Vanilla Cupcakes

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I’ve tried a slew of vanilla cupcake recipes and usually end up with a bland, dense cake. So when I came across this recipe for “Almost Cake Mix Vanilla Cupcakes, I was skeptical. But I am happy to report the name is right on! Not only are these cupcakes delicious, they are moist and light as well. And of course, I used my favorite buttercream frosting recipe.

Vanilla Cupcakes

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup Crisco shortening, room temperature
2 cups sugar, ground in the processor until fine (measure before processing)
4 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour (or combined together)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup warm half-and-half cream or full-fat milk (this is important, warm the milk!)


  1. Set oven to 375 degrees (will reduce oven temperature just before baking cupcakes).
  2. Line 24 muffin pans with paper cupcake liners.
  3. In an electric mixer, cream butter and shortening until fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs (one at a time) and the extracts and beat about 3-4 minutes on high speed (the mixture will seem to be a bit lumpy but will even out when you add in the sugar).
  5. Add in the sugar; beat well (another 3 minutes) until sugar is COMPLETELY combined.
  6. In a bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder.
  7. Blend into the creamed ingredients, along with the warm milk until smooth (about 3 minutes).
  8. Fill the prepared pans about two-thirds full.
  9. IMMEDIATELY, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  10. Place the cupcakes in oven, and bake for about 20-24 minutes, or until the cupcakes test done.

Makes 24 cupcakes.


  1. I used ultrafine sugar.
  2. I used cake flour.
  3. I used whole mik.
  4. I used lemon extract.
  5. After adding the eggs to the butter, the batter is very lumpy and kinda funky looking.
  6. The cupcakes were done after 18 minutes, so you may want to check them early.
  7. I usually get 30 (very nicely sized) cupcakes, not 24 like the recipe states.

Recipe from Recipe*Zaar.


48 Responses to “Vanilla Cupcakes”

    Lauren on 1 May 22nd, 2006 11:30 am

    Did you use 2 cups of ultra fine sugar or a little less? I only ask because the recipe says to measure the sugar out before you process it. Thanks!

    Hilary on 2 May 22nd, 2006 12:02 pm

    You know…I noticed that after I made the cupcakes. I just measured out exactly 2 cups of ultra fine sugar. And they tasted and looked great!

    Paula on 3 May 23rd, 2006 6:17 pm

    I may try these tonight. I need a cupcake for my son to take to school tomorrow since someone is bringing in cupcakes from a bakery that he can’t eat (peanut allergy). I wish I could remember if I had lemon extract in the cupboard at home.

    Hilary on 4 May 23rd, 2006 6:31 pm

    I’m thinking you could just substitute vanilla for the lemon extract…

    Paula on 5 May 24th, 2006 6:23 pm

    I did end up making these with just vanilla since I didn’t have the lemon extract. I wish I could have added the almond extract but we’re avoiding all nuts right now. These were the lightest non-cake mix cupcakes I’ve made. I’m definitely going to be making these again and again. Thanks!

    Hilary on 6 May 24th, 2006 6:58 pm


    I couldn’t taste the lemon whatsoever, but one of my friends said she tasted it right away. I’m so glad you liked the recipe…I have to say it’s my favorite vanilla one thus far!

    Randi on 7 May 28th, 2006 7:13 am

    Hi, I came here thru cookbook junkie and I’ll stay awhile and read. I’m Jewish too, lived in LA for 15yrs before moving to Canada. I love to cook and bake as well. Do you ever cook/bake Jewish foods?

    Randi on 8 May 28th, 2006 7:15 am

    I left the comment before I saw all the passover items you baked. Sorry about that.

    Samphire on 9 June 14th, 2006 4:05 am

    Hi Hilary, couple of questions which I’d love to know the answers to. Firstly, is the shortening essential to the quality of the end product, or can the cakes be made with all butter? Secondly, I’m intrigued by the need to grind the sugar until fine. Is this because you don’t have what us Brits call Caster Sugar (very fine & ideal for baking) Stateside, or does the sugar need to be even finer than Caster grade? Thanks for giving this your thought…

    Hilary on 10 June 14th, 2006 4:18 am

    Hi Samphire.

    Umm. I have a feeling I’m not going to be much help here. I have only made the recipe exactly as is–using shortening. Maybe one of my readers can help out?

    Re: the sugar. I’m not sure why the recipe calls for grinding the sugar. I found castor sugar (ultrafine or superfine sugar as we call it here) with no problem at my local market, and used that.

    Bailey on 11 June 14th, 2006 4:40 am

    I’m pretty new to baking from scratch but i have found that you can make some thing better when you experiment with different things. Like… instead of
    using half and half use butter milk. Or use egg whites. You’ll just have to experiment. Sometimes it makes it better and sometimes it makes it worse. Oh…i almost forgot , if you don’t want to use a pan, just get tinfoil cupcake
    liners and it works really well!

