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5 from 2 votes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

These vanilla cupcakes are going to be your new favorite dessert! Moist, delicate, and just the right level of sweetness. I’ve paired them with a chocolate buttercream.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Inactive Prep20 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Vanilla Cupcakes
Servings: 30 cupcakes
Calories: 354kcal
Author: Jennifer Farley

Ingredients

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 15 ounces cake flour (3 cups using Scoop & Sweep Method)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons half-and-half (or 50% heavy cream + 50% whole milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
  • 7 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 1 pound granulated sugar (2 1/4 cups)

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 13 ounces granulated sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons water
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon corn syrup (see notes)
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled (see notes)
  • Optional: a few drops of brown food coloring

Instructions

For the Cupcakes

  • Place oven racks on the upper and lower third shelves, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line three standard cupcake pans with 30 liners and spray lightly with baking spray. Note that one of the pans will have 6 empty spots. I recommend spraying from above with your arm at a distance to keep the spray from sending the liners flying. If you don’t have enough pans or you have an older oven that doesn’t cook evenly, these can be baked in batches.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate medium-sized bowl, vigorously whisk the egg whites until frothy, 15-20 seconds. Whisk in the half-and-half and vanilla until evenly combined.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on low speed for 3-4 minutes, until the mixture has lightened in color and fluffed up slightly. Scrape down the sides of the bowl using a spatula.
  • Turn the speed to low and swiftly alternate between adding the dry and wet ingredients over 50-60 seconds, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl all the way to the bottom to catch hidden dry patches, then turn the speed to medium for 20-30 seconds to aerate the batter.
  • Divide the batter between the cupcake liners. Don’t fill the liners more than halfway up (when in doubt, less is more). Level the tops out (I like using a small offset spatula to do this). Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown, the tops are still slightly pale but firm, and a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
  • Let cool for 5 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling (I use an offset spatula or butter knife to lift them out of the pan). Cool completely to room temperature before frosting.

For the Chocolate Buttercream

  • Place the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted the paddle attachment and turn the speed to medium-low.
  • Add the sugar, water and corn syrup (if using) to a medium-sized saucepan without stirring. Cover and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the liquid begins to simmer and steam develops, remove the cover. Attach a digital thermometer to the pan and cook the sugar to the soft-boil stage, 235-240 degrees F. While the sugar syrup is coming to temperature, turn the stand mixer speed to medium-high so the egg whites can form a soft peak.
  • Turn the mixer speed down to medium-low and slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the eggs. Don’t pour the hot syrup directly into the meringue or you’ll have scrambled egg whites.
  • Once the syrup is incorporated, turn the speed to high and allow the meringue to continue to form a stiff peak while cooling down. Mix on high until the meringue has reached room temperature, around 20 minutes.
  • Once the meringue reaches room temperature, slowly begin incorporating the soft butter on medium speed. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer speed up to high and slowly add the vanilla, chocolate, and food coloring, if using.

Frost the Cupcakes

  • Fill a piping bag halfway with buttercream, (I used a Wilton 1M tip), twist to close, and pipe decoratively.
  • Serve cupcakes at room temperature. Store at room temperature, preferably in an airtight container (they can also be refrigerated, but bring them back to room temperature before serving). These are best enjoyed within 72 hours.

Notes

If you don’t have enough cupcake pans, these can be baked in batches.
Make-Ahead: You can prepare the cupcakes and/or the buttercream up to 48 hours in advance. I usually make the cupcakes at least a day in advance so I don’t have to wait for them to cool before frosting. Store the cupcakes at room temperature (you can loosely cover them with a clean dish towel, but they’ll stay moist on their own). Store the buttercream in an airtight container in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature before using. Briefly whisk or place back in the stand mixer with the whisk attachment to make sure it’s nice and fluffy before frosting.
Buttercream Notes: I love using meringue buttercream because it’s much lighter than American buttercream. However, it’s an advanced recipe and not everyone is ready for it. For an easier frosting, try my sour cream chocolate frosting, or use a chocolate buttercream recipe of your choice. For more details on meringue buttercream, check out my dedicated post. Here are a few of my top notes & tips:
  • I recommend leaving the butter out overnight if you have the time.
  • Corn syrup is optional; it helps prevent the sugar syrup from crystallizing.
  • If meringue buttercream breaks, it can always be fixed! It simply means the butter and meringue are different temperatures. More on how to fix it here.
 
I typically melt small quantities of chocolate in the microwave. Coarsely chop the chocolate and place in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave in 15-20 second increments, stirring each time, until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. Cool to room temperature, stirring periodically.

Nutrition

Calories: 354kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 85mg | Potassium: 101mg | Sugar: 27g | Vitamin A: 11.7% | Vitamin C: 0.1% | Calcium: 2.9% | Iron: 4.5%