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Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes

Today marks my 24th year of life. Twenty-four seems like one of those unusual ages that's neither here nor there. I'm not old (though some days I may feel it), but I'm not so young anymore either. I have a bit of that sneaky thing called life experience that only career changes, extensive traveling, and a familiarity with the "real world" can bring. Even so, every year when my special day rolls around, I'm not sure whether I feel old enough to embrace that extra number.

Happy birthday to me.

Vanilla Cupcakes Vanilla Cupcakes

Since becoming a baker, I've grown acquainted with a phenomenon known as The Baker's Dilemma. The dilemma poses a simple, but curious question: should a baker be expected to make his or her own birthday cake? It's true that a baker may bake a better cake than a friend or family member. It's also true that if they do make the cake themselves, they can have precisely the flavor they would like, elaborate or otherwise. I've debated this question back and forth with friends and fellow bakers alike.

Family and friends tend to agree that it is not only okay for a baker to make his or her own cake, but it's encouraged. I've heard confessions ranging everywhere from "I want to eat good cake, not my cake" to whispered fears that their own cakes wouldn't live up to a baker's expectations ("It's too much pressure to bake for a baker").

Vanilla Cupcakes

On the other hand, professional bakers seem to come to the opposite conclusion. After making a thousand cakes, baking a cake is no longer a novelty. It's work (with the added pressure to meet everyone else's expectations of what a baker's birthday cake should be). To a baker, it's the thought that counts, not the taste. It doesn't matter whether the cake is homemade or a boxed mix with canned frosting—both are loved and equally appreciated.

This year my mother and sister got together to make me my favorite cake, strawberry shortcake. It's a cake I've requested on my birthday a dozen times in my life and I couldn't be more excited to take a fork after it.

Vanilla Cupcakes

It took me two years to find this reliable, light, and moist vanilla cupcake recipe, but it is definitely a keeper. The cupcakes have a delicate crumb, but are tough enough to frost or fill with whatever delights that may strike your fancy. This is a true vanilla cupcake, made with pure vanilla extract (though if you are lucky enough to have vanilla beans on hand, a bean can certainly be used in place of one tablespoon of the extract). Watch the oven closely around 12 minutes; these cupcakes can over-bake rather quickly.

One Year Ago: Citrus Roasted Rhubarb
Two Years Ago: Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted slightly from Cupcake Project

Yields about 16 cupcakes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream (or plain, non-fat yogurt)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Gradually add in the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the milk, mixing until batter is uniform and smooth.

Fill baking cups about 2/3 full (or a little less) and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack, and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting or serving.

Reader Comments (60)

Can you recommend a frosting?
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSweetbabygs
Happy Birthday Kristin :)
Happy birthday! Love following your blog. The photos are always impeccable.
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan Thomas
Sweetbabygs-- It really depends on what kind of frosting you're looking for--anything would work. I enjoy this malted chocolate frosting ( or this brown sugar cinnamon buttercream (
05.29.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Happy Birthday! And it's so nice to know I'm not the only true vanilla fan out here! I even prefer vanilla ice crearm! My kids are appalled. These cupcakes are perfection.
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara
Happy Birthday! I hope you have an amazing day :)

And these cupcakes look great. I'm still looking for a good vanilla cake recipe ( they usually turn out dry) So I can't wait to try this recipe :)
I think baking your own cake is the only way to go! Happy Birthday to YOU!
Happy Birthday! Thanks for this and all the other great ideas you put out. Enjoy your day. :)
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
Wow, these cupcakes look absolutely perfect! You need to open up shop!
And I forgot to mention in that last comment, happy birthday! I just hit 24 in February too and I keep thinking that I'm 23. Then I remember I'm 24 and I can't help but think I'm old!
Happy Birthday! Love that you shared this, having a great vanilla cake recipe is a must. Can't wait to try these at some point soon! I'm imagining a delicious strawberry frosting
Happy Birthday to our wonderful and amazing niece....enjoy your special day just as much as we look forward and enjoy reading your blog!
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy and Arnie
Happy Birthday!! (:
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBri
Happy Birthday and I hope that loveliness always finds you. Your blog is amazing and your photo's are always gorgeous as is your food. I love vanilla, and vanilla cupcakes are my fave, they make me smile. Elizabeth from thedotdotblog
05.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
Happy Birthday! I agree that 24 is just smack in the midst of experienced and young. As a baker-wannabe, i prefer baking cakes for other people. Maybe as i become pro, i would stop thinking that way but for now, I would love receiving a cake baked by others. :D
The frosting looks amazing!
Happy Birthday! Wishing you a year full of blessings!
You do such an amazing job with your recipes and l love the commentary and photos!
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie
Happy 24th! I adored that year! And these look absolutely delicious. I love making my own birthday cakes. :)
Happy birthday! As a non professional baker I still absolutely love making my own cake, but family members often rebel and say they want to make something for me. These cupcakes look absolutely perfect - light and simple and delicious - perfect for any occasion, birthday or not.
05.30.2012 | Unregistered Commenterthelittleloaf
Happy Birthday. Hope you're having a great day!
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessie K.
There are so many lovely things about this post. Happy birthday! I'm going to try these out today for my birthday :)
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDesirée
I'm also a baker and I'm familiar with this Baker's Dilemma. Except it's with pie. I have had birthday pie since I was five. Peach to be exact. Which has to be made far in advance because my birthday is November. I remember my mother making the pie filling when peaches were in season and freezing it and making sure one was saved for November.
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMCS
Happy Birthday!!
Vanilla is my favorite cupcake and icing flavor.
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth
Happy Birthday!! I have some vanilla beans and seeing as though my birthday is coming up (and I prefer vanilla cake to chocolate) I was just wondering how you do the sub in for vanilla extract? I hope you have a fabulous day!!
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterClaudia
Happy Birthday Kristin! Strawberry Shortcake is my favorite too, and it's great that your mom and sister made it for you. You have created a beautiful website, I love to read your quotes and see your photography. Thanks for what you give us, even on your birthday!
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
I know that feeling! I experienced this dilemma on my own 24th birthday a couple of months ago. I wanted a super-chocolatey cake but didn't know whether I should make it myself or leave it to my boyfriend. He joked about attempting a cake himself and that he would probably fail miserably and end up buying one instead. I ended up getting a chocolate explosion of an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen which was delicious and perfect.

