Happy birthday to my wonderful Mom!!

Yes, today is her birthday, and I just got back from visiting her for her special day.  When I asked her what kind of birthday cake she wanted she replied, "It has to be something small."  She didn't want a big cake that left her with leftovers to eat.

The perfect treat?  Her favorite cupcakes! ... Soft, fluffy-textured vanilla cupcakes with coffee buttercream frosting.  Yum.

Okay, I have a confession.  These are her almost favorite cupcakes.  She actually likes it better when I do these as chocolate cupcakes with coffee buttercream frosting ... she loves that mocha combination.

But I was at the very end of my quest for the BEST vanilla cupcake recipe, with just one tiny little tweak to make to the front-runner recipe.  And I've been working on this quest for a looonnng time ... longer than I'd like to admit.  (How can it be so difficult to find a simple vanilla cupcake that I'm happy with?) 

So Mom made a concession and went with vanilla cupcakes to allow me the opportunity to test this final version.

My quest for the best vanilla cupcake has been quite an involved and fun process of testing and tweaking.  I like a vanilla cupcake that has a fairly fluffy texture, light-&-airy crumb, and a good flavor of vanilla.  Dense, gummy, and tasting of slightly-sweet flour is not for me.

I believe I've tested ten different recipes, along with testing several rounds of tweaks to the front-runner recipes of those ten.  I've tried cake flour, all-purpose flour, and self-rising flour recipes.  I've tried buttermilk, whole milk, skim milk, and 2% milk as the moistener.  I've tried a cold-oven pound cake cupcake.  I've tried a box mix.  I've tried, I've tried, I've tried ...

And now I'm pleased to say that I finally have a result I am happy with!


  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • A scant 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 T. butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. whole milk (I also tried it with 2% milk, and it worked fine)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in mixing bowl. Beat on slow speed until everything is combined and you have a crumb mixture with a sandy consistency. Gradually pour in half of the milk; beat until the milk is just incorporated.
  2. Whisk together the remaining milk (1/4 cup), egg, and vanilla. Pour into the flour mixture and beat until all ingredients are just incorporated. Beat for about another 30 seconds to one minute until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin pan cups lined with paper cupcake liners, filling cups 1/2 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes, or until light golden and the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool slightly in the pan before removing cupcakes to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.
  4. NOTE:  This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.  And it really does make 12!  Fill your cups only 1/2 full, as this batter rises quite a bit.  When I divided the batter between only 10 muffin cups, I had several that rose over the sides of the cups way too much.  If you're like me, you'll feel like there's not enough batter to stretch to 12 cupcakes ... but there really is.

Coffee Buttercream Frosting;

  1. 1 1/2 T. instant coffee granules
  2. 1 1/2 T. water
  3. 1 1/2 T. vanilla extract
  4. 3/4 lb. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  5. 3 c. confectioners' sugar
  6. 3 T. milk
  7. chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish, optional


  1. Combine water, coffee granules, and vanilla extract in a small bowl; stir to dissolve coffee. Set aside.
  2. Beat butter in bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add confectioners' sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for a few seconds between each addition. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the coffee mixture and milk; beat on low speed to combine. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Frosts 18 cupcakes.
  4. Enjoy!

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