vanilla cupcakes

vanilla cupcakes

vanilla cupcakes for my brother’s wedding (2015)

When I was on maternity leave for the first time 5 years ago, I started playing around with cupcake recipes and had a very small “for fun” home cupcake business.  Finding the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe took awhile (I tried a lot! Too dense, too crumbly, too dry, etc). I finally came across a recipe by Smitten Kitchen (called Mom’s Apple Cake) and thought the cake-base of the recipe might just do the trick for cupcakes.  Turns out, it is one of the easiest methods to make a moist, delicious and tasty cupcake!  I have made these cupcakes at least a dozen times – for birthdays, baby showers, family events, even for Easter one year and I filled them with lemon curd (yum!).  If you ever want a full sized cake, use her full Mom’s Apple Cake recipe because it’s also a delicious crowd pleaser.

hello kitty

vanilla cupcakes (left) for a friend’s baby shower

This is the perfect cupcake recipe if you’re new to baking or have no time for trial and error.  The steps are easy and there’s no finicky measurements. You probably also likely have most of these ingredients in your pantry and fridge already! If you don’t have orange juice, you can easily substitute apple juice or even milk.  I always top these cupcakes with some sort of homemade icing (try Basic Buttercream Icing or Heavenly Icing), but you can always get store-bought if you prefer.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s recipe “Mom’s Apple Cake” 

prep: 20 min   bake:  15-18 min    yield: 20 cupcakes

what you need:

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (use something like grape-seed oil or canola oil – do not use olive oil, as it has a strong taste)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • Buttercream Icing (click for recipe)

what to do:

  1. Line 2 muffin tins with paper cups.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Combine APF, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  4. In a larger separate bowl, whisk oil, sugar, orange juice, vanilla and eggs together. (You can use stand mixer or electric hand mixer).
  5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mix to combine, scraping sides of bowl to be sure everything is evenly mixed. Do not over beat the batter, as this produces dense cakes.
  6. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 – going shy is better than going over because the cakes will rise and you want to have nice even tops on your cupcakes so that you can top them with icing (pretty!!!).
  7. Bake in the middle rack for 15-18 minutes – I have a convection oven so it tends to bake a lot faster – use a toothpick to check – once it is almost clean (crumbly on toothpick but not wet) you can remove them because they continue baking in the tins a little bit once you take them out.
  8. Once they are cool enough to handle, transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Finish with icing of choice. Enjoy!

*If you are not serving them that day, store them in an airtight container and put them in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving. You can also wait until the day you are serving them to ice them.


heavenly icing

This is currently my favourite icing. It’s CRAZY good. And all you need is eggs, water and brown sugar. It’s light yet creamy, sweet but not cloying, and it holds it’s volume/shape. There is no butter or cream in it! It’s crazy good. Yup I said it twice!


perfect for cake layers

The recipe came from a client of mine – we were chatting about her Easter weekend and she mentioned that she made a chocolate cake with boiled icing. I had to stop her and ask, what is boiled icing?! She said it was a recipe that was given to her from a sister in law’s mother in law (thank you, whoever you are!). As she described it (boiling sugar with water, adding it to stiff peak egg whites) – I just couldn’t quite imagine it! So I had to try it; and boy am I glad I did. I made it for my brother’s 30th birthday and it was loved by all. My mom usually scrapes off the icing when she eats cake but she didn’t this time! It has a pillowy marshmallow like texture and is very spreadable and holds it’s form really well. I left it out at room temperature for the whole day on the cake before serving! And it was fine the next day too. I used to make buttercream icing all the time for cupcakes and cakes, but I am definitely going to be using this one more often now because it’s not as heavy and tastes heavenly.


on vanilla cake

You might be concerned about the egg whites being raw…I thought about this too. However, the sugar is really really hot when you add it to the egg whites. I think the heat must cook them and stabilize them, because it really doesn’t lose volume at all.

what you need:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 egg whites

what to do:

  1. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  2. In a pot on medium heat, boil sugar and water until it is thickened and “threads”. Not quite as thick as caramel but just before it turns to that. Use a wooden spoon to spoon the sugar mixture – it is ready when it isn’t running off the spoon quickly. This will take about 12 minutes but keep an eye on it so that your sugar doesn’t burn.
  3. Slowly add the hot sugar (be careful it’s super hot!) to the eggs whites while continuously beating them on medium speed. Beat for another 5 minutes or so, until the mixture is firm enough to spread. Enjoy!

    hot sugar drizzling into egg whites


    ready to spread




    the best part!