Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream

by Sara on March 12, 2009

Vanilla Bean Cupcake

By now it probably appears that I am obsessed with cupcakes. Maybe I am. Cupcakes are already pre-portioned, everyone loves them, and they are much easier to serve at a party than your standard cake. At least, that was my reasoning when I made these for a party last week.

In my post for Double Vanilla Cupcakes I mentioned that I’ve been searching for the perfect vanilla cupcake. Though the frosting from that recipe is perfection, I still was not completely satisfied with the cake. And so my journey continued.

Until now.

These are by far the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever had in my life. They are light, tender, moist, and bursting with flavor. Three days later, they were still absolutely delicious. And though I’ve never actually had a *real* Sprinkles cupcake (only from the mix), I would like to think these cakes could give Sprinkles a run for their money.

You have to make these cupcakes. If you’re not a fan of an Italian buttercream, use any icing you like; the cake is the star here.

Whipping the buttercream Finished Buttercream
cupcakes Empty Bowl
Vanillabean Cupcakes White Chocolate Buttercream

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream
adapted from Sky High

Print Recipe for Cupcakes

Ingredients for the cupcakes
3 c cake flour
2 c vanilla sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 whole vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 sticks plus 2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 c milk*
5 egg whites
1 T vanilla extract

Instructions for the cupcakes

1. Adjust racks to upper and lower-middle postion and preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.

2. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Blend well on low speed. With the tip of a knife, scrape the vanilla seeds out of the bean and add to the flour mixture. Add the butter and 1 cup of the milk, mix on low to blend. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes (batter will be light and fluffy).

3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, remaining milk, and vanilla extract. Add to batter in 3 additions, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Stop when the egg mixture is just incorporated into the batter.

4. Using an ice cream scoop or a liquid measuring cup, fill each muffin tin 3/4 of the way with the batter. Bake for 10 minutes, then switch the pans around on the racks. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until tops spring back lightly when touched. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove to wire cooling racks.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Print Recipe for White Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients for the buttercream
3 egg whites
4 oz good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 c sugar
1/4 c water
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

Instructions for the buttercream

1. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Place egg whites in bowl of stand mixer and attach whisk.

3. Melt white chocolate in heat-proof bowl over simmering water. When chocolate is almost completely melted, remove from heat. Stir until all chocolate is melted, set aside.

4. Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil without stirring, until the temperature reaches 238 F.

5. Start whipping the egg whites on medium-low speed. Slowly pour boiling sugar into the egg white mixture, being careful not to get the sugar on the whisk attachment. Continue to whip until the mixture has cooled and a stiff meringue has formed.

6. Add butter, 2 T at a time. When all of the butter has been added, raise speed to medium and beat until the mixture has appeared to curdle. Continue to beat, and the buttercream will come together. At this point, add the melted chocolate and beat until well-combined.

Frost or pipe buttercream onto cooled cupcakes.

*I use 2% milk.

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

JANNIE ( YANNI ) September 15, 2009 at 10:28 am







Kat February 21, 2011 at 9:56 am

I have been searching for a very light and fluffy vanilla cupcake recipe and I think these will do it! All the vanilla cupcakes I have made were too dry and dense for my liking. Just a quick question though, can I substitute regular sugar for vanilla sugar? Thanks! :)

Sara February 22, 2011 at 8:19 am

Kat, you can certainly use regular granulated sugar – I wouldn’t skip the vanilla bean though.

Emily March 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

I am looking forward to trying this recipe, my only question is if the egg whites for the cupcakes need to be beaten to a certain consistency or if they are just added lightly whisked. Thanks!

Sara March 8, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Emily – just whisk lightly to mix them with the milk and vanilla.

Audrey March 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Can you use egg whites from the carton or do you have to use egg whites from the eggs? I can’t wait to try this recipe!

Sara March 15, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I would imagine you could use egg whites from a carton, but I’ve never tried it. I’m just not a fan of them, myself.

natalie May 19, 2011 at 9:42 am

Hi can you do the buttercream frosting without the egg whites im making the cupcakes for a party for my dad and he is allergic to raw eggs! but i need a bright white icing for the top!

any help would be great!!