    Yours till the cupcakes,

    scarlettholly on 12 June 15th, 2006 12:56 pm

    I’m also a Brit, so we don’t have crisco – I have seen baking margerine in sainsburys, so I’ll try using the recipe for that. Does anyone have a good “british” ingredients recipe for buttercream? ta!

    Hilary on 13 June 15th, 2006 4:13 pm

    Interesting. I’ll post if I find an equivilent to shortening for you. I didn’t know you couldn’t get it!

    Samphire on 14 June 22nd, 2006 1:14 am

    So I was bored at work and curious and went and researched shortening. These guys here have great clear explanations of the whys and wherefores of the stuff. In summary, an all butter version off the cupcake would probably taste even better (if t’were posible!) but the texture may be affected, becoming heavier/denser…I guess I’m just going to have to try it and see…there’s always good old lard as well! Yummy, how I love my lard…

    justJENN on 15 June 24th, 2006 11:23 am

    Damn I am having the same hard time with dense cupcakes! I’d try these but I loathe shortening. I do know that substituting shortening is a no go. So I usually just skip those recipes that use it all together. Darn.

    Meeme on 16 February 1st, 2007 2:05 pm

    I made these twice but I used all butter and omitted almond(usually people dont respond well to it) They were soft and fluffy.

    Beckie on 17 June 1st, 2007 9:02 am

    Just making sure that this recipe really asks for a tablespoon of baking powder…I’m excited to try it out and don’t want them to bomb! 🙂


    Hilary on 18 June 1st, 2007 10:08 am

    Yes, they really have a tablespoon of baking powder. Why is everyone questioning this suddenly?

    Beckie on 19 June 2nd, 2007 9:18 am

    I shouldn’t have questioned you at all! I made these for a birthday party yesterday–mini cupcakes decorated to look like sushi and they were a HUGE hit! Thank you!

    Veronica on 20 August 26th, 2007 10:11 pm

    These cupcakes are tremendous! The tops of them got crispy and browned (like Angel Food Cake almost) and that with the lovely moist-fluff center was SO nice. Ten times better than any cake mix. I topped each of them with an Almond Buttercream, Maraschino Cherry, and four Pale Yellow NonPareils.

    One question though.. I like my cupcakes to be domed on top, and these were flat on top, is there anything I could add to puff them upwards? They spread out to the sides quite a bit, but I would like them to go UP, not out.

    Thanks so much,

    Kesha on 21 March 10th, 2008 7:28 am

    I tried these and I think I baked them 2 minutes too long. I know your notes said 18 mins, but I went for 20 and they ended up with a muffin texture instead of a cupcake. Also, I don’t know if grinding my sugar in my mini food processor made much of a difference. I didn’t see ultra fine sugar in my local store, so maybe that made the difference as well. I’ll try again when I can find the sugar and I’ll be sure to bake them for 18 mins!!

    Korie on 22 June 13th, 2008 1:34 pm

    so mine didnt raise … could I have done something wrong?

    Simone on 23 August 12th, 2008 8:28 am

    I need to make this recipe tonight for my mom’s group in the morning. I have two questions:

    1. I don’t have a food processor. Can I “grind” the sugar using a rolling pin or something else?

    2. I’ve never heard of cake flour. What is the name of the grocery store you have purchased it at? Or do you know where I can get it?

    Hilary on 24 August 12th, 2008 8:32 am

    1. Sure.

    2. Cake flour is with the other flours in the baking aisles. Sometimes it is near the cake mixes because the box looks like a cake mix. Here it is:, and you should be able to find it at any market.

    Simone on 25 August 12th, 2008 8:39 am

    Fast response! Thanks!

    jess on 26 November 12th, 2008 9:53 am

    yo, i just made some cupcakes last night, but they turned out (like always) not incredibly moist and slightly crispier on the top. i’m really into baking things from scratch lately, and I just want to know if you have any tips that could make this better, or any common knowledge about baking from scratch that i need to know that could help me… thanks!

    taksan on 27 January 4th, 2009 2:12 am

    by far the best cupcake recipe i tried. thanks!

    Taryn on 28 January 15th, 2009 2:37 pm

    This recipe is fantastic, thank you! I used all butter for the cupcakes and frosting because I could not find Crisco in France, and the result was great. They did not have a high dome, but don’t need it with the frosting on top. I too have tried other recipes and they were all way too dense. This really is light and fluffy, and like something you would get at a bakery.

    V. Rowan on 29 January 15th, 2009 5:10 pm

    Well, I did the recipe to a tee, and once they cooled they were like hard, dense, little hockey bucks. NOT light and fluffy like I had imagined. Hopefully the kids at my daughters school won’t notice how bad they really are. Sorry, the recipe gets a thumbs down from me. Maybe there are just 1 too many eggs.

