Small batch recipes are a great option for serving dessert to a smaller crowd. After working on a little two-layer Lotus Biscoff cake and mini carrot cakes, I start brainstorming classic desserts. And what’s more classic than vanilla cupcakes? This recipe gives you the steps you need for making a small batch of vanilla cupcakes as well as vanilla buttercream frosting. Enjoy a cupcake for yourself and share with five friends; this makes six servings.
Small batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Oil and Butter
When I was developing my small batch chocolate chip muffin recipe, I wanted to learn more about baking with oil versus butter.
I was so curious about the benefits of baking with these two fats that I put together my findings in a short post on my blog about baking with each of them.
With everything I read in mind, I landed on using a combination of butter and oil. The butter gives these homemade vanilla cupcakes flavor and structure, while the oil helps make them softer.
Ingredients for this Recipe
In the recipe card below, you’ll find all the ingredients you need. I highlight a few of the key ones and why they’re important.
- Unsalted room temperature butter – Butter is a fat, and fat equals flavor! In these cupcakes, they give it a delicious taste and make the cupcakes fluffy. By mixing butter and sugar, you incorporate air into your batter, which helps your cupcakes expand and rise in the oven.
- Vanilla extract – In an online baking class I took once, Christina Tosi of Milk Bar taught us that you don’t need fancy and expensive vanilla extract for good flavor. So the extract from your local grocery store is perfectly fine for these small batch vanilla cupcakes. I can never taste a huge difference between pricier extracts and more basic ones.
- Canola oil – I like using a mix of oil and butter in my baked goods. Butter brings a lot of flavor, but oil helps more with keeping your desserts nice and moist.
- Baking powder and baking soda – These two leavening agents work together to help your cupcakes rise nicely, giving them a nice, fluffy texture.
Steps for Making Vanilla Cupcakes from Scratch
About an hour before beginning this recipe, bring your egg, butter, buttermilk, and full-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream) out of the refrigerator. Place them on your counter so they reach room temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin tin with 6 paper liners.
To a large bowl, add and whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Set aside.
Using the paddle attachment in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream your unsalted room temperature butter, vanilla extract, and sugar together on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl before adding the egg and beating again for 1 minute.
Add half of your dry ingredients and all buttermilk to your mixing bowl. Mix on medium for about 45 seconds and scrape the bowl’s sides again so all ingredients are evenly incorporated.
Add the remaining flour, along with your Greek yogurt and oil. Mix on low speed until well-combined, about 45 more seconds.
Pour and evenly spread the batter into your prepared cupcake liners (about 50 grams in each cavity). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until cupcakes appear buttery and dense but bounce back at the touch of your finger.
Let cupcakes cool in pan about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting them.
Making Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Meanwhile, as the cupcakes bake and cool, you can work on the frosting.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine your unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, lemon juice (if using), and salt. Beat for about 3 minutes.
Taste test and then add another splash of lemon juice if too sweet.
Once happy with flavor, use a spatula to smooth the frosting. Drag the spatula from the middle of your bowl to its edges, watching as the tears and bubbles in your buttercream disappear. Spend 3-4 minutes doing these motions to achieve nice, smooth frosting.
Transfer frosting to a piping bag fitted with a tip of your choice – I used 2D for these cupcakes! Top with sprinkles if desired.
I really love pairing vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting. But you could also spice things up by topping them with my black buttercream frosting for a nice contrast in color, plus rich chocolate flavor. This frosting tastes like an Oreo and would be delicious on these cupcakes! Or try my cookie butter frosting for a different take on these.
There are many factors that can help make a cupcake nice and fluffy. The amount of air you incorporate into your batter is important. Do this by spending the full amount of time the recipe card states for mixing your butter and sugar. Also, be sure to use room temperature ingredients – more on that below. The amount of leavening agents, like baking powder and baking soda, plays a role in helping your cupcakes rise, too. Lastly, avoid overmixing your batter. Once your ingredients are mixed together, stop mixing.