Sara May 19, 2011 at 11:07 am

Natalie, you can make an egg-free frosting using confectioners’ sugar. Here are a couple of options:

cream cheese frosting

Bakery Style Frosting

Vanilla Buttercream

For any of these options, using white food coloring will ensure a bright white frosting.

I wasn’t sure if you meant your dad just can’t have uncooked egg whites, or if he can’t have anything that has egg whites in it. In case it’s the former, the egg whites in the white chocolate buttercream are actually cooked – the heated sugar/water mixture (at 238*F) will “cook” the egg whites while mixing, as eggs are considered safe when they reach 160*F.

That said, I have to say, my personal favorite is still the Bakery Style Frosting that I linked to above.

Randi May 25, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I’ve been searching for the perfect vanilla bean cupcake for my daughters 1st birthday party. I came across this one. :) I was hoping to use the recipie for her “smash cake” as well. The pan I will use is 6×2 in round. Would I be able to do that? If so, what modifications do I need to make?

Thanks! :)

Sara May 26, 2011 at 9:48 am

Randi, I would fill the 6×2 pan about halfway with batter (grease and flour it first for easy removal), then bake until a toothpick comes out clean. It probably won’t take all that long – I would start looking at the 15 minute mark – take a peek first to see if it looks set. If not, you’ll need to wait a few minutes before checking again. I’ve never baked in that size pan before, so your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the baking time.

Then just use the remaining batter to make cupcakes. Just an fyi – the original recipe made three 9 inch cake layers, so you’ll still get a good number of cupcakes.

Have fun with the party, especially the smash cake (my favorite part of any toddler’s birthday party)!

Cecelia September 15, 2011 at 1:29 pm

Is the cake flour in this recipe the kind that already has the salt and baking powder in it? I’m confused because then it calls for 4 1/2 teaspooons of baking powder. If it’s just a different type of plain flour, can I use plain flour?

Sara September 16, 2011 at 9:07 am

I’m really glad you asked, because it is definitely NOT flour with added salt/baking powder (that’s called self-rising flour). If you don’t have access to cake flour, you can use all-purpose flour, or simply make your own cake flour for this recipe.

Instead of 3 cups of cake flour, use 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, and 6 tablespoons corn starch. Sift the flour and corn starch once or twice, then follow the recipe as printed.

For future reference, I have a short post of instructions on how to make your own cake flour from all purpose flour and corn starch:

Thuc Doan November 19, 2011 at 10:14 pm

um may I ask? why do you put so much baking powder? i dont know why but when I bake cupcakes, sometime I think I can almost taste the aftertaste of the baking powder…so yeah is it necessary to put so much baking powder?

Sara November 21, 2011 at 10:28 am

How interesting. I’ve made this recipe several times and never detected an aftertaste from baking powder.

What I can say is that the cake is very light and fluffy, as well as very moist.

mus February 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Hi there! I wanted to colour the butter cream and was wondering if this recipe takes colour well?

Shalena March 11, 2012 at 6:51 am

I was looking for a Vanilla Bean Cake recipe and came across your cupcake recipe. I wanted to know if you could use this recipe for a cake instead?

Jennifer Ledesma March 21, 2012 at 4:20 pm

will this frosting set up firm? I am looking to have one to put between a tall stack of cakes and want the frosting to be able to take the weight.

Kelley March 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm

I made the vanilla bean cupcakes but they ” deflated” towards the end of baking them! As they cooled, the cupcake continued to ” sink” and pull away from the cupcake paper. Ani ideas what I did wrong? I followed recipe exactly.

Sandy April 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Kelley, it could have been a number of things that made your cupcakes fall. It could be caused from setting the pan down too hard on the counter, slamming the oven door during baking, or any loud noise/jarring movement during baking. Some cakes are very temperamental and susceptible to motion of any kind.

Jessica July 11, 2012 at 10:48 pm

i wanted to know if this cake recipe would work well as stacked and if the buttercream frosting can be covered with fondant. i’m excited to give this a try. thanks for the post.

Tee July 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm

I’ve made your recipe twice and for some reason the center keeps dropping. I thought it was my baking powder (it wasn’t fresh) but they still dropped. Not sure what I am doing wrong, any advice?

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