Cupcakes. Even before the emergence of fancy cupcake shops, cupcake TV shows and (god help us) cupcake ATMs, there was abundant love for the darling little cakes for one.
Remember looking forward to birthday parties not for the giant monstrosity of crusty-frosting-covered cake, but for the cupcakes that were served to the guests?
Parents who served cupcakes with frosting as tall as the cake garnered my respect. I thought, now that’s a sign of a good parent.
Of course, not just any frosting will do. Nor will any old cake pass muster. All three keys to cupcake success must be met in order to have the cupcake experience of your dreams.
The next time you serve these tiny frosted joy bombs, use these tips (and this vanilla cupcake recipe!) to get it right. Everyone will love you and your world will feel ever so slightly more balanced, I promise.
3 Keys to Cupcake Success
1 – Start with a superb cake recipe.
This vanilla cupcake recipe is stellar, out of this world, moist, buttery and I’ve yet to serve it to anyone who didn’t say, “I could eat just the cake, it’s so good.” Having said that, there are millions of awesome cupcake recipes out there, so find one you love. If you’re after chocolate cupcakes, check out these Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes (or the vegan version, which is equally delish!).
2 – Top with frosting that’s as good as the cake.
Forego the crusty over-decorated cupcakes and get down to business with an honest- to-goodness frosting that tastes like something besides confectioners’ sugar. Use real ingredients, real flavorings and take as much care making the frosting as you did the cake. I love this secret ingredient Superfood Fudge Frosting on vanilla cupcakes (or right off a spoon!) and I don’t think you can ever go wrong with 2-Ingredient Mascarpone Frosting. For a delicate, old-fashioned taste, make a batch of Old Fashioned Cooked Frosting (it’s the famous red velvet cake frosting!). If you’re a cream cheese fan, you will love my Best Cream Cheese Frosting.
3 – Remember, frosting to cake ratio is crucial.
Frost those babies like you mean it! Aim for a nearly 1:1 ratio of frosting to cake, then tweak that depending upon the type cake you’re using. Skimpy frosting is just that… skimpy. It leaves us wanting. When you use a great frosting that is well-suited to the cake beneath, people want to have enough. I adjust down a bit when I make filled cupcakes, and use a touch less frosting, but otherwise, 1:1 works best, in my opinion.
Now, go forth and make tiny cakes, cool them and top them with creamy sweetness and serve them with joy!
The Best Buttery Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcakes
- ½ cup (125g) salted butter, at room temperature (Use a good quality European butter if possible; for dairy-free, sub your favorite butter substitute; if you use unsalted butter, add 1/4-1/2 t. salt to the dry ingredients.)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature (I use organic eggs from farm-raised chickens; egg quality makes a difference in your baked goods.)
- 1 cup (115 g) Gigi’s Everyday GF Flour Blend, Gum-Free or similar gum-free blend
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I like Nielsen Massey extracts.)
- ¼ cup milk (Use any dairy or dairy-free milk you like to use in baking.)
- Preheat your oven to 350F.
- Use a 6-section muffin pan for big, fluffy jumbo cupcakes or a 12-section muffin pan for smaller ones. Grease your pan lightly, or line with parchment liners.
- Whip butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; a stand mixer is great, but you can do this by hand, as well).
- Add eggs, beating well.
- Sift in flour, baking powder and soda. (I like sifting these in with a large wire mesh sieve.)
- Stir until incorporated, then stir in vanilla and milk.
- Divide batter evenly between sections of your desired pan.
- For a 6-section pan, which is what I use when I make these, I use 3 scoops of batter from a #40 cookie scoop, which is 1 ½ T. batter per scoop. That’s a grand total 4 ½ T. batter per cupcake. (For twice as many cupcakes, use 2 ¼ T. batter for each one.)
- Bake 6 larger cupcakes 15-18 minutes. Bake 12 smaller cupcakes 12-15 minutes. Check them at the lower time to make sure they do not over-bake.
- Remove from oven, cool in pan 15 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
- Once completely cooled, frost as desired. (See my notes for frosting suggestions.)
You can find more frosting recipes and more cupcake love here!