Ingredients like eggs, butter, and other dairy products are important in trapping air into your baked goods as you mix the batter or dough for them. That air expands during the baking process in the oven. This can mean the difference between a dense and crumbly cupcake and a nice, fluffy one. So you should always bake with room temperature ingredients if a recipe calls for it. This one does.
In this recipe, we use a combination of oil, buttermilk, butter, and Greek yogurt (or sour cream could work, too) to create a moist and soft cupcake. Make sure to use room temperature butter, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt.
Tips for Perfecting this Recipe for Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes
- Don’t overmix your batter! Overmixing batter can yield a denser cupcake, the opposite of a soft and fluffy baked good. Pay attention to the photos in this recipe for visual cues on how your cupcake batter should look before baking.
- Let your vanilla cupcakes cool before frosting them. If your cupcakes are still warm when you pipe buttercream onto them, the frosting may melt a bit. Patience is important!
- For a more flavorful cupcake, eat it the next day. The added time allows the flavors to meld together longer, resulting in a stronger taste.
Use a Scale to Bake Like a Pro
If you’re not already, use a kitchen scale for accuracy in baking. Weighing your ingredients and writing or following a recipe using a standard metric like grams ensures consistency. You may use a set of measuring cups, but the problem is that yours and mine could be quite different. That can result in noticeable discrepancies in the end product between what each of us is baking.
I highly recommend investing $30 or less in a kitchen scale.
More Dessert Recipes
If you’re looking for more classic recipes, then I bet you’ll love these big batch chocolate chip cookies. They’re made with brown butter, oatmeal, and are basically my favorite cookie recipe of all time. Or check out this small batch chocolate chip muffin recipe for your next weekend brunch plans.Print
Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes
This small batch vanilla cupcake recipe is easy to make and serves six. Top cupcakes with vanilla frosting and sprinkles for a classic treat.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 6 cupcakes 1x
- Category: Cupcakes
- Cuisine: American
- 4 tablespoons (57 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1/4 cup (65 grams) buttermilk, room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tsp canola oil (or other colorless, odorless oil like vegetable or grapeseed)
- 1 T full fat Greek yogurt or sour cream at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (100 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/8 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
Small Batch Vanilla Buttercream Ingredients
- 1 stick (113 grams) of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups (300 grams) of powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 T milk or heavy cream
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt (use 1/8 tsp for table salt)
- A few drops of lemon or lime juice (or white vinegar) to cut sweetness; add to your preference
- Sprinkles for decorating
- Preheat your oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin tin with 6 paper liners.
- To a large bowl, add and whisk together all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt. Set aside.
- Using the paddle attachment in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream your unsalted room temperature butter, vanilla extract, and sugar together on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and beat again for 1 minute.
- Add half of your bowl of dry ingredients and all buttermilk to your mixing bowl and mix on low for about 45 seconds. Scrape sides again.
- Add the remaining flour, along with your Greek yogurt and oil. Mix on low speed until totally incorporated.
- Pour and evenly spread the batter into your prepared cupcake liners (about 50 grams in each cavity). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until cupcakes appear buttery and dense but bounce back at the touch of your finger.
- Let cupcakes cool in pan about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
Small Batch Vanilla Buttercream Instructions
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine your unsalted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, heavy cream, lemon juice (if using), and salt. Start on a low setting to incorporate and avoid powder flying everywhere. Then increase speed and beat for another 3 minutes.
- Taste test and add another splash of lemon juice if too sweet.
- Once happy with flavor, use a spatula to smooth the frosting. Drag the spatula from the middle of your bowl to its edges, watching as the tears and bubbles in your buttercream disappear. Spend 3-4 minutes doing these motions to achieve nice, smooth frosting.
- Transfer frosting to a piping bag fitted with a tip of your choice – I used 2D for these cupcakes! Top with sprinkles if desired.
Please note that the nutritional information is an estimate and based on one cupcake.
- Calories: 545
Keywords: cupcake recipe, vanilla frosting, cupcake decorating, small batch vanilla cupcakes