Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes (Cupcake Project)

Another year has passed... Joyce from Kitchen Flavours, Lena from Frozen wings and I have been baking-along for two years!

Happy 2nd Birthday to our Bake-Along!

We bake-along about twice a month. One is from a chosen recipe and the other one is based on a theme. At the beginning, it was just the three of us that baked along. Soon after we started blog hopping, we have multiple entries now and knew lots of friends through our bake-alongs.

For our second Bake-Along anniversary, we are baking celebration cupcakes. Although cupcakes seems common and easy to bake, there seems too many recipes to choose and I don't really know which is the best one to bake. And I google the word, "best vanilla cupcake" and this is what I found.

This ultimate vanilla cupcake recipe by the Cupcake is the first hit that I found with my Google inquiry. Stef, the author of Cupcake has a team of 50 test bakers who are
known as the Vanilla Cupcake Recipe Cupcake Project Explorers. They had baked and helped Stef to seek for the most perfect vanilla cupcake recipe and finally concluded that this recipe is the one that has the most positive feedback.

There is no way that 50 test bakers can be wrong! - Knowing these makes me feel silly if I don't give this recipe a try... 

Instead of creaming butter and sugar first for the typical cake mixing methods, this recipe adopts an alternative "Reverse Creaming" method (which is also mentioned in this cake recipe by America's Test Kitchen). All the dry ingredients are first well mixed with butter and all are mixed together with the combined wet ingredients. Accordingly to what I have gathered from the reviews of this method, the most critical thing to know is that all the ingredients have to be at room temperature so that I won't have to worry for any curdly looking stuff. 

Besides seeking for an ultimate cupcake recipe, I'm also seeking for a buttercream recipe which is moderately creamy and contains no eggs and least amount of added fat. As I was looking online for reduced fat version of vanilla buttercream, I found these two reasonable good recipes from Taste of Home at here and here using milk and more icing sugar to substitute the missing butter. 

With both interesting cupcake and frosting recipes to try, I'm excited baking these cupcakes. Is this going to my best and ultimate vanilla cupcakes? Let's see...

ultimate best vanilla cupcakes
Happy 2nd Bake-Along anniversary... with ultimate vanilla cupcakes?
Making the batter using the reverse-creaming method
These cooked cupcakes look pale and not golden brown at all.
Making my fat-reduced vanilla frosting
Half amount of frosting recipe can only frost THREE cupcakes!!!
Two are smiley and one hold the candle - Happy Birthday Bake-along!
ultimate best vanilla cupcakes
Ultimate vanilla cupcakes? Now take a closer look...

Zoe's "Seriously serious" Cupcake Assessments:

Cupcake recipe - Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake from Cupcake

Method: 10/10. Easy with no curdling stuff to worry if everything used is in room temperature
Texture: 10/10. Light and moist! Smooth and slightly buttery! Excellent!
Taste: 8/10. It has a slight egg-y smell at initial inspection but can't detect the smell at all when I ate the cakes. It tastes really good with a good balance of saltiness and sweetness. Being extra critical, I'm not giving it a perfect mark mainly for the fact that it doesn't and wouldn't brown at all.

Frosting recipe - Vanilla Frosting from Taste of Home


Method: 5/10. Easy like most typical buttercream method but difficult to know the most ideal consistency to archive. The recipe says that it yields 16 servings but I can only frost 3 cupcakes with half amount of the recipe.
Texture: 4/10. Creamy but mostly sugary. Not very stable and doesn't stay in shapes.
Taste: 2/10. Very sweet! Recommend to ice cupcakes with just a thin layer of this frosting... No wonder this recipe can yield 16 servings. Not recommended to use for tall frosting.

Ultimate vanilla cupcakes? I like the cupcakes but not the reduced-fat buttercream. I prefer to stick my usual buttercream recipe which is always creamy and nice!

Disappointed? - I must say a little... but no worries at all. I have another interesting cupcake recipe to try. So stay tune for the my next celebration cupcake post. Here are the recipes that I have used to bake our celebration cupcakes. 
(with my note and modification in blue)

Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake from Cupcake

Yield: 16 cupcakes

1 cup (225g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

(used 1 for half amount of the recipe)
1 3/4 cups (175g) cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

(replaced with extra baking powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup (75g) full-fat sour cream
1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil (60 ml)

(I used rice bran oil)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

(I didn't add this)
2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C or 160°C fan forced).

In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean.

Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.

Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes. Because there is so little butter, you'll end up with a very fine crumb texture.

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

Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined. The batter will be liquid. (Don't worry, you didn't do anything wrong. It's supposed to be that way.)

Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.

