Have a birthday party coming up? Don’t run to the bakery! Put down that box mix! You can make cupcakes right at home that taste amazing and will be a hit with the whole fam. Your friends and family will be fooled into thinking these heavenly cupcakes are from a professional baker. Spoiler: The professional baker is you!
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Our Go-To Birthday Cupcake Recipe
For traditional confetti cupcakes, we take a hint from this birthday cake recipe given to us by cake baker extraordinaire Courtney Rich of Cake by Courtney.
You’ll notice a few things about this recipe: Firs,t it uses cake flour. Cake flour is more finely milled than all-purpose flour. It also has a lower protein content. These two factors impact the final texture of cakes and cupcakes, so they’re lighter, fluffier and more tender. The cake flour also often results in a tighter crumb with fewer air pockets, which equals a more favorable density and texture.
It also uses butter and oil. Butter adds lots of flavor to cakes and also adds a bit of structural integrity thanks to its water content. Meanwhile, oil tends to let the cake rise higher and bake with a more even crumb than cakes baked with butter alone. Oil also helps cakes and cupcakes retain their moisture longer.
Here’s what you need to get started:
For the cupcakes:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup rainbow sprinkles
For the frosting:
1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Soft pink paste food coloring
Step 1: Mix the cupcake batter
In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream together the butter, vegetable oil and sugar until light and fluffy; about five to seven minutes. Next, add the whole eggs and egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
In a separate large bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Then, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, alternating with a splash of buttermilk. Mix well between each addition, while taking care not to overmix. Finally, fold in the sprinkles using a rubber spatula.
Editor’s note: Wondering why we’re using both whole eggs and egg whites? The egg yolks add richness to the cupcakes, while a higher concentration of egg whites in the batter will keep the texture of cupcakes light and fluffy—almost like angel food cake!
Step 2: Fill cupcake liners
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Meanwhile, grease a standard cupcake pan with cooking spray or line with cupcake liners. Next, scoop the cupcake batter in the muffin tin. Take care not to overfill the cupcake pan. About three-quarters full will be perfect. (You can find tips for filling the cupcake liners in this baking guide.)
Step 3: Bake and cool
Place the cupcakes into the preheated oven, with your oven rack in its center position. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cupcakes. The edges of the cupcakes should be barely golden when they’re done and firm to the touch when gently pressed with a finger.
Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes in the cupcake pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 4: Make the frosting
While the cupcakes cool, prepare the buttercream frosting. In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy; about three to four minutes. Then, gradually add the sifted confectioners’ sugar, mixing on your mixer’s lowest setting, until completely smooth. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix until fully incorporated.
Finally, gradually add a few drops of pink food coloring and mix until the desired color is achieved. (Feel free to use a different color if pink isn’t your thing.)
Step 5: Decorate
Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake using a pastry bag fitted with the tip of your choice. We used a star tip for our cupcakes. Top each cupcake with additional rainbow sprinkles or other decorations of your choice.
Cupcake Decorating Ideas
We love the sweet taste of the pink buttercream icing paired with these airy cupcakes. However, if you find American buttercream to be too heavy and rich for your liking, here are a few homemade frosting ideas for these cupcakes.
Whipped Cream: Sweetened whipped cream makes a wonderful light topping for cupcakes that comes together in minutes. Just keep in mind that cupcakes topped with whipped cream should be refrigerated rather than stored at room temperature.
Cream Cheese Frosting: If traditional buttercream isn’t rich enough for you, try a luscious cream cheese frosting on these cupcakes. We love the slight, cheesecake-like tang a cream cheese frosting gives these delicate cupcakes.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream: If you’re up for a challenge and want a buttercream that’s lighter than air, try your hand at whipping up a classic Swiss meringue buttercream. It gets its lighter consistency from the addition of egg whites that are beaten into sugar and cream until fluffy before adding lots of butter.
Chocolate Ganache: If frosting of all types just are not your style, consider dipping the tops of each cupcake in a silky, smooth batch of chocolate ganache. It’s a great way to seal in the moisture of your cupcakes while making you feel like a kid enjoying a homemade Hostess cupcake.
Piping cupcakes perfectly is a skill that can take a little practice. For beginners, we recommend starting with a simple, round pastry tip to add an elegant dollop of icing on each cupcake. Meanwhile, seasoned bakers can use a large star tip to add a fluted swirl to the top of their cupcakes or other creative designs. Regardless of your skill level, here are a few “tips” (pun intended) to set you up for piping success.