    Christine on 30 February 10th, 2009 12:13 pm

    I have baked these cupcakes twice this week and I have to say they are better than a bakery. I used a recipe from the Magnoila bakery and they ended up tasting like sugar cookie cornbread. Some of you had questions about the sugar, I used Wal-mart brand sugar and did not process it on the second batch and it came out great. I noticed the granular is quite finer than some others. If you follow the recipe to a t otherwise you should have awesome cupcakes!

    tattoo on 31 April 9th, 2009 5:46 am

    Wow….they are the best I made so far thanks easter will be a blast!!

    Andrea on 32 June 3rd, 2009 9:29 pm

    I am making cupcakes for my wedding and have been trying different recipes all week. This is my and my fiancé’s favorite and will definitely be on the menu. So light and fluffy!

    Leila on 33 July 5th, 2009 5:43 pm

    I made these for a party yesterday with strawberry cream cheese frosting, and they were a huge hit – and I was in a tough crowd!

    I noticed the original source said 3T vanilla and this page says 2 1/2 T. Is there a particular reason?

    Also, I guess I slightly over-filled the cups because when the lids of the cupcakes rose they completely adhered to my non-stick cupcake pans and I had to work hard to scrape them out. Anyone else have that problem? Thanks!

    Leila on 34 July 5th, 2009 5:51 pm

    (I meant teaspoons…) 🙂

    Hilary on 35 July 5th, 2009 5:53 pm

    @Leila – That is so weird, I wonder if they changed it, because I got the recipe right from that site!

    Leila on 36 July 5th, 2009 6:20 pm

    I guess I’ll have to make another batch and see if we notice a big difference!
    That tablespoon of baking powder is the trick that all other cupcake recipes are missing, I’m convinced. Thanks for helping me through the 4th! 🙂

    lisa on 37 April 23rd, 2010 5:14 am

    tried these last night and they were great! just a note that if using a convection oven to make sure to decrease the baking temp. I had to do 320 degrees to bake but they came out soooo moist and fluffy. amazing!

    Crystal on 38 May 9th, 2010 9:25 pm

    I made 2 batches of these vanilla cupcakes for mothers day. My kids and their friends from sunday school had given away to the mothers in a nicely packed plastic containers. And they are yummy ! Thanks and God bless you !

    Amal on 39 June 28th, 2010 1:37 am

    I have made these cupcakes twice and i love the taste, my problem is that some of the cupcakes collapse after removing from the oven, and some does not however they also loose some of their size, does anyone know why? do i need to add more flour? or make it was not properly mixed? i make sure i don’t over mix the batter.
    appreciate your feedback

    Ashley on 40 July 3rd, 2010 11:11 pm

    Made these twice, both times came out tasting like vanilla cornbread. Followed instructions to a tee. Idk what happened.

    elsa on 41 July 10th, 2010 4:13 am

    hi, hilary. wanna ask if these cupcakes have nice domes on top. TIA!!! 🙂

    Hilary on 42 July 11th, 2010 10:47 am

    @elsa – These have a flatter top, no domes. Sorry!

    Hilongos on 43 August 20th, 2010 12:46 am

    That picture over there made me fee starving.. 🙂 can i taste them? gonna use this recipe this coming weekend. 🙂 and ill post my feedback after

    Cool “Vanilla Cupcakes” images | on 44 December 17th, 2010 5:43 am

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    arista on 45 January 12th, 2011 9:19 pm

    Pretty good recipe but I was too lazy to process the sugar. I separated the eggs, whipped the whites and added everything else plus 1/2 cup of blueberry purée and 1/4 more sugar. Very moist and shape holds up well!

    Kelsey on 46 June 20th, 2011 12:54 pm

    Followed the directions exactly, and they didn’t turned out that great. They were very spongy and not very moist. Let’s just say, I would make a cake box mix before I made these again.

    Debbie on 47 September 20th, 2011 2:49 pm

    OMG I just made these cupcakes and they are the BEST I have found on the web and are so easy, I used buttermilk instaed of whole milk and they are moist and Fluffy love them! Thank you so much. How would I make them in chocolate?

    Alisha on 48 October 3rd, 2011 3:09 pm

    Hi there. I’ve been searching the internet for months for a vanilla cupcake recipe that had decent reviews, and wasn’t dense, and tasted gross. Here is my review on my experience baking this particular recipe.

    First of all, I will say I followed the directions perfectly, including grinding my sugar down with my blender. I chose to use 1/8 of almond extract, because i didn’t have the lemon, and I didn’t want a lemon tasting cupcake.

    The recipe only yielded 21 cupcakes for me, and when they came out of the oven (exactly 18 minutes), their tops were beautiful, and they came out slightly domed, They smelled amazing!

    They tasted great, only the smallest hint of almond (which I may cut out next time). The top has the lightest crisp factor to it, and the inside was soft and fluffy, but a little heavier than I would have liked. I *may* cut out a 1.4 cup of flour next time as well.

    In the end, I liked the result, but I think there needs to be some changes to make it better! 🙂