Bake for 14 mins and then test to see with cake tester if they are done. The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn golden brown. If they are not done, test again in two minutes. If they are still not done, test again in another two mins.

When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.

Note: Using half amount of the recipe, I have 9 cupcakes at 160°C fan forced for 17 mins. 

Vanilla Frosting from Taste of Home

Yield: 1 cups for about 16 servings

2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

(replaced with vanilla paste)

In a bowl, combine the sugar, butter, milk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.

Frost the cupcakes with this frosting.

Note: Using half of both recipes, I have baked 8 vanilla cupcakes and managed to frost only 3 cupcakes with vanilla frosting. I have decorated them with rolled and cut fondants and transformed them into Happy Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes! - LOL!

Happy Baking
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Please note that the linky tool for bake-along is no longer available.


  1. These cupcakes look perfect! Seriously :) I have seen so many cupcakes and these look so extremely good!

  2. Time pass real fast and it is the 2nd Anniversary of Bake Along! In fact Ive enjoyed in this Bake Along event though Im not really active in it.

  3. These cupcakes look so adorable! Love that smiley face! This has to be ultimate cupcakes with 1 vanilla bean in them. YUM! Have to try them for sure!

  4. I love using vanilla paste in cupcakes. Yum!

  5. Happy 2nd Anniversary to Bake-Along Zoe!

    I am always searching for the perfect Vanilla Cupcake recipe too and tried making this same recipe from Cupcake Project and like you was sorry I wasn't able to give the resulting cupcakes a perfect 10 either.

    Your cupcakes definitely look scrumptious and love how adorable they look!:) Thanks so much for stopping by my blog too:)

  6. Congratulations and Happy 2nd Anniversary. I like the smiley face. Initially I thought the pink colour is the pink chocolate chips, then only I realize it is actually fondant! So cute!

  7. Hi Zoe,
    Happy Bake-Along 2nd Anniversary, friend!
    Thank you for sticking out together for the two years and looking forward to another wonderful year of baking together!
    Your cupcake looks very cute. An interesting way of mixing the batter! The cupcakes must be very good eaten on its own even without the frosting!

  8. Happy A-Day! What a fun way to celebrate and I'm loving the bean specks in the cake!!

  9. Zoe, your cupcakes look crumbly moist :) I like the smiley face on that cupcake, makes one so happy to eat it ;) Happy 2nd Anniversary!

  10. I love these vanilla cupcakes. They look cute, fluffy and beautiful.

  11. The texture of your cupcakes is so gorgeous! Happy anniversary to Bake Along! I remember I started blogging around Bake Along's first anniversary last year, how time flies!

  12. These cuppies look perfect. So beautifully presented.bookmarks to try.

  13. this is a simple vanilla cupcakes recipe. happy 2nd anniversary to blog hop Bake along event.

  14. Zoe, I wish I had more time to join your Bake-Along. Your cupcakes have a smooth top and mine always has cracks. Sigh....

  15. I like the smiley face cupcake, it is simple yet so cute.

  16. Congrats on ur second anniversary and the cupcakes look awesome

  17. Congratulations on 2 years! The cupcakes look LOVELY! I'm off to bed, but could still eat one now!! ;) CC

  18. Nice smiley vanilla cupcakes, nice way to celebrate the 2nd bake along anniversary!

  19. congrats Zoe for your happy 2nd anniversary, 3 of u did a great job and hope that i can join your Bake-Along in future.

  20. Congratulations for your 2 years! love your cupcake.. I wish!! I can have right now:) Thanks for sharing the recipe:)

  21. Happy 2nd Anniversary , Bake-Along ! Hoping for more bake-alongs with you guys ;D

    I'm gonna lurk at Cupcake Project's site later :D

    Pretty delicious cupcakes , by the way !

  22. I misread it as the 3rd year from Joyce's blog. Ai, have to go back there to rectify my mistake! Happy 2nd anniversary in bake-along, Zoe! I like the bottle of the organic vanilla pbean aste!

  23. Hi Zoe, congrats on Bake-Along's 2nd anniversary. Hehe I like the smiley face on your cupcake, you sure decorate cupcakes beautifully.

  24. Yay happy bake-along birthday! :) Luckily I haven't blog about my cupcakes before the birthday, otherwise I'll have to think of a new cupcake to bake this week! I've always baked chocolate or other flavoured cupcakes as I don't really like the egginess in plain vanilla cupcakes, but guess I have to try this out since it's the ultimate cake! Yours look really cute!

  25. Mamma mia quanto sono soffici.
    Sono bellissimi!!
    Complimenti e grazie di essere passata da me.
    A presto ti seguirò volentieri.

