Love and Olive Oil

The Go-To Vanilla Cupcake

Vanilla cupcake with Vanilla Bean Buttecream

Obviously you all loved the go-to chocolate cupcake recipe I posted a few weeks back, and I’ve gotten numerous requests to do a similar base-recipe for vanilla. Thing is, I don’t very often do plain vanilla. When I get sugar cravings, chances are whatever I bake needs to involve chocolate, or my craving will not be satisfied.

However, a vanilla cake base is a necessity, and something I’ve used repeatedly for such creations as the Cookie Dough Cupcakes and Fruit-filled Lemon Cupcakes.

My first attempt at making plain-old vanilla cupcakes wasn’t the best. I felt the resulting cupcake was just a bit… blah? And bit too dense. So I tried again. And so what if I used almond meal – while some might claim the resulting cake is more of an almond vanilla cupcake than just a vanilla cupcake, I feel the almond meal gives it a unique taste and depth of flavor that one cannot achieve with vanilla alone. And I love almond. So sue me. If you don’t want to use the almond meal, substitute regular or whole wheat flour, or even some variety of nut flour (I’ve heard of hazelnut flour, which might be good?) in its place.

Anticipating that there will be questions, yes, you can substitute milk for soy milk (I’m usually making substitutions for cow milk, so it always cracks me up when people ask if the opposite is true, and while I’ve never done it, it should produce a perfectly palatable cupcake). Or use coconut milk. Or almond milk. Or any milky-liquid, really. Again, this is a base cupcake recipe for a reason. It’s your call as to how you might want to change it up for a particular flavor.

Despite what the picture might make you think, these cupcakes are different from the Vanilla Almond Cupcakes with Blackberry Buttercream. Who would have thought I could have so precisely recreated the color of natural blackberry puree in a buttercream with only liquid food coloring (I was simply trying to match the plum pink on the wrappers, nothing more).

So take this recipe, my dear readers, and go forth and create. Use it as a basis for a myriad of delightful cupcake flavors – the sky’s the limit!

Very Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream

Makes 12 cupcakes.

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1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup oil
1/2 vanilla bean (seeds only)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, room temperature
3-3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 vanilla bean (seeds only)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
food coloring (optional)

Cream or soy creamer, as needed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine soymilk and vinegar and stir to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes. Mixture will curdle.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Whisk sugar, oil, vanilla bean, and extract into curdled soymilk mixture. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until relatively smooth. Fill cupcake liners with a scant 3 Tablespoons of batter (cups should be just under 2/3 of the way full). Bake for 20-22 minutes or until lightly golden, and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

For frosting, cream butter in electric mixer for 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Slowly add 1 cup sugar and beat until smooth. Add soy creamer and mix until combined. Add remaining confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until well incorporated. Add vanilla seeds, extract, and food coloring, and mix at medium-high speed until light and fluffy (2-3 minutes). Add cream or more sugar as necessary to achieve proper consistency. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

All images and text © / Love & Olive Oil

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  1. Would this turn out well as an 8 or 9 inch round/rectangular cake too? Looking for eggless cake recipes. I love your cup cakes – especially the chai latte and mocha ones!

    • Unfortunately I don’t think this one will work as a regular cake. Cake recipes usually can be converted to cupcakes easily, but not necessarily the other way around. I’d recommend searching for a vegan layer cake recipe and using that instead.

  2. Hi! LOVE this recipe – have been using it for catering cupcakes for years and get rave reviews every time. I’m curious – when you sift your dry ingredients, do you throw away the almond meal that is left in the bottom of the sifter? Or do you add it to the recipe?

  3. I made these today for my daughter’s 9th birthday. I used almond milk because that’s what we had on hand. Then I separated the batter into 6 bowls and dyed each one a
    different color and layered the batter into white liners to make rainbow cupcakes. The batter worked beautifully and took the color perfectly. Thanks for a great and super easy recipe! Her BFF is allergic to dairy and eggs so this was the perfect recipe for her party today. 

  4. Hey lindsay,after searching endlessly for an oil based COFFEE flavored cupcake..i tried to give this vanilla cupcake a shot…I added 3 tsp of instant coffee to the wet mix and increased the sugar to 1 cup.My cupcakes turned out awesom..i almost was perfectly sweet and the coffee flavor was amazing.But i am not sure why they stuck to the paper liners like one more reader commented above.I baked for 20 mins & toothpick was clean..did i underbake coz the top was set and spongy when touched but the base kind of stuck..plz help

  5. Would this recipe work using almond milk as an alternative for the soy or cow’s milk?

  6. Absolutely lovely!

  7. Hey Lindsay- I made these yesterday and they tasted great! My husband ate 2 and my toddler ate 2 as well!! But I tinkered with the recipe- I put 3/4th cup almond meal and 1/2 cup flour- this resulted in some of the cupcakes having a slightly raw middle. Great tasting and fluffy outside, just a little raw in the middle. Could this be because of the oven/baking time or because I added too much almond meal?

  8. I was looking for an eggless vanilla cupcake recipe that didn’t call for condensed milk- this looks absolutely gorgeous! I have prepared eggless cupcakes with vinegar and milk; but I love your addition of almond meal. I recently discovered the awesomeness of almond meal- it adds such a lovely richness to cakes! Thanks for sharing this. Can’t wait to bake it!!