Happy Birthday and Welcome to the 2012 Edition of Club 24!!! :)
05.30.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
Your photos are beautiful....!
I am also from North Dakota and am so happy to have found your blog.
Thank you!
05.31.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLorilu
Happy Birthday! What a lovely post and I'm so glad that you enjoyed my vanilla cupcake recipe!
05.31.2012 | Unregistered CommenterStef
I love your description of 24 "neither here nor there." I feel like I'm in a constant state of limbo because my life has started but on the other hand it hasn't really. These cupcakes look super tasty. I haven't had the best luck with cupcakes, so maybe these will break my unlucky streak :D
24 is definitely young. Take it from a 31-year-old. ;) Happy birthday, and the vanilla cupcakes look great. Sweet of your mom and sis to make a strawberry shortcake for you.
05.31.2012 | Unregistered CommenterShirley
Claudia-- You can substitute one tablespoon of the vanilla extract for one vanilla bean.
05.31.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Happy birthday! Also, just wondering: where did you get the paper cups the cupcakes are in? I love them! Googling for "cupcake cups" has, so far, only turned up cupcake liners...
06.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMcKenzie
Happy Birthsday the other Day, i Can truly understand why you wanted the shortcake for the Day. These Vanilla cupcakes looks perfect, it's bookmarked.have a wonderful Day!
06.2.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMonsterscircus
The cupcake comes so neat with the wrapper, its perfect for celebrating wedding anniversaries or even weddings.
For me, its much better if someone else baked a cake for your birthday. The flavor of the cake is only comes second to thank with but the effort and thoughtfulness of someone baking it for you on your special date.
I just made this cupcake recipe and was amazed at the wonderfully smooth (and delicious) batter! They are baking now and I am excited to see how they turn out. My daughter turns seven tomorrow and she helped me make them. I found your blog a while ago via Pinterest and think you are amazing. Your writing, creativity, photography, and of course baking are inspiring in someone your age. Keep it up, I am confident your blog brings joy to many people who don't comment here but simply enjoy what you have created.
06.12.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJessica in WI
NICE :) I will try to cook it !
07.17.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChacha
I made these cupcakes over the weekend. I added a little twist to them. I inserted my raspberry filling into the center of the cupcake and then topped with my vanilla bean icing. My husband had three of them at one sitting because he couldn't stop eating them. My youngest son's birthday is in five days and he wants this in a cake form with the raspberry filling in between each layer. Awesome recipe.
Thanks so much for sharing.
08.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichele

This is a fantastic recipe, and great fun to make with the kids. Thanks so much for posting it.

All the best, Alex
have you tried making this eggless? I wanted to make these for my daugther's birthday party but one of her friends is allergic to eggs
10.29.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Liz-- I have not tried making it egg-less. I did a little research and I would recommend adding 1/3 cup buttermilk instead of the eggs and increasing the baking soda to 1 teaspoon. Also make sure to cream together the butter and sugar well so it is very light which will also help the cake rise and make sure to use cake flour! I cannot guarantee that this will work perfectly, but it is what I would try if I was in a situation like yours. If you do try it, let us know how it turns out!
10.30.2012 | Registered CommenterKristin Rosenau
Im actually going to try replacing the eggs with applesauce, if it doesn't work out Ill definitely try the buttermilk. Of course Im going to do a test batch before the party. Ill let you know how it works out. Thank you!!
10.31.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Thank you for the recipe, it's marvelous..... a keeper :)
11.3.2012 | Unregistered CommenterShamini
Just made these a couple hours ago a d definitely the most flavourful vanilla cupcakes ever!!!
01.13.2013 | Unregistered CommenterKirsten
Tried quite a few vanilla cupake recipes and this is the best so far. Light and fluffy with good flavour, and most importantly, easy. Thanks!
01.28.2013 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany
Made these for my son's 1st birthday today and they are all you say they are...absolutely delicious. Homemade cake often has such a large dense crumb and these are just lovely. I am so excited to have found this wonderful and EASY cupcake recipe. It will be a go-to for my family for sure.
03.12.2013 | Unregistered CommenterSusanW
Oh i loved the cupcakes..i have been hunting for a perfect vanilla cupcakes and have finally found it. And i agree about using cake flour, the cake is soo light and smaller crumbs. Cant stop eating :) thanks for the recipe..
03.30.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeera
Can we replace all purpose flour to cake flour in any recipes? Having tried cake flour for this one, am tempted to get the same texture n crumb for other cakes. So can i try replacing? or do i need to change any other ingredients accordingly.
04.1.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMeera
Ok these are now my favorite all-time cupcake recipe! SO moist and delicious. Thanks so much for sharing! I hope you don't mind, but I shared it too!

Christine :)
Love love love. Have tried quite a few recipes trying to get the perfect vanilla cupcake and I've finally found it! These are flavourful, light and moist. I ran out of cake flour so used all purpose and they were still fantastic. I made these in mini cupcake form for my daughter's birthday and they were devoured, the vanilla cupcakes were gone long before my signature chocolate cupcakes were!
04.29.2013 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

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