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These cupcakes are the third recipe I’ve made in my search for the ultimate vanilla cupcake, and I have to say I’m about ready to call off the search and declare these the best vanilla cupcakes! Why are they so good? Well, they’ve got great rise, but hold their shape really well when being cut or removed from their cases. They are moist – being covered with a vanilla sugar syrup that infuses them with extra flavour and prevents them from drying out. They are made with a vanilla pod, which gives them a nice flavour and flecks of vanilla bean through the cake. And they’re made with a cream cheese frosting, which still pipes beautifully but isn’t as sickly sweet as the buttercream frosting that many classic vanilla cupcakes use.

Here’s the recipe – yes, it’s a little more involved than your current go-to vanilla cupcake might be, with the sugar syrup step. But it’s oh so worth it. Oh and I’m sure this recipe would make an ace layer cake too.

Makes 16 cupcakes –

  • 200g soft unsalted butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 200g self raising flour

Preheat your oven to 180C/gas 4/350F and line two cupcake tins with cases. The ones I used are from Lakeland – I was going for a green theme as I was making them for a Macmillan cake sale.

Next, mix your soft butter with your sugar. You can do this by hand or in a mixer, just cream together until fluffy and combined before adding your eggs one at a time with a tablespoon of the flour for each egg. Add the rest of the flour and mix to combine, and then add your vanilla seeds. Take a sharp knife and lay your vanilla pod down on a cutting board, and slit it from end to end. Unfurl the pod and scrape out the seeds, either with your knife or a teaspoon works well too. Add the seeds to your mixture.

Mmm, love the flecks of vanilla bean through the batter!

Next, fill your cases with batter. Peggy pipes hers for perfectly distributed batter, but I just used two tablespoons, and made sure to push the batter down to fill any gaps. Pop your cupcakes into the oven, and while they’re baking, make your sugar syrup.

For the sugar syrup –

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 5 tablespoons water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Put your water and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir until the sugar crystals are dissolved into the water, and then remove from the heat and cool. Once your syrup is cool, add the vanilla extract. Did you know you can make sugar syrups with any flavourings you fancy, and you can also use them to make cocktails?

Bake for 18-20 minutes, removing from the oven as soon as a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Still in their pan, cool your cupcakes for ten minutes, and then prick each one with a fork (I did mine three times each so nine total holes) and brush over some of your sugar syrup. Remove from the pan and allow to cool completely.

Next, make your frosting!

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g full fat cream cheese
  • 600g icing sugar – sieved. YOU MUST SIEVE.

Mix your soft butter and the SIEVED icing sugar in a mixer, or by hand. If doing it by hand, you’ll need a very large bowl as the icing sugar will go everywhere. Once the butter is combined and the mixture looks like buttery breadcrumbs interspersed with icing sugar, add your cream cheese and mix.

I achieved the bright green colour by using a mixture of blue (ice blue) and yellow (melon) gel colours by Sugarflair. It’s much easier to achieve bright colours and a good frosting consistency when you use gel colours than old fashioned liquid colours.

I piped my frosting on using a star nozzle that was provided in the Lakeland frosting kit that I bought a few years ago. I also use Lakeland disposable icing bags.

For my decorations I used Dr Oetker sprinkles – citrus strands and polka dots.

You HAVE to try these cupcakes – I promise they’ll become your new favourite!

x Kerry