I have a confession.
Even though I LOVE making recipes from scratch, I have truly always preferred the taste of cake made from a box-mix than cake made from scratch.
And you know what? I don’t think I’m the only one.
Most cakes made from scratch seem to turn out much denser than those that originate from a box. They’re dry and heavy, a little bit like edible bricks… which are not really my favorite things to eat.
That is why I am so, so, beyond happy with this recipe. I wanted to create a cupcake that would not be so dry that it broke apart into crumbly pieces when you bit into it, I wanted something springy… dare I say fluffy, even? That shouldn’t be too much to ask for from a cupcake!
Well now it’s not. To top it all off, this recipe is easy to make; it hardly took me any more time than if I were assembling from a box.
Also to top it all off: Caramel Flavored Icing. While I’m so obsessed with these cupcakes and they are the real star of this post, I think you’ll find the icing is even easier to make and compliments these fluffy little beauties perfectly. Try out both together, or top them with your own favorite frosting.
What to do:
For the Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350F and insert liners into cups of cupcake baking pan.
In a medium sized bowl, combine 2 ¼ cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and ½ teaspoon salt and set aside. Likewise, measure out ½ cup sour cream and set aside. You will add these to the liquid portion of your batter later on.
In stand-alone mixer (or using an electric mixer), cream together 1 ¼ cups white sugar, 1 cup canola oil, and ½ cup milk. I specifically chose to use oil rather than butter in this recipe for a number of reasons, the primary one being that oil does not contain water as butter does, and therefore oil will yield a fluffier, less-dense cake, so I can’t promise you will get the same results if you opt to substitute butter for the oil.
Cream these ingredients in your mixer for about 1 minute on medium speed—the liquid will be a hazy, yellow-ish color.
Add 3 eggs (you can add them all at the same time, no need to do one at a time here) and stir for 1 minute on medium speed.
Add 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and stir until combined into liquid batter.
Now your dry ingredients (and sour cream!) come in to play. Remove your bowl from your stand-alone mixer, you will do the rest of the mixing by hand (I used a rubber spatula) to ensure that ingredients are not over-mixed (which can lead to a less fluffy and too-dense cake, and can also hinder the function of the sour cream, which serves to make the cupcakes fluffy as well). Alternate between adding a portion of the flour mixture and a portion of the sour cream, stirring after each addition. You will really be folding the ingredients in until they are evenly incorporated more than you will be stirring. Stir just enough so that all ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the batter (no dry pockets of flour or lumps of sour cream), but be conscious that you do not over-mix.
Spoon your batter into cupcake pans, filling the cups about 2/3 full. For regular-size cupcakes bake for 18 minutes, and for miniature cupcakes bake 14-15 minutes. Cupcakes should be baked until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean (with only a few crumbs). Remove the cupcakes from their pans immediately (they’re done cooking as soon as you have a mostly clean toothpick) and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting them.
For the Frosting:
Now comes the really easy part: making the frosting. My favorite, go-to icing is a basic cream cheese recipe. I jazzed up the flavor just a bit by adding some caramel to it, and I think the flavor really helps bring out the (delicious) taste of the cupcakes.
Soften 2 sticks (1 cup) of butter and 1 package (8 oz) of cream cheese. Cream them together in your stand-alone mixer. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of vanilla extract and stir again.
With your mixer on a low setting, gradually stir in 4 cups of sugar. Do this slowly or you’re bound to end up with sugar all over your countertop and possibly yourself. Finally, for a subtle caramel flavor, stir in ¼ cups + 2 Tablespoons caramel sauce, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to ensure that all ingredients are well-combined.
Pipe your icing on top of (completely cooled) cupcakes, and top with sprinkles if you so desire. I used a large-sized Ateco “closed star” tip for my cupcakes. Also, if you’re unfamiliar with using large piping tips I highly recommend checking out this website.
And that’s it! Enjoy!
Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes with Caramel Flavored Icing
- CUPCAKES INGREDIENTS:
- 2 1/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INGREDIENTS
- 1 cup butter softened, 2 sticks
- 8 oz cream cheese softened, 1 package
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 4 cups confectioner sugar
- cup ¼+ 2 Tablespoons caramel sauce
- PERFECT VANILLA CUPCAKE INSTRUCTIONS:
- Makes 24 regular-sized or 48 mini cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350F and insert liners into the cups of cupcake pans.
- Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Likewise, measure out 1/2 cup sour cream and set aside.
- In stand-alone mixer, combine sugar, oil and milk. Blend on medium speed about 1 minute until ingredients are well combined (liquid will be a hazy, yellow-ish color).
- Add eggs and stir for 1 minute on medium speed.
- Add vanilla and stir again.
- Remove the bowl from your stand-alone mixer. Gradually, stirring by hand using a spatula now, add in flour mixture and sour cream, alternating between the two. Gently stir/fold in ingredients; they should be mixed
- enough so that the sour cream and flour are evenly incorporated through the batter, but be careful not to over-mix.
- Spoon batter into cupcake pans, filling cups about 2/3 full. For regular-size cupcakes, bake for 18 minutes. For miniature cupcakes, bake 14-15 minutes. Cupcakes should be baked until toothpick inserted in center comes out
- clean (with only a few crumbs).
- Remove cupcakes from pan immediately and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
- CARAMEL CREAM CHEESE FROSTING INSTRUCTIONS
- Cream together butter and cream cheese, add vanilla and stir.
- With mixer on low speed, slowly add powdered sugar.
- Stir in caramel sauce until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed to make sure that all ingredients are well combined.