For my First Post Proper, I thought it only fitting to divulge the cupcake recipe upon which all my other cupcake experiments are based (it’s a pretty standard recipe, but you have no idea how sacred it is to me).

I came upon this recipe when I was invited round to my mates’ flat to create a contribution for a bake sale. Another friend of mine had recently posted some photos of rainbow cupcakes she’d made and I absolutely had to have a go. I should mention that I hadn’t done any baking in over ten years, and prior to that, any baking I’d done came out of a Betty Crocker box (involved adding water, oil, and an egg, a gimmick invented during rationing to make folks feel like they were actually cooking something – could very easily have been ‘just add water’… digression: over)

So! Found this recipe and pretty much took over my friends’ kitchen for the evening, dyeing dishes of batter, flavouring icing, topping up my glass of rosé… and bouncing around like a hyperactive two-year-old when the cakes came out of the oven and were all stripy and kitschy and gorgeous etc. They tasted amazing too.

Since then, this recipe has served me well and acts as a base for much of my cupcake experimentation; it’s not too sweet, nice and moist, and not too stodgy, but I think I will have to do some tweaking after the last batch I made: Still warm from the oven they almost tasted like corn bread, very buttery, with a delicat crumb and a hint of sweetness. After resting over night, they had lost quite a bit of their fluffiness, felt a little too greasy, and didn’t taste particularly of vanilla – just faintly sweet. They had sunk a bit, which I’m sure was from using lower-than-room-temp butter (duh, Polly…) which would account for the loss-of-fluff as well, but I think the flour/sugar/butter ratio could use an adjustment or two, and I’ve made some  substitutions in previous alchemical ventures that might need to be upgraded to permanent replacements… Will keep you posted, of course.

In the mean time, my long-kept ‘secret’ recipe is revealed…….

Go-To Vanilla Cupcakes


  • 125g Confectioners (granulated/caster) sugar
  • 125g Butter (room temperature)
  • 125g Self-rising flour
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 tbsp Milk (what ever fat content you like – I use semi-skimmed)
  • 1/8 tsp Vanilla essence
  • (milk not pictured.)

    Preheat oven to 200˚C

    In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

    Gradually add flour and eggs, alternating, beginning and finishing with the flour, mixing between each addition until fully incorporated.

    Add vanilla essence and mix.

    Add milk, mixing after each tbsp.

    Grease or place paper liners in the cups of a 12-hole muffin tin (I use muffin cases, which are larger than cupcake cases – otherwise I find that I end up with extra cake mix left over, which of course I am in grave danger of eating straight out of the bowl with my fingers!) Alternatively, break out your favourite 12-hole silicone cupcake mould, greasing the cups is optional.

    'does this dress make me look fat?'

    Divide the mixture between the cups/cases evenly – roughly 2/3 full.

    Place the tin on the middle rack of the oven and do not disturb for at least 15 minutes. (Opening the oven changes its temperature, which means longer baking time and possible uneven results.)

    After 15 minutes, test the cupcakes by sticking a toothpick into the middle of one – if it comes out clean or with a few wee crumbs, those beauties are done! If there’s a bit of batter still clinging on, leave them to bake for another 3-5 minutes and check again.

    'no, seriously, it feels a bit snug.'

    When done, remove the tin from the oven and let rest until it is cool enough to touch with bare hands and remove the cupcakes to continue cooling on their own. This will take much less time if you’re using silicone rather than metal.
    (Tip: If using paper cases, don’t remove the cupcakes from the tin too early – the case can start to come away from the cake if you do this, and that just looks pathetic! Reminds me of a drunken City-type with his shirt half untucked…)

    Once the little guys are cooled, you’re ready to decorate (feel free to do a better job than me).

    (pretty buttercream - utterly devoid of flavour.)

    I have yet to find Go-To’s for buttercream, ganache, cream cheese frostings, but they’re definite New Years Resolutions (along with the no drinking and no eating anything remotely nice Resolutions I made… I’m doing my best, but am having some issues involving gin, cheese, and chocolate. Oh, come off it – like any of you are capable of walking past those two-for-£1 Lindor eggs and not weeping inside.)

    I’ll have a mess about in my alchemy lab (le kitchen – it’s the size of a portaloo but it’s what you do with it that counts) and get back you you asap with something to dress your cupcakes in; a London January is hardly the time or place to be hanging about naked.

    Until then…

    3 thoughts on “Basics: vanilla cupcakes

    1. Just saw this on Food Press and wanted to check out your cupcakes. They look “yummy”. I make lots of cupcakes for my 3 year old grandson and always looking for new ways to make them. Enjoyed your blog. Thanks, Judy

      • Thank you! They’re pretty delicious, though I think I need to adjust the butter/sugar ratio a wee bit (any excuse to bake more). If you try them, please do let me know what you think… P.

    2. Pingback: cupcakes that stare at goats. « baking & alchemy

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