Testing for the best vanilla cupcake

I have up until recently always used Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcake that is until one of my friends told me it tasted like a corn muffin to her. So guess what, every bite after that – that was all I could taste. ARGHHHHH!

The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake by Cupcake Project

Seriously, in one sentence she managed to ruin my go-to vanilla recipe.  So I started checking around at places like Martha Stewart, Epicurious, Cook’s Illustrated and Food Network. Funny thing – every single recipe contained a few review comments stating the end result tasted like a corn muffin.

I don’t want a corn muffin. I want a vanilla cupcake.

Next I headed to some of my favorite blogs. First up for testing was Stephanie’s recipe of Cupcake Project. I chose her recipe first because, I’m partial to her blog – love her and her site. Mostly importantly, I trust her recipes. Along with that she was on her own quest to create the best vanilla cupcake recipe.

She didn’t fail. In fact her recipe delivered big time! If you haven’t tried her recipe you need to. It tasted like a vanilla cupcake not a corn muffin or yellow cake. V-a-n-i-l-l-a!

As a side note, take her advice and bake one cupcake before filling the whole pan and discovering your cupcake are higher than you wanted or not high enough. By that, I’m not referring to the rise. It rises fine. I’m referring to how much you should fill each well.

I have a tendency to like my cupcakes just below top of the liner (although you can see the mini cupcakes crept above that).That’s only because I generally like to cover the whole top with frosting, especially if I make them a day in advance. That way the frosting helps to keep the cupcakes moist.

Hit the jump for her recipe. For the vanilla frosting, I used my go-to vanilla buttercream. And stay tuned, I will showcasing the second vanilla cupcake recipe up for testing on next Monday’s post.

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 11/2 cup sugar
  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla  extract


  1. Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.
  2. Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium  high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools and doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks; about 10-12 minutes).
  3. Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled looking at first-this is normal. Keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again.
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31 Responses to “Testing for the best vanilla cupcake”

  1. #
    Annie @ Annie's Cooking Lab — March 5, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

    I’ve been searching for the perfect vanilla cupcake for a while too. I’ve tried a bunch that have been ‘good’, but not truly amazing. You wouldn’t think a flavor as ‘simple’ as vanilla would be difficult to replicate in a cupcake, but it is! I’m looking forward to trying this recipe!


  2. #
    Maria — March 5, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

    I will have to try this recipe!


  3. #
    Kristen M. — March 5, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    I went through a similar experience where my go-to vanilla recipe no longer suited me. I heard one negative thing from my husband and it was all down hill from there. Since then I have tested vanilla recipe after vanilla recipe so I feel you. LOL! Thanks for sharing!


  4. #
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel — March 5, 2012 @ 8:30 pm

    I love a good, no … great(!) vanilla cupcake. And it must be covered with a mound of frosting. :)


  5. #
    Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar — March 5, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

    Vanilla cupcakes are my favorite! These sound lovely.


  6. #
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga — March 5, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

    I just spent FOUR hours in the kitchen making cupcakes and butter cream frosting! Wish I had seen this post this morning!!


  7. #
    Liz @ Tip Top Shape — March 5, 2012 @ 10:44 pm

    Well, that woudl ruin a vanilla cupcake for me, too!! This buttercream sounds delicious!


  8. #
    Kim Campbell — March 5, 2012 @ 11:54 pm

    I was one of Stef’s Ultimate Vanilla explorers, I have to say, this is the best vanilla cupcake EVER! She hit it out of the cupcake park with this one! I’m glad you enjoyed the one we deemed The Ultimate Vanilla!


  9. #
    Blog is the New Black — March 6, 2012 @ 12:22 am

    I wish I could help you taste test….


  10. #
    Shawnda — March 6, 2012 @ 4:55 am

    If you get around to it, try Toba Garret’s moist yellow cake (from The Well-Decorated Cake), I use it as the base for a vanilla bean cake that people go nuts over.

    And good luck on your journey :)


  11. #
    Kimiko — March 6, 2012 @ 7:09 am

    The vanilla bean cupcake recipe on Annies-Eats is my favorite! It’s very vanilla-y, and unlike any other I’ve tasted before. You should try it!


