Vanilla Bean Cupcakes are moist and full of vanilla bean flavor in both the cupcake and the delicious buttercream. These cupcakes will be the star of the party, and you can tailor the vanilla buttercream color for any occasion too!
Moist Vanilla Cupcakes
This recipe is a re-make of a vanilla cupcake that involved the “unicorn” frosting that was so popular a few years ago. I wanted to improve the flavor of these, so after a few testings, I’m reposting just in time for ya’ll to make them!
Enter…Vanilla Bean Cupcakes.
Ya’ll. These are the most perfectly moist cupcakes FULL of that vanilla flavor that I happen to love.
Why we love these vanilla cupcakes:
- They’re moist, light, and fluffy. Using cake flour is the secret to making cakes and cupcakes light and fluffy. Try it!
- These are FULL of REAL vanilla. I love using real vanilla bean paste to get a rich vanilla flavor. You can also scrape the seeds from the insides of real vanilla beans, if desired.
- You can add color for any holiday or special occasion. I love the look of plain vanilla frosting, but I also enjoy adding color to the buttercream for special occasions.
- The cupcakes (before frosting) freeze well. Want to prep ahead? Make the actual cupcakes ahead of time, and then bring them out and add the buttercream the day of your gathering.
What is Vanilla Bean?
Vanilla is the fruit of an orchid plant, and looks like a dark brown bean pod that is long and skinny. Vanilla orchids are grown in tropical climates, and the majority of the world’s supply comes from Madagascar. Vanilla is enjoyed in many forms, especially to add flavor to frosting, ice cream, and a variety of desserts.
The vanilla bean is normally used to make vanilla extract or vanilla paste, both of which are easily found in most grocery stores. Pure vanilla extract is made from real vanilla beans while imitation vanilla extract uses artificial vanilla flavoring.
Ingredients needed for Vanilla Bean Cupcakes:
- Butter – Use unsalted butter, softened to room temperature.
- Sugar – Just regular granulated sugar for these cupcakes.
- Egg Whites – Three egg whites are used to get that pure white cupcake.
- Buttermilk – You can make your own buttermilk by combining regular milk with a splash of vinegar. Let it sit and it will start to curdle and thicken.
- Vanilla Bean Paste – The star ingredient! Or if you’d rather, use vanilla beans and scrape out the insides.
- Flour – Cake flour works best here for a super light and fluffy texture.
- Other – Baking soda, baking powder, and a pinch of kosher salt.
How to make vanilla cupcakes:
Prep. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with liners.
Mix the wet ingredients. In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened butter with the sugar, and use a hand mixer to beat until creamy. Add the egg whites, buttermilk, and vanilla bean paste, and mix again.
Combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt – and mix.
Combine. Pour the wet ingredient into the dry, and stir to mix. There will be a few lumps remaining in the batter, and that’s ok.
Fill liners. Pour the batter into the cupcake liners to just over half full. Be careful to avoid over-filling.
Bake. Bake cupcakes for about 15-17 minutes, or until done in the center. Test with a toothpick, if desired. (All ovens are different so the time will not be the same.)
Cool. You’ll need to remove cupcakes to cooling rack, and then refill the tin and bake again. Let cool completely before adding frosting.
Vanilla Bean Buttercream
- Unsalted Butter (at room temperature)
- Vanilla Bean Paste
- Heavy Cream
- Powdered Sugar
- food coloring (if making the swirl)
How to make the buttercream frosting:
Beat butter. In a mixing bowl, use a hand-held mixer to beat the butter until creamy, about two minutes.
Add remaining ingredients. Add the vanilla, heavy cream, and powdered sugar – and continue beating until creamy.
Separate frosting. If making a swirl, separate frosting into two smaller bowls.
Add food coloring. Add a few drops of your desired food coloring to each bowl. I used pink and blue. Mix well.
Fill piping bag. Then fill piping bag by spooning both colors inside it.
Pipe frosting. Pipe the frosting on top of cooled cupcakes.
How to add color for special occasions:
- Separate the buttercream to separate bowls. Add a drop or two of food coloring to each bowl and mix well.
- If making a swirl, add spoonfuls of frosting to the piping bag, rotating colors as you go. Then pipe buttercream to cooled cupcakes.
- If not making a swirl, add the different colors to separate piping bags and add to cupcakes separately.
Example colors for special occasions:
- Easter – Add yellow, pink, green colors to the buttercream.
- 4th of July – Add red, white, and blue colors.
- Christmas – Add red and green.
- Baby Showers – Use pink and blue (as seen in my photos).
- The sky is the limit!
Kitchen Tools used for this recipe:
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter – softened to room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 large egg whites – at room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the buttercream frosting:
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1.5 sticks) – softened to room temp
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 3 Tablespoons heavy cream – add more if the frosting is too thick
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- food coloring and/or sprinkles – I used pink and blue colors
For the cupcakes:
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the softened butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg whites, buttermilk and vanilla – and mix well.
- Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) in a medium bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix together until just combined. There will be a few lumps remaining.
- Fill cupcake liners with mixture, filling 2/3 full. Do NOT over-fill!
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Remove cupcakes to cooling racks. Repeat with remaining batter to make additional cupcakes.
For the buttercream frosting:
- Using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until creamy, about a minute. Add vanilla, cream, and powdered sugar, and mix on high speed for two more minutes, until nice and fluffy. (IF frosting is too thick, add a few more drops of cream.)
- Add frosting to piping bag prepared with a piping tip. Spoon the frosting into the bag. Then pipe the frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.
- If making a swirl, separate frosting into two different bowls. Take food coloring and add different colors to each bowl, mixing in well.
- For swirl, add the colors into a piping bag and then make the swirl.
- These cupcakes should be stored, covered – in the refrigerator. To serve, let sit on countertop to come to room temperature. They will stay fresh up to three – four days.
- You can freeze unfrosted cupcakes for up to three months.