  26. Love the cute face of those cupcakes!!! What a great surpse to see the vanilla seeds in the batter!!! Vanilla flavor with the volume turn up!! Stole that line from Ina Garten.. lol

  27. There is nothing better than a great, go to vanilla cupcake recipe! These look so moist and delicious! I love using vanilla bean paste, makes such a difference!

    1. Hi Carol,

      Totally agree that real vanilla (and vanilla paste) makes a lot of difference in baked goods :D


  28. Happy anniversary to us! i must say it has been quite a journey to us but always been such fun baking with you, joyce and the rest. This is indeed quite an interesting method for combining the butter with the dry ingredients! another one coming soon?

    1. Yes, Lena. There is another cupcake post coming soon.

  29. Those are too cute to eat. Very adorable. Great job there. Hope to join in the next bake along!

    Happy weekend!

  30. the cupcake looks really light and fluffy with a fine texture... I would love to try this method... for the browning, maybe i can move my cupcakes higher to be closer to the top heat?

  31. Zoe,
    These are such lovely celebration cupcakes.
    Your deco are always neat and awesome.
    I enjoy and learn a lot in every bake along recipes with the 3 pretty hostes and other fellow bloggers.
    Happy 2nd anniversary to Bake Along:)

  32. So simple yet looks amazing, it's perfect Zoe! I'd make it but as a big cake instead of cupcakes for an upcoming birthday. Thanks for sharing dear :)

  33. Happy Birthday to Bake-Along!!!! I will try my best to bake along with you guys too!!!

  34. beautiful cliks n happy birthday to ur blog bay dear..

  35. The cupcakes are so incredibly cute!
    Love the vanilla frosting too, simple and delicious :)

  36. eileen, hundred eighty degreesMay 4, 2013 at 4:05 PM

    Hi Zoe, Happy 2nd anniversary to Bake Along! The cake texture look good. Will try one day.

  37. Oh my gosh, these are much too adorable :D
    Happy 2nd blogiversary!

    Choc Chip Uru

  38. These are so cute - what child wouldn't love to have one of these.

  39. Happy 2nd Anniversary to your blog event!

  40. Happy, happy birthday to your Bake Along! Such cute cupcakes! Glad you gave the recipe such high marks...I'll have to give them a shot along with your favorite buttercream. Hoping to bake with you over the coming year :)

  41. Hi Zoe, happy Anniversary to Bake Along! Always looking forward to take part in this event.... thank you.:)

  42. Hi Zoe, Happy 2nd anniversary to you, Joyce n Lena. Happy blogging!

  43. Vanilla cakes are the cakes that I usually bake for family when I ran out of ideas, they never fail to please:D These look really yummy indeed!

  44. Those look very very delicious and soooo cute! I think those cupcakes would be ultimate kids sweet treat. Great post!!!!

  45. Great looking cupcakes. And I really enjoy reading your assessment - your criteria is great. Excellent post - thanks.

  46. Hi Zoe, happy bake along 2nd anniversary, wish I am able to join in the fun soon.

  47. Happy 2nd anniversary! These look amazing, can't wait to try them. Bookmarked!!

  48. Hi Zoe, just want to let you know I've nominated you an award at

    Hope you'll like it!

    1. Hi Jasline,

      Thank you so much for nominating me for this award. I'm will be away soon for holidays and hope to come back to write about myself with your questions :D


  49. kekeke, nothing beats e original vanilla cupcakes...and yrs is e ULTIMATE ones:)) yum yum!!!! and also, i loved yr deco, the smiley face:)

  50. Happy 2nd Anniversary , Bake-Along & what cute cupcakes too for this occasion ! SWEET! ;)

  51. These cuppies are so cute. Happy anniversary

  52. Hi Zoe,
    Can i bake it in the 6 inch cake tin? How long should I bake it and the oven temperature?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Ling, I'm sorry that I don't wish to calculate the amount of ingredients that you need to use if I want to bake something bigger or in different sizes. Can you please make this amount and fill the pan to the amount that you want and use the rest to bake cupcakes? And bake until the skewer inserted comes out clean. Cheers!

    2. Thank you Zoe for your fast respond. Will try it soon. I baked half recipes and we all loved it. I am a big fan of your recipes. Thank you so much for sharing

    3. Thanks Ling for your support! I hope that you had fun baking with this recipe :)

  53. Hi Zoe. Can I have the link to your celebration cupcakes that you mentioned is better? Tried looking st recipe index but can't find. Thanks!! Amanda Wong

    1. Hi Amanda, Can you please elaborate more on which cupcakes recipe you are after???