“This is it, Stef!! This really, really is the Best Vanilla Cupcake Recipe!!! I can’t believe we finally found it, but I know in my cupcake-loving heart that we did. I will honestly be dumbstruck if this cupcake isn’t the ultimate because I can’t imagine a more perfect vanilla cupcake.”
That was a quote from Kate Dorman, one of the Vanilla Cupcake Recipe Cupcake Project Explorers (my team of 50 test bakers that helped perfect my vanilla cupcakes by baking three rounds of cupcakes and providing feedback).
You should know that the Explorers did not go easy on me. I was sure that the first recipe I sent them would be the ultimate.
It only got a 29% approval rating – ouch! I went back to the mixing bowl and came up with a second recipe for the Explorers to try. “Surely, this will be the one,” I thought.
The round two recipe fared only a bit better, with a 36% approval rating.
I learned that, for the most part, the Explorers wanted the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake to be light and fluffy with an intense vanilla flavor. They didn’t want the Ultimate Yellow Cupcake recipe, rather they wanted the Ultimate vanilla cupcake recipe.
The recipe that I created for round 3 (the one that you read the quote about above) took all of the Explorers’ feedback into play. I created vanilla cupcakes where the cake was moist and light with an unmistakable vanilla flavor.
They got an approval of 66%.
If you’ve been following the Quest through my blog posts and status updates on Facebook, you know that my goal was for my best cupcake recipe for vanilla cupcakes to receive 80%. However, I’ve concluded that with bakers using different brands of raw ingredients, different ovens, different tools for mixing, and living in places with different humidity and altitude, 80% was an unattainable goal.
Finding a cupcake recipe that 2 out of 3 people agreed was not only good but actually the best cupcake recipe for vanilla cupcakes was an amazing achievement. After weeks of debate, I decided to declare the round 3 cupcake the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake!
Here’s what some of the other Explorers had to say about the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe:
- I can officially say that this will be the last round I will participate in for the Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake recipe because I love it so much. I would bake these over and over and recommend it to anyone and everyone I know. This will be a recipe that I can add to my “when I’m having a bad day, I bake” list because baking a favourite recipe always makes my day better and puts me in a great mood.
- I loved this cupcake! I have used this recipe 4 times in the last two weeks. And 3 of those batches were orders other people placed for the cupcakes! This is the Ultimate Vanilla!!
- I really don’t see how you can improve on this one. I have really had a good time with this. I used to be a boxed-mix-girl. This has changed me for life!!!!
- My future grandchildren will thank you for making me a best-baking-granny.
- I’ve been looking for my ‘go to’ vanilla cupcake and I think this is it!
- I loved this recipe – the taste was heavenly.
- It was an easy recipe to follow and the cupcakes came out perfectly.
- Is there any way to give it an 11 out of 10?!
I know that even though the Explorers and I thought this was the best cupcake recipe, some of you will not like these cupcakes. If we all liked the exact same things, the world would be a boring place. But, I encourage you to give this vanilla cupcake recipe a shot.
You’ve got a two out of three chance of finding your new best cupcake recipe for vanilla cupcakes!
Products Related to The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
I also highly recommend IndriVanilla. Their beans come in three different sizes and can be bought in bulk or in any quantity that you choose. They arrive vacuum-sealed for freshness. IndriVanilla sent me premium beans to use in these cupcakes (they cost $0.75 each if you don’t buy in bulk).
You can frost the vanilla cupcakes with any frosting that you choose. Check out my top ten frostings for some ideas to get you started. However, for the full vanilla experience, I suggest frosting with vanilla bean buttercream frosting.
Cupcake Project Explorer Reviews
As a special thanks for being Cupcake Project Explorers, I’ve promised the team that I would share any blog posts they write about this recipe and the Explorer process. As their posts come in, I will add links to them right here.
The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake
This is the best vanilla cupcake you will ever have!
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1/3 cup full-fat sour cream
- 1/4 cup canola oil you can also use vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract use pure, not imitation
- 2/3 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean. (For those of you who are new to using vanilla beans, check out this video to learn how to get the seeds out of the 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 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it. The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown. If they are not done, test again in two minutes. If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don't own a cooling rack) to cool.
Tips: Because everyone's oven is just a bit different and your liners may be a slightly different size than mine, I highly recommend that if you have time, you bake a test cupcake before baking your whole batch of vanilla cupcakes. Read my FAQ on filling cupcake liners to learn how to do a test cupcake and why it's useful.
Is This Your Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe?
You may have noticed that in the title of this post, I said, “Test Baked by 50 Bakers and Counting.” While you may not have been an official Cupcake Project Explorer, I’d love to hear what you thought of this recipe.
If you bake it, please share your thoughts in the comments. What frosting did you use? Did you use any fillings? Did you make any changes that people might want to hear about?
Let’s all learn from each other!