Sometimes you need a sweet treat for a small celebration! This small batch vanilla cupcakes recipe makes 4 delicious vanilla cupcakes with a fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting.
Darlings, let’s find a reason to celebrate! I don’t care if it’s Tuesday we are celebrating, let’s just do it. But sometimes, when we are celebrating Tuesdays, we don’t want to bake a ton of cupcakes. We want dessert for just a few people. That’s where this small-batch vanilla cupcake recipe comes in handy! Making just 4 party-ready vanilla cupcakes, you have an easy dessert for the family one night, or “meal prep” dessert for one. Enough cupcakes to enjoy with no waste!
I do love to bake for big celebrations and give food away. But there’s absolutely no reason to bake a big batch of cupcakes when you aren’t having a party. And I don’t think cupcakes are only for parties! So we need to scale the recipe. Some recipes, like cookies, are very easy to scale, and you can freeze the dough and bake on demand. Cupcakes aren’t so easy. When it comes to cake recipes, you have to make adjustments to get the leavening ingredients just right. And while it’s possible to freeze a cupcake, it’s just not the same after thawing.
You deserve fresh cupcakes. So file away this small batch vanilla cupcake recipe and make 4 cupcakes whenever you’d like! Hooray!
A few cupcake baking tips
With this recipe, there are a few tips I have to give you the absolute best results. The first is to cream your butter and sugar until the mixture is very light and fluffy. It should be almost 1.5 times its original size. When baking in small batches, it’s easy to under-cream your butter and sugar because you don’t need to run the mixer as long. Whether you are mixing with a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream for a minute or two until the sugar and butter are really well incorporated.
Second, sift your dry ingredients. At a minimum whisk them together in a small bowl with a fork very well. You don’t have a lot to stir, so you can do this in a cereal bowl. I did for the cupcakes in the photos. A great thing about making a tiny batch of cupcakes is that you don’t have to pull out every big bowl you own. The reason I stress this here is the same as above. It takes less time to incorporate a smaller quantity of dry ingredients, so you need to make sure the ingredients distribute evenly.
Third, bring your ingredients to room temperature. This isn’t exactly a baking secret, and it’s important for every cupcake recipe. But I’m going to assume if you’re baking cupcakes for yourself or just a few people you love, you’re baking on a whim. To speed up the process, you can cut your butter into cubes. Smaller pieces soften faster. Your measuring cup with milk can be set into a dish with warm water for about 10 minutes. If the dish is big enough, you can fit your egg in there too. Everything will be ready to go pretty quickly. Having ingredients at the right temperature provides a better end result.
How much frosting does this small-batch recipe make?
I’ve included a basic American buttercream frosting recipe. This will make enough frosting to frost all 4 cupcakes with a little design like the rose in the photos. If you really don’t like frosting, halve the recipe posted and you’ll have just enough to swipe a thin layer of frosting on each cupcake. You can always use a store-bought frosting, too. Cupcakes are fun!
I hope you love this small-batch vanilla cupcake recipe, darlings.
Batter for 4 vanilla cupcakes
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup cake flour (see notes for substitution)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup milk, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 8 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- pinch salt (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- sprinkles, optional
- Preheat your oven to 350 F and place 4 cupcake liners in a cupcake tin. Set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir in the egg, beating until well incorporated.
- In another bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.
- Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a measuring cup.
- Add half the dry mixture to the butter and sugar, stirring on low speed or folding in by hand until no dry flour remains. Scrape the bowl.
- Stir in all the milk and vanilla extract. Scrape the bowl. Add the rest of the flour and stir until just incorporated.
- Divide the batter evenly between your cupcake liners. Each liner will be about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean and the center of the cupcake just bounces back when touched.
- Remove from the oven and allow to set in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
- In a clean mixing bowl, beat together the softened butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt (if using). Start on low speed and slowly work your way up to high speed. Beat until light and creamy. Add food coloring if desired.
- Use the frosting to top the completely cooled cupcakes, add sprinkles if desired. Enjoy!
- Leftover cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container on the counter 2 days, or in the refrigerator up to one week.
- If you don't have cake flour, you can make your own. Take a cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons. Add 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and sift well. If you don't have cornstarch, I've swapped 2/3 cup plus a tablespoon of all-purpose flour in this recipe and it's still turned out delicious.
- If you are using unsalted butter for the frosting, add a pinch of salt. If you are using salted butter, omit the salt
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