Vanilla Cupcakes with American Buttercream Frosting

A delightful dense cake with a subtly sweet topping.

A delightful dense cake with a subtly sweet topping

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

This recipe from baking marvel Arlene Lott is very forgiving. It makes for a wet batter, but it bakes up beautifully dense and firm. This is the perfect cupcake and frosting to use when making this cupcake bouquet.

Vanilla Cupcakes with American Buttercream Frosting

By Arlene Lott

Sometimes, Swiss Meringue buttercream isn't the right icing; while silky and buttery, it's a little tricky to colour deeply and it never sets firmly at room temperature.

Personally, I find most American buttercream recipes overly sweet, so I've played with the proportions to make it more to my liking. I love the little crunch you get when the frosting crusts over, a texture that is quite comforting in a nostalgic way.

This is best made with a stand mixer because it should be whipped quite a while for a wonderfully fluffy frosting. This is best used the day it's made. If not using immediately, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface to prevent crust from forming. Frosting will keep for 3 days at room temperature. Iced cakes with this frosting will keep well in the freezer (defrost overnight in the refrigerator).


For the cupcakes:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp coarse salt (or ½ tsp table salt)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 ⅔ cup sour cream or buttermilk (or substitute by putting 1 tbsp white vinegar in a cup then filling the rest up with milk; let stand 5 minutes until thickened)
  • ¾ cup butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water

For the frosting:

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp salt (fine crystals)
  • 6 cups icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup 35% heavy whipping cream
  • Gel food colouring, if desired


Vanilla Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees.

Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer. Turn mixer on slow for a few seconds to combine, then add the eggs and sour cream (or buttermilk) to the bowl and combine. Add in the melted butter and vanilla. At this point, you'll have quite a stiff batter. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the boiling water, being careful to not splash yourself; add in about 3 increments, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl to be sure everything is well combined.  

Pour the batter into cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with a few tiny moist crumbs attached. Allow to cool to room temperature before icing.

American Buttercream Frosting:

Begin by whipping the butter and salt in the stand mixer until very light and fluffy, about 6-7 minutes. Slowly add in the icing sugar with the mixer on low speed, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until fully combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Add in the vanilla and the whipping cream, and whip on medium speed until fluffy. Taste for seasoning and add more vanilla if desired. Add some colouring if using and mix.

Yield: Makes 24 cupcakes or two 9" x 2" cakes, and enough frosting to generously frost 24 cupcakes


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