These small batch vanilla cupcakes are light and fluffy, topped with silky cream cheese frosting. This recipe makes 6 cupcakes, perfect for a small birthday party or other celebration.
One thing about me is that if there's cream cheese frosting involved, I'm eating it. That's why I had to create a recipe for small batch vanilla cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The frosting is what takes basic vanilla cupcakes from good to GREAT!
This recipe yields 6 cupcakes that are light, fluffy, tender- all those yummy things. They're extra soft thanks to cake flour and the reverse creaming method. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar separately, the butter and dry ingredients are mixed together at the same time. This limits gluten development, creating extra soft cupcakes!
A small batch of cupcakes is perfect to bring to a birthday party, housewarming party, or other small get-together. Or you can just make them for yourself! If you love small batch recipes, make my mini flourless chocolate cake, small batch banana muffins, small vanilla cake, small batch brownies, and small batch blueberry muffins.
Here are some notes about the ingredients used. Quantities are included in the recipe card below.
- Cake flour- This light and fluffy flour has less protein and gluten than all purpose flour, giving the cupcakes the softest crumb!
- Granulated sugar- White sugar adds the perfect amount of sweetness and lets the vanilla flavor shine. Cane sugar works as a substitute.
- Baking powder- This helps the cupcakes rise by adding air bubbles to the batter. Make sure your baking powder is less than 6 months old because it loses its power over time. Do not use baking soda since it's much stronger than baking powder!
- Sea salt- Use finely ground sea salt or table salt to activate the baking powder and contrast the sweetness.
- Unsalted butter- Make sure the butter is at room temperature so it mixes in easily. Room temperature butter will be cool to the touch and easy to indent applying gentle pressure with your finger. It should look smooth, not greasy.
- Oil- Vegetable oil adds more fat to the batter, making the cupcakes moist.
- Egg- One large egg binds the ingredients together and adds extra fat and moisture. Make sure the egg is at room temperature so it blends into the batter evenly. Pull it out of the refrigerator about an hour before baking.
- Vanilla extract- Use pure vanilla extract for the best vanilla flavor.
- Buttermilk- This adds additional tang and helps to tenderize the gluten, giving the cake a softer texture. Pull this out of the refrigerator the same time as the egg.
- Sea salt: Fine Kosher or pink Himalayan salt can be substituted. Add an additional ⅛ teaspoon if your salt isn't finely ground.
- Vegetable oil: Any mild, neutral-tasting oil can be used. Some examples are canola oil, avocado oil, and grapeseed oil.
- Buttermilk: Plain kefir, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own! Combine ¼ cup whole milk with ¾ teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice. Mix, let it sit for 10 minutes to curdle, and you're good to go.
Helpful Equipment and Tools
- Stand mixer
- 12-well muffin tin. You can use a pan with 6 wells if you have one!
- Cupcake liners
- Large cookie scoop to evenly portion the batter.
- Piping bags or a Ziploc bag to frost the cupcakes.
How to Make Vanilla Cupcakes
Here are the steps to make the cupcakes! First, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C and place 6 cupcake liners in a cupcake pan.
STEP 1: First, add the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Give the ingredients a quick mix on low, spinning about 5 times.
STEP 2: Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and beat on low until no clumps of butter remain and the texture looks like wet sand. This will take about 5 minutes.
STEP 3: Turn the mixer off and add the oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix on low until a batter begins to form.
STEP 4: With the mixer running on low, slowly pour in the buttermilk. Continue mixing until the batter is smooth with no lumps or pools of liquid.
STEP 5: With a spoon or cookie scoop, portion the cupcake batter evenly between the 6 cupcake liners in your pan. Fill them ¾ of the way full so they don't overflow in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops bounce back when lightly touched.
Remove the cupcakes from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Let them cool for 30-60 minutes, making sure they're at room temperature before frosting.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
This is super simple to make with softened butter, cream cheese, vanilla bean paste, and powdered sugar. For the full recipe with helpful tips and tricks, head to my small batch cream cheese frosting recipe.
