Recipe Review

The Unexpected Technique That Makes These Cupcakes So Moist and Tender

published Aug 5, 2021
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

When it came time to select recipes for our vanilla cupcake showdown, I immediately knew Cupcake Project’s would be a contender. The popular baking blog, created by Stef Pollack, features incredible baking recipes ranging from rum cakes to homemade butterscotch sauce to cupcakes, of course. In fact, Stef’s chocolate cupcake recipe won our chocolate cupcake showdown.

Unlike most cupcake recipes that start by creaming butter and sugar together, Stef’s vanilla cupcake caught my eye because it has you combine the butter with the dry ingredients. Although this technique is often used to make pie crust or biscuits, I’d never seen it used for cake-baking. Would this help keep the cupcakes moist? I baked up a batch to find out.

Get the recipe: Cupcake Project’s Best Vanilla Cupcakes

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Cupcake Project’s Best Vanilla Cupcakes

Although Pollack’s recipe is unique, it’s pretty easy to make and comes together quickly. You’ll start by combining sugar with the seed of a scraped vanilla bean. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the vanilla sugar to the bowl and mix it all together. Next, add room-temperature butter and mix it together until it forms a crumbly texture. In another bowl, mix together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. While the mixer is running, slowly add milk until a loose batter forms. (This was by far the loosest batter of the bunch.)

Fill cupcakes liners halfway with batter and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. While the cupcakes cool, make Cupcake Project’s vanilla buttercream. Beat butter until smooth, then slowly add confectioners’ sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla extract and salt and beat once more until combined. Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost them and enjoy.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

My Honest Review of Cupcake Project’s Best Vanilla Cupcakes

These cupcakes were seriously delicious. They had a super-airy texture that was light yet moist. I was a bit skeptical of the mixing technique (and thinness of the batter), but one bite and all of my worries disappeared. The cake had all the best features of a sponge cake (the delicate texture and soft crumb) without any of the dryness. The sour cream and milk kept them moist and gave them a subtle dairy tang that cut through the sweetness.

The flavor of the cupcakes was also spot-on. I loved the combination of both vanilla extract and vanilla beans. It gave the cupcakes a nostalgic birthday cake-like flavor and beautiful speckled pattern. These cupcakes are my ideal version of a perfect vanilla cupcake and I cannot think of a single way to make them better. If you want a flavorful, moist, tender cupcake, this is the recipe for you.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Cupcake Project’s Best Vanilla Cupcakes, a Few Tips

  1. Don’t skip the vanilla bean. Sure, they’re pricey — but they take these cupcakes from good to great. The flavor of the beans combined with the extract in the cake gives these cupcakes a double hit of vanilla flavor that is seriously delicious.
  2. Make sure to use cake flour. Cake flour can be found in the baking section of most well-stocked grocery stores. It gives the cupcakes an impossibly tender texture and light-as-a-feather crumb.
  3. Bring all of the ingredients to room temperature before making the batter. This will help the batter come together easily and prevents lumps. Just let the ingredients sit on the counter for 1 hour before baking and you’ll be good!
  4. Don’t be nervous if the tops of the cupcakes don’t brown much. These are pretty pale cupcakes, so it’s best to check for doneness using a toothpick rather than waiting until they brown.

    Rating: 10/10
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

Have you ever made The Cupcake Project’s best vanilla cupcakes recipe? Tell us what you thought!