Double Vanilla Cupcakes


Vanilla cupcakes made with vanilla beans in both the cupcake and the buttercream frosting.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Please welcome guest author Garrett McCord as he shares a favorite cupcake. ~Elise

It raises my hackles when someone calls something “plain vanilla.” Plain? Plain?! Are they insane?! There’s nothing plain about vanilla!

Given, I’m a little more passionate about the spice than most (if it wasn’t apparent enough). Heck, I named my blog after the stuff. I have no less than 9 varieties of vanilla beans in my pantry. Not to mention 6 kinds of vanilla extract – three of them homemade. Vanilla oil, vanilla sugar, chopped up vanilla beans. I even keep a dried bean in the filter of my vacuum so the place smells like vanilla when I clean.

Even when we discuss the flavor of vanilla, there’s nothing plain about it. Mexican vanilla has a velvety, sweet and creamy scent that begs to be made into puddings. Tahitian vanilla has a heady aroma of figs, that reminds me of summers eating the sticky fruits stuffed with cheese and honey. The dark and rummy smell of Madagascar beans that hint at a slight, musky nose of tobacco. My favorite, the Tonga vanilla bean which, after deep inhale, will bombard you with images of black cherries.

Any of these beans are perfect in this delightful vanilla bean cupcake, one I’m very proud of. It’s a fantastic way to show off vanilla, a spice that does love center stage. If you don’t have a vanilla bean you can get away with just the vanilla extract, but they’re infinitely better with the beans. While they can be expensive (buy online), keep in mind that even after you scrape the seeds out of the pod, you can use it many times over. Steeping it into cream for ice cream, pop it in a bottle of vodka for homemade extract, or in a jar of sugar for vanilla sugar are just some suggestions.

I like to think of vanilla as my humble, endearing, sweet smelling obsession. Personally, I feel these cupcakes will seduce you to the way of vanilla as well.

Double Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about one dozen cupcakes.



  • 1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or one whole bean if you can spare it)


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)


1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven preheats cut open and scrape out the seeds of a vanilla bean. Place the seeds, empty bean, and the milk into a small saucepan. Heat to just under a simmer for a few minutes being careful not to scald the milk. Remove from heat and allow the milk to steep and cool. (Be sure to remove the bean after it cools. Wash it and then place it out to dry so it can be used again.)

2 Beat the butter for about 3 minutes on medium speed, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat for 30 seconds. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds each.

3 In one bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another whisk together the vanilla steeped milk, vanilla extract, and sour cream.

4 Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter sugar egg mixture in alternating additions (dry-wet-dry method), starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined being sure to not overbeat.

5 Divide the batter into cupcake papers in a muffin tin and bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Be sure to rotate the cupcakes after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking. Be sure to keep a close eye as these can get overbaked quickly. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Frost when cooled.


Beat the butter and slowly add in the powdered sugar. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract if using) and beat in.

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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a professional writer and recipe developer whose work has appeared in many print and online publications such as Gourmet Live, Saveur, Huffington Post, Smithsonian, and NPR. Past clients also include numerous food companies, wineries, and distilleries. Garrett writes about cocktails on his website, Coupe de Grace.

More from Garrett


Know Your Vanilla Varieties - from Vanilla Garlic

Showing 4 of 57 Comments / Reviews

  • Memoria

    These cupcakes look divine. I agree; vanilla is NOT plain. I actually prefer vanilla over chocolate. I would like to buy vanilla bean paste and vanilla beans. Where do you purchase your beans?

    I love the tip about the dried vanilla in the vacuum cleaner!

    I get mine from Beanilla, they have a wide variety of beans to choose from. ~Garrett

  • Dawn

    Thanks, Garrett! What should I do with your recipe to make a cake? Double it and increase the baking time?

    Sounds about right, though I haven’t tried that way. If it works I hope you’ll leave a comment and let us know. ~Garrett

  • arugulove

    These look fantastic. I’m definitely someone that has always preferred vanilla over chocolate and it bugs me that chocolate cake is always considered the height of decadence and vanilla is the boring option, when in reality, I think it should be the other way around.

    Last year around the holidays, I found 12 Mexican vanilla beans at Costco for $10, so be sure to check there if you are looking for a good deal! Probably not the most luxurious vanilla ever, but still an excellent value as I’ve baked some wonderful things with them.

  • Emily

    Just finished baking this recipe and I am trying really hard to not get any frosting on my keyboard as I type this comment! These cupcakes are sinful! I had ordered so many vanilla beans from Beanilla two weeks ago, I was running out of things to make. So I actually used a whole Tonga vanilla bean (rather than 1/2) for the frosting and found it to be the perfect amount for my tasting. Tomorrow I think I might try this recipe with either the Indian or Madagascar beans and hold a little taste testing with my friends. Great post, Garrett!

  • mantha

    Ohhhh . . . let me tell you about vanilla. You ladies want one of those old-fashioned luxurious perfumes that starts out complex and goes down to a deep vanilla base by the end of the evening — Shalimar comes to mind — if you want to be irresistible, go to bed smelling like a cookie.

    Penzeys has good beans too, and they do tend to cost meaningfully less in larger amounts. Do vanilla beans take well to carefully wrapped freezer storage to preserve strength?

    These are gorgeous cupcakes — I hope the recipe handles well made up at least double, because a dozen is not going to last very long. Rotating the tins in the oven is always a good idea, a very good tip. Always did it with brownies and blondies too.

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Double Vanilla Cupcakes