  9. This recipe is amazing!! So moist. I used buttermilk instead of going to the curdling process. It came out so good. I’m going to try all AP flour this time, in case someone is allergic to nuts.
    Keep them coming!! :)

  10. Does this cake recipe really not have any eggs?

  11. These are simply beautiful! The pink frosting looks perfect! I’m going to try your recipe for sure. thanks for sharing!

  12. The cupcakes are lovely, but the icing is far far too sweet. Too much butter and too much sugar.
    Other than that, fantastic :)

  13. I love cupcakes and always looking to try new cupcakes. Just curious what does the cider vinegar do? I have been perusing your cupcake recipies (your cupcakes are quite beautiful and look yummy!) and I noticed a few of them contain vinegar and I was just curious what it does for the recipie. I like to bake but often times I don’t understand the science behind it. thanks for sharing your cupcakes with us!

  14. I have been experimenting with cupcakes at home now because I have always loved them, the ladies I work with love them and I just wanted to jump in. I have been trying various base recipes and I can’t find a plain vanilla one that doesn’t turn out a bit blah and dense (which my nephews didn’t seem to mind), so my friend referred me to your page and I am excited to see that I am not the only one with this issue. This recipe will be the next one I experiment with. :) Thanks for being as adventurous as you are.

  15. So I just finished the cupcakes, and they look wonderful…but I have one problem, they are stuck to the cupcake paper. Can you tell me why it might have done that?

  16. Is there something I could use instead of the cider vinegar? I can not have anything acidic. Would it be ok just to leave it out? Tx!

  17. Mine came out poorly- for some reason the milk didnt curdle at all with the vineager. i used apple cider vineager- is this the wrong kind?

  18. Soymilk because the base cupcake is technically dairy-free and vegan. You can definitely substitute regular milk, I don’t believe it will have any negative effect on the cake, but can’t say definitively as I’ve never tried it! If you do, let me know how it turns out. :)

  19. I quickly look at the ingredient lists and notice that you have soy milk. Do you use soy milk for any specific reason? Can I replace soy milk with regular milk, perhaps?

    Love your site!!!

  20. delicious! i’ve been searching for a long time for a recipe as good as this. the cupcakes are perfect! lovely flavor, lovely texture. thank you :)

  21. Beautiful pic!

  22. The cupcakes are so beautiful- especially the icing!

  23. Your cupcakes are beautiful. I even love the wrappers.

  24. so beautiful! vanilla is a classic flavour :) i love your buttercream. it’s a real pretty colour!

  25. Alice – see the link above, posted by Xiaolu. Just got confirmation from gma that this is where she got them. :)

  26. If you discover where Taylor’s grandmother purchased those cupcake stands, can you also let me know? Thanks!

  27. I absolutely love the photograph. Love the depth of field and the sharpness of the picture. The light is just appropriate. Wondering would it be better if the exposure was a just tiny bit more? What do you think?

  28. So cute and so girly! I really like this :) I’m happy I found you on twitter… I will follow your posts now.
    Have a nice day!

  29. that is such a beautiful picture, love that pink!

  30. These are so cute! I love the addition of the almond meal, changing the consistency and the flavor oh so subtly, and of course adding those beautiful flecks to the cupcake.

  31. Love the recipe, Lindsay. I’m curious to see what a difference in taste/texture the almond meal makes. I compared your recipe to the VCTOTW one and you use more vinegar but less baking soda. Does this make the cupcake taste tangy at all? Like everyone else, I find those cupcake stands ah-dorable. Not sure they’re the exact same, but I think these may be it

  32. Shira – you could use almond flour, if available, or simply very finely ground almonds (if you have a blender or food processor). Good luck!

  33. I can’t find almond meal in my Country, can you recommend something else I can substitute for almond meal? My family LOVED your pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes, so I can’t wait to try some of the rest of the ones posted on this site!

  34. These look so good. Beautiful presentation and photography.

  35. How do you get it to look so fantastic?

  36. I’ve been looking for a good oil based vanilla cupcake. I really like the magnolia vanilla recipe but I hate waiting around for my butter to soften!

  37. Wow, these look fabulous. Your icing always looks so perfect – what piping nozzle do you use?

  38. In the directions for the frosting you mention adding the soy creamer — i don’t see that in the list of ingredients for the frosting — might this be a typo? I’d love to make these, so please let me know as soon as you can — thanks!

  39. The adorable cupcake stands were a wedding gift from Taylor’s grandmother. I’ve just sent her an email and maybe she’ll be so kind as to share where she found such a gem. :) Will be sure to report back if I find out!

  40. Those look wonderful! I think the addition of the apple cider vinegar is so interesting. The stands your cupcakes are displayed on are so cute! Where did you get those?

  41. I thought I had found my go-to vanilla recipe but the last time I baked them I realised they were a little too dry for my liking. I might have to try these – I need to find the perfect vanilla recipe!

  42. amazingggg! your cupcakes are freakin gorgeous, as always. :)

  43. Oh yay! I can’t wait to try these out!

  44. OMG, haha, it IS almost a twin in appearance to your other ones! Too cute, as always!

  45. I have a go-to vanilla recipe too but I’m always on the look out for new “go-to” recipes! Thanks for sharing. Definitely will star to try soon. PS- Where did you get those ADORABLE cupcake pedestals? Tweet or email me? TIA!

  46. I love that you provide a “base” recipe. As with your go-to chocolate cupcake recipe, it really is a tremendous incentive to experiment a little on my own. I bake a lot, but not cake. Since my daughter and granddaughter are both huge cupcake fans, it’s an area I need to work on. Thanks, Lindsay.

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