Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream


As we tentatively tip toe into a new ’normal’, we thought it would be a good time to put the spotlight on the classic vanilla cupcake. After a meteoric rise in popularity after Carrie Bradshaw took a bite of a Magnolia Bakery cupcake in Sex in the City, the image of the cupcake has been a little ho hum in recent time. While macarons & doughnuts may be the sweet treats du jour, a batch of cupcakes is a simple way to bring a bit of celebratory razzmatazz in a cute little individual serving. While it may be some time before we gather to blow candles out on a shared birthday cake, it doesn’t mean the party is over. Birthdays need to be celebrated, now more than ever. Sooooo schedule a zoom meeting, drop off cupcakes to all who are invited and, ta daa, you’ve got a lockdown party going on. Singular as they are, cupcakes are perfect for sharing while physically apart.

But they have to taste good! That’s where we come in. We’ve tested, tested and tested some more to come up with a recipe that supersedes the often dry and overly sweet renditions of days gone by. The addition of sour cream guarantees these cupcakes will retain their just baked tenderness for a couple of days after baking - super handy if you want to make ahead. We’ve pumped up the volume of the vanilla, real vanilla. The generous use of vanilla in the batter, then doubling down on the vanilla in the icing, adds a dreamy nostalgic flavour to uplift and counteract one dimensional sweetness.

It goes without saying that they have to look good. Also where we come in. Nothing makes little eyes light up like sprinkles. Here we’ve gone for Ballet Slipper. Seemed fitting as our kids long to return to dance (or any kind of) class, and we yearn for a world where performing artists are back on stage working their magic.

It’s showtime folks.  



Makes 12 regular cupcakes


    175g standard flour
    ½  teaspoon baking powder
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
     ½ teaspoon salt
    225g caster sugar
    60g butter softened and cut into cubes
    2 large eggs
    75g sour cream (at room temp)
    40ml unflavoured vegetable oil
    1 tablespoon vanilla essence (if you're feeling fancy by all means use ½ vanilla bean paste) 
    160ml milk (at room temp)

    You'll also need:

      12 regular sized cupcake cases


        Preheat oven to 175ºC. Line a cupcake tin with 12 regular sized cupcake cases.

        Into the bowl of a medium sized mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift the flour baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the caster sugar. Turn the mixer on to a low speed and gradually add the butter until combined and the mixture has a fine crumb texture. Alternatively you can use a hand held electric mixer.

        In a small mixing bowl whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil and vanilla essence until smooth. Add the egg mixture to the batter and mix on a medium speed until just combined.

        Slowly add the milk to the bowl and mix on a low speed until well combined. Being careful not to over mix. The batter will be very liquid.

        Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake cases. The cases should be about 2/3 full. Tip: Placing the batter into a jug and using this to pour the mixture into the cases makes this process easier

        Place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the cupcakes are a light golden brown colour and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean, between 15-19 minutes. When cooked, take out of the oven, remove the cupcakes from the tin and leave on a cooling rack to cool completely.


        This shizz is the biz. This makes a generous amount, enough to pipe swirls as high as the cupcakes we’ve pictured. If you would prefer a single layer swirl (still very cute) you can halve this recipe. Now here are our little secrets that will ensure you achieve the best buttercream you’ve ever wrapt your lips around.

        • Start with the butter still slightly chilled. The result is stable buttercream. Good because warm buttercream = sloppy piping. We want to look sharp here people.
        • When it comes to the icing sugar, sift and sift again, we want light and feathery for a smoother than smooth texture.
        • The addition of cream brings a, well, creamy texture that makes for a luscious buttercream rather a cloyingly sweet buttercream.  
        • We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Real vanilla essence. Don’t forget to taste your icing to ensure the depth of flavour is to your liking.  
        • A final hand mix. Once the mixer has whipped everything together with machine like efficiency it will be beautifully combined but it will also have tiny air pockets. To get these out, use a rubber spatula to push the icing against the side of the bowl. Work though the icing a portion at a time.


          225g butter, firm not too soft (we take it out off the fridge about an hour before using)
            375g icing sugar (well sifted)
              pinch of salt
                1-2 tablespoons cream
                  2 teaspoons natural vanilla essence (or to taste)
                    A couple of drops of food colouring (optional)


                      In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter until pale, at least 2 minutes.

                      Turn the mixer down to the lowest speed and slowly add the icing sugar and salt. (easy does it otherwise you will end up with a poof of icing sugar in your face)

                      When it has incorporated add the cream and vanilla then slowly increase the speed. Beat on high for 5-7 minutes until the mixture becomes light in colour. Check the flavour, if you feel like it could use more vanilla put a bit more in. If using colour now is the time to add it and give it a further mix. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is evenly combined.

                      Finally, and this needs to happen just before you pipe the buttercream, mix the buttercream with a hand held spatula to smooth out the tiny air pockets that have been whipped in.


                      An optional way to decorate your cupcakes if you'd like to pipe swirls.

                      You'll need: 

                      • A piping bag fitted with a star shaped nozzle. We’ve used the standard Wilton 1M piping tip

                      • Approximately ½ a packet of your choice of Sweet Palette Sprinkles 

                      Place the cooled cupcakes on a large baking tray with a shallow rim. For a towering swirl, as per our picture, place the icing in a piping bag fitted with the nozzle.

                      Hold the piping bag vertically above the centre of your cupcake. Squeeze the bag until the icing comes out. In a circular motion move the icing towards the outside of the cupcake. While still applying pressure, pipe the swirls in decreasing circles back into the centre of the cupcake. When you reach the middle release pressure on the bag, lightly push the nozzle into the icing (a couple of millimeters), then lift off to create a peak.

                      When all the cupcakes have been iced it’s sprinkle time! Take a pinch of sprinkles in your hand sprinkle over the top of each cupcake. Scoop up any sprinkles left on the tray and save for another time.

                      Finally give the finished cupcakes at least a couple of hours to chill in the fridge. This helps if you’re going to distribute them as it firms them up and makes them less messy to move around.

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