Small-Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

3.80 from 5 votes

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This small-batch vanilla cupcake recipe makes 6 cupcakes. They’re moist, tender and won’t leave any leftovers. Specifically designed to make a half batch of cupcakes that turn out perfectly every time. Vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting on cooling rack.

If you need a vanilla cupcake recipe with a buttery vanilla flavor and a moist, soft cupcake crumb – then these small-batch vanilla cupcakes are perfect.  I hate throwing out leftovers – and since cupcakes can dry out after a few days – this recipe is ideal.

Why Can’t I just Half My Favorite Cupcake Recipe?

When it comes to baking, you can’t always half a recipe (or double a recipe for that matter) and get the same results. Getting the perfect cupcakes isn’t just about ingredients – it’s also about the process and technique. When it comes to dividing a cupcake recipe in half, I find that this almost always leads to overmixing. Overmixing your batter (especially after the dry ingredients have been added) causes tough, dry cupcakes. It can also cause cupcakes with pointy tops. 

Now I love my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. But I definitely found that if I halved the recipe my cupcakes definitely didn’t turn out light and fluffy. Tears may have been shed. 

And that’s where this recipe comes in. 

The Perfect Small-Batch Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

6 pink cupcakes on a cooling rack.

Instead of starting off by beating together softened butter and sugar – like in most vanilla cupcake recipes – first, you’ll beat the egg and sugar. You want to whip the mixture until it’s very pale in color and increased in volume significantly – about triple the original volume.  This process aerates the egg and helps the cupcakes stay light and fluffy. The dry ingredients get gently whisked into the batter. Then in goes melted butter, warm milk and a little vanilla extract. 

This process is different than many vanilla cupcake recipes, but it really avoids the likelihood of the batter being overmixed once the dry ingredients are incorporated. It also means that you don’t need to wait for the butter to soften to room temperature before getting started.

You’ll divide the cupcake batter between 6 cupcake liners – they should each be about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Note that if you haven’t whipped the eggs and sugar enough, you may only get 5 cupcakes. Then they’ll go in the oven to bake.

Note: If you have a convection oven, be sure that the temperature is adjusted to 25F degrees lower (325F instead of 350F). Many ovens do this automatically, but some do not. 

For the Frosting

I used a simple vanilla frosting for these cupcakes. Note that I included enough in the recipe for each cupcake to be piped sky-high with frosting. If you want a more reasonable amount and want to frost each with a knife, you can half the frosting recipe. I’ve included the amounts in the recipe notes for you. 

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and a glass of milk

More Small-Batch Dessert Recipes

Vanilla cupcake cut in half in a cupcake paper

Vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting on cooling rack.
3.80 from 5 votes

Small-Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

This small-batch vanilla cupcake recipe makes 6 perfect cupcakes. They're moist, tender and won't leave any leftovers.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Cooling: 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 18 minutes
Servings: 6 cupcakes
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Equipment

  • electric hand mixer*
  • muffin tin
  • muffin papers

Ingredients 

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar, I prefer caster/super fine sugar
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour*, measured correctly
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, a small pinch
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, 2% works too
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Vanilla Frosting - if you like less frosting, feel free to half this recipe*

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, a little more or less to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, a small pinch
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream

Instructions 

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350F degrees (180C). If your oven is a convection oven, be sure that the temperature is reduced to 325F (160C) degrees (some convection ovens to this automatically).
  • Line the 6 middle cavities of a regular-sized muffin tin with muffin papers.
  • In a medium bowl using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the egg and sugar for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is very pale in color and has significantly increased in volume.
  • Sprinkle the flour, baking powder and salt over the eggs and gently whisk in the dry ingredients.
  • Add the butter and milk to a liquid measuring cup. Microwave in 30-second increments until the butter is melted. Whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Whisk the warm milk mixture into the batter until smooth.
  • Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners filling each about 2/3 to 3/4 full. You should end up with 6 cupcakes.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the tops look set and are slightly firm/springy to the touch, or an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and continue cooling on a cooling rack.

Frosting

  • In a small bowl, beat the butter until smooth.
  • Add in the salt and vanilla extract. Starting with the mixer on low speed, beat in 1 cup powdered sugar.
  • Mix in the rest of the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, alternating with a tablespoon of milk or cream until the desired sweetness and thickness is reached. Optionally, mix in a few drops of food coloring.
  • Either frost the cupcakes with a knife, or transfer the frosting to a piping bag and frost. I used a piping bag and a 1M tip.

Notes

  1. I recommend using a bowl and hand-held mixer instead of a stand mixer for this recipe. Because there isn't a lot of batter, you will need to constantly scrape down the sides of the bowl with a stand mixer. 
  2. When measuring flour, whisk it first. Then spoon into a dry measuring cup and level off the top. Or use a scale. 2/3 cup flour weighs 83 grams.
  3. The frosting recipe provided makes a lot of frosting - enough to pipe each cupcake with a very, very thick amount. If you'd like less frosting, divide the frosting reicpe in half. You'll need:
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • tiny pinch of salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon of milk or cream
  4. Store unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the fridge for up to 4 days. Remove cupcakes from the fridge 30 minutes before enjoying. If your kitchen is warm, store cupcakes in the fridge. 
  5. Nutrition information is an estimate only and based on 1 cupcake with frosting, assuming all the frosting is used and divided between 6 equal-sized cupcakes (without the frosting recipe divided in half). 
  6. Recipe adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

Nutrition

Calories: 455kcal, Carbohydrates: 62g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 88mg, Sodium: 118mg, Potassium: 98mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 51g, Vitamin A: 709IU, Calcium: 46mg, Iron: 1mg
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14 Comments

  1. 3 stars
    It’s very hard to weigh out ingredients when you don’t give the option of metric measurements like most other websites give the option to change to metric measurement it’s a shame I’ll just have to find a different recipe now

    1. Hi Claudia,

      If you go down the ingredient list, underneath the frosting there’s the option to click “Metric” instead of “US Imperial”. This will give you the recipe in grams.

    1. 1 star
      These were the worst cupcakes I’ve ever made or tried in my life. They taste like bland pancakes. Literally no flavor no sweetness and the texture is gross. I’ve made 100’s of cupcakes and I’m not a novice baker. Do yourself a favor and avoid these at all costs 🤢🤮

  2. Hi, I was just wondering if it is possible to double this recipe so it will make 12 cupcakes instead, or do you recommend another recipe for that?

    1. You could definitely double the recipe to make 12 cupcakes, or you could use this recipe: Vanilla Cupcakes. I originally posted the recipe for vanilla cupcakes (that’s a full batch), but then did a different version for a small-batch recipe, when I realized the first recipe didn’t half very well. If that makes sense 😉

      1. I think it would be fine. I haven’t tried though, so I’m not sure of the bake time. I’d start checking around 18 minutes.

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is wonderful! I have been looking for a small batch vanilla recipe that worked well and did not have a lot of left-over frosting. These baked up perfectly, although my oven is tetchy and so the time and setting had to be adjusted (My family does NOT recommend Samsung kitchen appliances). The cake had a wonderful springy and light texture with a delicious flavor. The frosting was great, and the instructions helped a lot because I did not need the whole amount of icing sugar. I did add some extra vanilla in the form of the scrapings from half of a vanilla bean to the extract because my husband is a vanilla fanatic.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the cupcakes – thank you so much for the thoughtful and detailed review. I definitely agree with your husband – you can never go wrong with extra vanilla!