On to the plate

Experimenting with flavours, colours and style of food served at our place

Vanilla Cup Cakes–A Celebration

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My manager has graduated with her MBA. She is such a clever clogs. And a really lovely, fun, bubbly lady to boot. She didn’t just pass, she got 95%. And 95% is the most you can get, at least in Canterbury. Her submission is going into the University of Canterbury’s Hall of Fame.

I’m so glad to have Jo as my manager. I haven’t had this much respect and admiration for a person in leadership since my 3rd form Typing teacher (and Form teacher) Mrs Lyons.

Anyway, during lunchtime, while Jo was gearing up to head to the University to give a 15 minute presentation, and find out the outcome of all her years of hard work, I was mooching around looking at recipes.

I didn’t even intend to bake anything, but when Jo returned and shared her excellent news I wanted to do something nice as a way of showing how excited we were for her, and to congratulate her for such an awesome achievement.

So I came home and whipped up two batches of these Vanilla Cup Cakes.

I was really keen to use the seeds from Vanilla beans in the cake. And to see if this recipe would be “the” recipe.

Don’t judge too harshly my “staged” photos. These are with the left over cup cakes, the ones I considered least attractive for various reasons. It was quite late when I’d finished baking, so setting up to take photos wasn’t on my mind until the following day when after we’d eaten one each and then finally I realised I should take photos.

The original recipe has a lovely photo of what the cup cake could look like.

I made a few slight adjustments to the recipe. I tasted the batter, as I always do, and I was so pleased with the flavour. In fact I stood at the sink thinking about taking another clean spoon and dipping into the batter while I waited for the cup cakes to bake. I thought it was a really greedy thing to do, and even as I was having this internal debate in my mind I reached for a clean spoon and dipped that sucker into the batter and there ended my internal debate. I lost the will power. And I enjoyed it!

JustBakedDoesn’t that look like the softest fluffiest cup cake?

One of the things I decided to do was follow the recommendation of cooking one cup cake first. This was a test to see how much the batter would rise from a half filled cup cake case. The photo above is that cup cake. And it was still warm when I dug into it. Such is my lack of self control. And I ate it, well inhaled is probably more accurate.

BeforeAfterThe method of making this was a little different. There’s very little butter. The rest of the liquid comes from yoghurt and oil. I’ve decided I’m quite keen on recipes that use yoghurt and oil.

InThePanAfter having determined the right amount of batter for the cases I thought I’d try a different type of case. And you can see what happened. They cooked all skewiff. I still iced them, and tried to make them presentable, and in the end those ones went to Mr Fussy’s work. Nice pretty girly cup cakes. Of course there were no complaints from his work mates.


The Ultimate Vanilla Cup Cake – By CupCakeProject – Slightly adapted



  • 1 cup vanilla sugar – regular white sugar is fine
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 175 gm cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 57 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup Greek style yoghurt 
  • 1/4 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure (not imitation) vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup blue-top milk
  • Instructions

  • Heat oven to 175 C.
  • In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean.
  • Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavour into the sugar. Set aside.
  • In a medium-sized mixing bowl mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add the vanilla bean sugar and mix until well combined.
  • Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
  • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, yoghurt, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
  • Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquid.  (Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong.  It’s supposed to be that way.)
  • Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
  • Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
  • When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack (or just on your counter if you don’t own a cooling rack) to cool.
    • Notes

    Cake flour. I didn’t have any, and I’m not sure you can get it in NZ, not that I’ve looked mind you. I followed instructions on Joy the Baker’s website to make my own cake flour.

    I used Canola Oil.

    I already had one cup of vanilla sugar so I reduced the vanilla beans called for to one, remember I doubled the recipe. I used one vanilla bean and 1 cup of vanilla sugar, and 1 cup of normal white sugar to make up the quantity needed when doubling this recipe. This was one modification I made to the original recipe.

    I used Greek style yoghurt as I didn’t have Sour Cream which is the second modification I made. The original recipe uses Sour Cream.

    My cupcakes baked for 13 minutes on Fan Bake.


    I’d had these Glitter pens hanging around in the pantry for ages, in fact over a year. My idea was to use these to write the word “Congratulations” across 15 cup cakes. That meant I didn’t pipe icing on those cup cakes, and therefore the amount of icing I needed for the 49 cup cakes I made (which are more like patty cases) is less than what you’d need if you piped them all.

    I went ahead and used the Vanilla Buttercream icing from the same website.

    The recipe calls for Vanilla paste which I don’t have, so I used another vanilla bean instead and adjusted the amount of milk a little to compensate.


    Look at those little beans in there. Yum!

    So here’s a fairly uninspired “congratulations”. One of the pens is a pearl colour so that doesn’t show up very well. This was my first time using pens of any type. They weren’t difficult to use but you can see the look is pretty basic and a little uninspiring.


    In the original post for these cup cakes there was a bunch of bakers who all made the recipe and then voted on whether or not they liked the cup cakes.

    I liked them, which you know from the piggy way I attacked the batter, but would I get the same ratio of “it’s the one!” as the test group?  Yep, in fact maybe even better. These were a huge hit, and at Mr Fussy’s work. My MIL said they were lovely, and that’s using the same Vanilla Essence I’ve nursed for a month that didn’t pack enough punch for the Vanilla cookies Mr Fussy baked.

    At home we made short work of the 6 cup cakes that were left. I think I might have had 4 cup cakes that day. Oh the shame!


    I will make these again. I really enjoyed them. The flavour is outstanding, and the texture is so delicate and fluffy.

    On the day I took these to work, I walked into the meeting room to hear one of the guys at work telling another, who was conferencing in, “what they lack in size they make up in flavour”. Even a week on there’s still talk about these cup cakes, despite today having taken Caramel Rolo Blondies into work – which also were a big hit.

    I know that scraping out vanilla beans, making cake flour and icing doesn’t make these the quickest cup cakes to whip up, but boy the end result is so worth it.

    If you’ve got time, and vanilla sugar, make these. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


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