurt or sour cream
• vanilla extract
For the vanilla bean buttercream, you will need:
• powdered sugar
• milk or cream
• whole vanilla bean or vanilla paste or vanilla extract
Moist Vanilla Cupcake Recipe Variations
You can change up these vanilla cupcakes by adding any kind of buttercream you wish. In fact, I have a whole cookbook dedicated to buttercream and you can find any of my frosting recipes scattered around my site.
USE VANILLA BEANS OR VANILLA PASTE
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!
How to make Vanilla Cupcakes from Scratch
These cupcakes are essentially the same batter as my mini cookies & cream cupcakes, just with a few tweaks.
MAKE THE VANILLA BEAN INFUSED CREAM
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.
Start by pouring the cream into a small saucepan.
If you are 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 you are 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 the saucepan from heat and allow the mixture 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.
MAKE THE VANILLA CUPCAKE BATTER
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then set this aside.
Next, beat together the melted butter, sugar, egg, yogurt, infused cream, and vanilla extract on medium to high speed until completely smooth.
Reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined.
Then, fold gently by hand with a large spatula and press out any large lumps of flour that remain by scraping them against the side of the bowl. Small lumps are ok, but try to get out all of the larger lumps by gently pressing the batter up on the sides of the bowl.
Lastly, fill the cupcake liners ⅔ to ¾ of the way full with batter and bake for 15-17 minutes. Allow to cool completely before moving on to adding the vanilla bean buttercream.
MAKE THE VANILLA BEAN BUTTERCREAM
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.
First, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Reduce the mixer to low, add in the powdered sugar, vanilla (either the seeds scraped from the pod, paste, or extract), and milk or cream, then increase mixer speed to medium and beat until completely smooth, about 3 minutes.
If the frosting is too stiff, add more milk. If it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. Lastly, addd salt to taste.
You are now ready to decorate your cupcakes.
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.
How to store Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Cupcakes will stay fresh covered at room temperature up to 3 days, or in the refrigerator up to 5 days. Cupcakes are best on day 1 and 2, at which point they will start to lose their moisture.
Moist Vanilla Cupcakes FAQs
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!
Moist Vanilla Cupcakes
- ¾ cup (180mL) whole1 milk or cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 1 and ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour be sure to measure properly
- 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 temperature2
- ¼ cup (61g) full fat1 yogurt or sour cream room temperature2
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 4 to 5 cups (480-600g) powdered sugar
- ¼ to ⅓ cup (60-80mL) milk or cream
- 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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.¾ cup (180mL) whole1 milk or cream, 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- 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.1 and ⅔ cups (200g) all-purpose flour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, ¼ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer3 or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the melted butter, sugar, egg, yogurt, infused cream, and vanilla extract on medium to high speed until completely smooth.½ cup (113g) unsalted butter, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1 large egg, ¼ cup (61g) full fat1 yogurt or sour cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Reduce the mixer speed to low, then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until just combined. Then, fold gently by hand with a large spatula and press out any large lumps of flour that remain by scraping them against the side of the bowl. Small lumps are ok.
- Fill the cupcake liners ⅔ to ¾ of the way full with batter. Bake for 15-17 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.1 cup (226g) unsalted butter
- With the mixer on low, add in the powdered sugar, vanilla (either the seeds scraped from the pod, paste, or extract), 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.4 to 5 cups (480-600g) powdered sugar, ¼ to ⅓ cup (60-80mL) milk or cream, 1 whole vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon salt
- For more buttercream troubleshooting tips, see my book, The Home Baker's Guide to Basic Buttercream.
- 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. Cupcakes freeze well, frosted or unfrosted, up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator.
- Full fat 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.
- 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.
- Mixer: I’ve had repeated success making these cupcakes in a bowl without a mixer, which is my preferred method for this cupcake batter.
All nutritional values are approximate and provided to the reader as a courtesy. Changing ingredients and/or quantities will alter the estimated nutritional calculations.