Invest in real pastry bags: While it’s possible to pipe frosting using a Ziploc bag, beginners will find investing in real pastry bags to be a game-changer when it comes to piping icing since they’re less prone to ripping than a Ziploc bag.
Use a tall: Fill your piping bag with ease by placing it into a tall glass and cuffing it over the rim of the glass. This stabilizes the bag and creates a wide opening for you to scoop the frosting into.
Don’t overfill: It can be tempting to squeeze every last drop of frosting into your pastry bag. However, in this case, less is more. Make sure you leave enough length of the pastry bag empty so you can twist and seal it closed. Overfilling may lead to bags bursting or leaking from the back as you pipe the frosting.
Apply even pressue: While piping, make sure you’re holding the pastry bag comfortably in your hands using the hand closest to the tip to guide the frosting onto the cupcake and your rear hand to gently squeeze the icing forward towards the tip.
How to Store Your Cupcakes
Most cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to two days before needing to go in the refrigerator. Other cupcakes, filled with fruit or cream or topped with icings made with whipped cream, meringues or cream cheese should be refrigerated as soon as they’re decorated. These cupcakes can be stored for up to five days in the fridge. Regardless of where cupcakes are stored, they should be kept covered in a container to retain their moisture and freshness.
Want to freeze them? Just like cakes, cupcakes can be made ahead and frozen. While some frostings lend themselves well to being frozen and then thawed, many do not. Therefore, it may be necessary to freeze your cupcakes undecorated and then top with icing once they’re completely thawed. However, American buttercream and cream cheese frostings freeze well so go ahead and pop those decorated cupcakes in the freezer.
To freeze, wrap unfrosted cupcakes in several layers of plastic wrap once they’re completely cooled. Frosted cupcakes should be stored in a freezer-safe, airtight container. To defrost cupcakes, let them warm up on the counter for several hours or let them defrost overnight in the refrigerator.
Find More Stunning Birthday Cupcake Ideas
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Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
This is a wonderful recipe I discovered and changed a bit to suit my taste. I love the flavor of pumpkin and the cinnamon makes ordinary cream cheese frosting extra special. When I made a batch for my husband to take to work, he said they disappeared in record time. —Debbie Wiggins, Longmont, Colorado
Nothing is better than homemade cupcakes. They are so delicious and fluffy. Choose whatever frosting you want to top these treats. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
New to making homemade cupcakes from scratch, or just want a refresher? Check out our complete guide on how to make cupcakes.
Buttermilk Chocolate Cupcakes
Good any time of the year, a chocolate cupcake recipe make a great get-up-and-go treat on busy summer days. These buttermilk chocolate cupcakes have been a frosted favorite with family and friends for at least 35 years. They’re really popular at bake sales. —Ellen Moore, Springfield, New Hampshire
Key Lime Pie Cupcakes
I bake over 200 of these cupcakes for our church suppers, and we always run out. If you can’t find Key lime juice, use lime juice. Just add a tad more sugar. —Julie Herrera-Lemler, Rochester, Minnesota
Black Bottom Cupcakes
This recipe’s been in our family for years, but these cupcakes still go quick each time I make them. So I always double or triple the ingredients! You’ll likely see what I mean if you make them at your place—I can’t remember anyone who’s tried them for the first time not asking for seconds. —Julie Briceland, Windsor, Pennsylvania
Maple Carrot Cupcakes
I come from a line of family cooks and have liked to cook and bake since I was young. Mother and Grandmom were always in the kitchen cooking up something delicious. These carrot cupcakes were Grandmom’s specialty, and we always have them at family gatherings. —Lisa Ann Panzino DiNunzio, Vineland, New Jersey
I asked my grandmother for this recipe after trying these irresistible spice cupcakes at her home. I love their creamy caramel frosting. They’re such a scrumptious dessert, you actually forget you’re eating your vegetables, too! —Virginia Lapierre, Greensboro Bend, Vermont
Boston Cream Cupcakes
Boston cream cupcakes have been my favorite bakery treat since I was a child, so I put together this easy-to-make version. —Jeanne Holt, Mendota Heights, Minnesota
Turn the traditional hummingbird cake—flavored with pineapple, bananas and walnuts—into a bite-sized treat with these moist cupcakes. —Jessie Oleson, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Irish Cream Cupcakes
If you’re looking for a grown-up cupcake, give these a try. You’ll have a hard time limiting yourself to one! —Jenny Leighty, West Salem, Ohio
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