STEP 1: Start by adding the softened butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix them together on medium speed until smooth and fluffy.
STEP 2: With the mixer running on low, slowly add the powdered sugar to the creamed butter and cream cheese until everything is blended together. This will take about 5 minutes.
STEP 3: Pour the vanilla bean paste into the frosting base and mix on medium-low speed until well combined and smooth.
To decorate, first fill a piping bag prepared with a piping tip with frosting. I used the Ateco 866 tip, but you can use whatever tip you prefer. Pipe a swirl on top of each cupcake and garnish with coarse sugar, sprinkles, or freeze-dried berries.
Expert Baking Tips
- Use a kitchen scale. I always recommend using a food scale for accuracy. If you don't have one, always spoon-measure your flour. Fluff up the flour first before spooning it into your measuring cup- don't pack it in!
- Use room temperature ingredients. Using room temperature eggs, butter, and buttermilk creates a fully blended, smooth batter that will bake evenly and have a uniform texture.
- Don't overmix the batter. Over mixing cupcake batter will result in a dense crumb.
- Wait until they cool to frost. You have to wait for the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them or the frosting will melt and slide off the cake!
Feel free to use a different type of frosting, especially if you don't like cream cheese! Add a swirl of chocolate or vanilla buttercream frosting for a classic twist. My lavender buttercream and brown sugar buttercream would be super delicious.
Storage and Freezing
Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Store them in the refrigerator for an additional 3 days after that.
If the cupcakes are frosted, store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Let them thaw on the counter for about an hour before serving.
Leftover cream cheese frosting can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days. Let it come to room temperature before you use it.
Freeze the cupcakes on a baking sheet for 2 hours or until frozen solid. Then, transfer them to a freezer bag and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to enjoy, remove the cupcakes from the freezer and let them thaw at room temperature for two hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
Frequently Asked Questions
You definitely can! You can also double the recipe to make a small vanilla cake.
You sure can! After they reach room temperature, use a piping tip to core out the center of the cupcakes and fill them with whatever your little heart desires. I suggest strawberry jam or blueberry compote.
You may have over-measured your flour. Make sure to use a kitchen scale to measure all the ingredients accurately! Overbaking can also make cupcakes dry. I recommend using an oven thermometer to make sure your oven isn't running too hot.
There are a couple reasons why this might happen. First, check to make sure your baking powder isn't expired. If it's not, you may have overmixed the batter. Overmixing adds too much air that escapes in the oven, causing the cupcakes to sink. Filling the cupcake liners more than ¾ full makes it so the cupcakes can't expand, therefore causing them to sink.
More Cupcake Recipes to Try
Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes
- 100 grams cake flour
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- 38 grams unsalted butter softened
- 36 grams vegetable oil
- 1 large egg room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 80 grams buttermilk
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 57 grams unsalted butter softened
- 113 grams cream cheese softened
- 180 grams powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line a cupcake pan with 6 liners and set aside.
- Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low, spinning about 5 times.100 grams cake flour, 100 grams granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- Add the butter to the bowl and beat on low for 5 minutes until the texture looks like wet sand.38 grams unsalted butter
- Add the oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Mix on low until a batter forms. Then pour in the buttermilk and mix until well combined.36 grams vegetable oil, 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 80 grams buttermilk
- Portion the batter evenly between 6 cupcake liners in your pan, filling each ¾ full. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the tops bounce back when lightly touched.
- Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream the butter and cream cheese together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy.57 grams unsalted butter, 113 grams cream cheese
- With the mixer running on low, slowly add in the powdered sugar until well combined.180 grams powdered sugar
- Add the vanilla bean paste and mix on low until smooth.½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- Frost the cupcakes when they're completely cool, top with sugar or sprinkles, and enjoy.
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