  12. #
    Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen — March 6, 2012 @ 10:54 am

    Uh oh, that was my go-to vanilla cupcake recipe as well! I wonder if I would notice a difference in the taste now that I now what she said about the cornbread taste?


  13. #
    Kristine Bizzelle — March 6, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

    i cant tell you how many batches of “vanilla” cupcakes i have thrown away because i didnt like how they tasted! they always tasted like cooked eggs to me! i started making this recipe a few months ago and im hooked and every one i make them for go bananas for them!


  14. #
    Sarah — March 6, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

    They look extremely tempting. I always find pleasure tasting vanilla. They are a great match for your cupcakes. Thank you for sharing.


  15. #
    shelly (cookies and cups) — March 6, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

    I can’t wait to try that recipe…and your friend is SO right! I never thought about cornbread, but it’s totally true!


  16. #
    Deanna — March 6, 2012 @ 9:27 pm

    I can’t say I’ve ever noticed vanilla cupcakes tasting like cornbread, but I also don’t eat much vanilla cake.


  17. #
    Roxana — March 7, 2012 @ 1:49 am

    hearing my precious vanilla muffins taste more like corn muffin would ruin my day. going to check the go-to vanilla cupcake.


  18. #
    Cynthia — March 7, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

    Hi! My question is: how many ounces are 4 sticks of unsalted butter???


    • Naomi replied: — March 7th, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

      Hi Cynthia – Four sticks of butter is a pound of butter. It is enough frosting cover 48-50 cupcakes.


  19. #
    Kelly — March 7, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

    I have these on my to-do list. Another that I love is the recipe from the Cupcake Bakeshop, her triple vanilla cupcakes, they are very good. Good luck, I cannot wait to see what next week brings.


  20. #
    Diane {Created by Diane} — March 7, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    I’m so glad you’re doing all this testing,because I’m on the look out for a new vanilla cupcake and I can’t wait to see what’s next!


  21. #
    Andreja — March 8, 2012 @ 4:55 am

    Congratulations. I try lots of them too.


  22. #
    Charlotte Gall — March 10, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    I just love cupcake and always looking for new recipes.
    They sounds like perfectly wonderful vanilla cupcake to me!


  23. #
    Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids — March 10, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

    I have been on a long quest for the perfect vanilla cupcake. And, I truly cannot wait to try this one. Thank you for the recommendation.


  24. #
    lester@cupcakeideasforyou.com — March 12, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

    Same here, i like a cupcake who are below the top of the liner to emphasize the frosting and compliment it with good looking wrapper.


  25. #
    Eunice Lee — March 13, 2012 @ 4:51 am

    ooh I can’t wait to give this recipe a try! Do you mind sharing what kind of tip you used for the frosting?


  26. #
    Sukaina — March 13, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    May I suggest this recipe- http://sipsandspoonfuls.com/2010/10/moist-vanilla-cupcakes-with-chocolate.html

    It is the best I have ever tried!


  27. #
    Rebecca — March 14, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

    Can you tell me how you got the icing to look like that in the picture? what tip did you use?


  28. #
    Kat — March 20, 2013 @ 10:30 am

    A friend of mine used to work at Magnolia in NYC and one day we were discussing it. I never got what the “big deal” about Magnolia was, I never thought the cupcakes were very good, unique, moist, etc. But as you probably know, there are always lines out the door! Their banana pudding is a different story…TO DIE FOR! Anyway, while discussing the cupcakes my friend said that he always thought the cupcakes tasted like they had cornmeal in them. Interesting that your friend thought the same thing. I use Amy Sedaris’ vanilla cupcake recipe. I think it’s pretty great. I have had a hard time finding really great go-to vanilla (until Amy’s) and chocolate cupcakes. Some are too airy and can’t hold up to fillings and frostings (or even just peeling off the paper liner), some taste bland or dry, etc etc. I’ll have to try Stephanie’s recipe.


  29. #
    Hala — December 18, 2013 @ 4:06 am

    Hello, I don’t seem to be able to see the recipe.. some kind of blocked.


  30. #
    Stephanie — May 30, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    What type of sugar should I use? Granulated? Powdered? Is the amount 1.5 cups of sugar? It looks like 11/2 which would be 5.5 cups. Thank you!


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