Desserts Recipes

Strawberry-Vanilla Cupcakes

Right after we moved back to Texas, my friend Jeannie invited a couple of us over to show us how she made the world’s best cinnamon rolls.

I can’t remember all the details except that she mentioned that her secret of good baking was to double the vanilla. “Actually,” she said, “A lot of the time I triple it.”

Then, last summer, at a little “favorite things” party Ralphie hosted, Jeannie brought bottles of real vanilla for everyone.

Up until that moment, I’d been buying those enormous bottles of generic imitation vanilla, but after one use of real vanilla, I was a convert. I haven’t bought imitation vanilla since.

I think real vanilla might be the key to convincing Bart that vanilla is an acceptable flavor (he’s pretty much a “chocolate or die” man).

But Bart likely won’t have a chance to be convinced by these cupcakes since I think I’m going to go finish off the last one right now before he gets home.

(By the way, I used this frosting because Ella absolutely insisted on a chocolate frosting, but I think it was way too sweet and strong for these cupcakes, and totally overpowered the cupcake itself. If I’d had my way, which I obviously did not because I was not turning 3 yesterday, I would have made this strawberry frosting which I made last year and was so ludicrously good I ate it with a spoon for a week afterward).

Strawberry-Vanilla Cupcakes
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

makes 10 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup pureed fresh strawberries
2 egg whites
1/6 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon real vanilla (such as Nielsen-Massey)
(optional) a few drops of red or pink food coloring (I didn’t use this because I don’t believe in artificial food coloring couldn’t find my bottles of food coloring

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 10 muffin tin cups and set aside.

Sift the flour and cornstarch into a bowl and then whisk in the sugar, baking powder and salt.

In a mixer, beat the butter and strawberries until well-combined, about 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and beat until very thick and smooth.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg whites, half-and-half, and vanilla, then add it to the mixer in three parts, beating to combine between each addition.

Evenly divide between the muffin tins (they should be about 3/4 full each).

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool completely before frosting.

Nielsen-Massey sent me a free bottle of vanilla extract (so well packaged that I used the wrapping to safely transport THREE of my serving dishes from Austin to Durham), but I was not paid for this post, and all opinions are my own. Also all the dishes after making this recipe were done by me. And all the working out I should be doing (but won’t) to burn off the calories in these cupcakes rests on me. 

They’ve also offered to send one of my readers a bottle of real vanilla too, so if you’d like to be entered to win, just leave a comment telling me one of your favorite things to make with vanilla (I recently made this vanilla ice cream and, seriously, it was probably the best ice cream I’ve ever made). And thus ends the longest disclosure of a two-ounce bottle of liquid ever written. 

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  • Reply preethi July 24, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I thought I recognized the pink lady cake – Dan made it for my birthday last year. 🙂

  • Reply missris July 24, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    I add vanilla to my homemade granola and it is AMAZING with just a hint of vanilla in it!

  • Reply Karen July 24, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    I pretty much like to put vanilla in most baked goods. But if I have to come up with a favorite, I would say chocolate chip cookies. (And I always use real vanilla—maybe I will have to start doubling it.)

  • Reply The Self's July 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Is it too boring to just say chocolate chip cookies? But seriously, I love some good gooey chocolate chip cookies.

  • Reply Shelby July 24, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I like using real vanilla in whipped cream (like the kind you whip yourself not the stuff in the spray can or anything). Yum. And it makes it such a pretty color too.

  • Reply AEK July 24, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Anything and everything! I love me some good vanilla!

  • Reply Janelle July 24, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Vanilla is perfect in nearly everything. But the only "vanilla" thing I make with any regularity is vanilla ice cream (yum).

  • Reply RA July 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Yep, I can't think of something I don't put vanilla in, but I probably use it the MOST often for sugar cookies. There's always a good excuse for some decorated cookies, I say.

  • Reply Megan Marie July 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I always add a dash of vanilla to my chocolate chip cookies! It adds such great flavor!

  • Reply Andrea Smith July 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    You know I love baking! I love sugar cookies, they use lots of vanilla and I have never used real vanilla!

  • Reply Sarah July 24, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    I always use real vanilla, but it's not the fancy kind. Costco has some for 6$ for a huge jar, so I love that stuff. My favorite thing to make is chocolate chip cookies. Sounds boring, but I looooooove them 🙂

  • Reply Sarah Spitz July 24, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Those look yummy!!! I caught the baking fever a couple of days ago, and have not been doing much else since:

    Love from Europa,

    Birdy and Bambi

  • Reply Deanna July 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I like to add a little vanilla to the butter, sugar, and cinnamon for cinnamon toast. It makes such a difference! Whenever we have friends or family in Mexico, I request a bottle of vanilla from there…it's SO delicious!

  • Reply heather July 24, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I've always been grateful that my mother taught me the virtues of real vanilla at a young age. Then my friend brought me back a bottle of vanilla from Mexico which went way beyond the McCormick real vanilla. My (already great) chocolate chip cookies became infused with magic. I'm forever indebted to her -and on the hunt for a great vanilla I can buy locally, since my parents don't own a vacation home in Cabo.

  • Reply Stephanie July 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    I love real vanilla in oatmeal chocolate chip cookies ( in case you're wondering, this is the best oatmeal cookie recipe I've ever made in my life (no, I'm not exaggerating):

  • Reply Sherry July 24, 2013 at 3:38 pm

    When my plain yogurt is about to expire, I love to make vanilla frozen yogurt out of it. And I eat it with shredded coconut, and sometimes pineapple, but usually not anymore since I learned I'm allergic to it.

  • Reply Kate Pouliot July 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I love it in French toast!

  • Reply chapfan July 24, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    You're disclosure totally cracked me up. I love adding vanilla to my pancake batter. Yummy goodness.

  • Reply Stephanie July 24, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Yum, vanilla! I love it in pancakes and waffles, it just adds some tasty flavor to a plain food.

  • Reply Elaine July 24, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I think my favorite thing made with vanilla is a yellow cake. A tip if you are ever trying to sell a house is to put a few drops of vanilla on a piece of aluminum foil in a low oven. Makes the house smell as though you are baking and feel more homey.

  • Reply Katy E July 24, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    I love vanilla! My favorite might be adding it to French toast..or my coffee 🙂

    Happy birthday to the "big" little one!

  • Reply Rebecca Hunt July 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    It's so true about doubling (or tripling) the vanilla AND getting the real deal. Totally makes things taste AH-mazing! I've recently started adding vanilla to my pancake batter and it's oh-so-good!

  • Reply Rachel July 24, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    yum. I love real vanilla in frosting or chocolate chip cookies.

    have you ever made your own? Much cheaper than buying.
    Vodka + vanilla beans, split lengthwise (but not cut all the way through). Shake it a few times a week and let sit for 6 weeks ish before using it.

  • Reply Erica July 24, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    COOKIES! esp chocolate chip cookies because really, there is nothing better than a fresh ccc.

  • Reply Alyssa July 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I just made vanilla cupcakes last week that were amazing! I am also a convert to real vanilla vs. imitation vanilla. So much better!

  • Reply Jeanelle July 24, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I'm making ice cream for Sunday dessert and then cookies for girls camp next week. I never use anything but real vanilla and LOVE when I have a bottle of N-M in my cupboard. A coworker occasionally leaves a bottle on my desk because she knows I love to bake…I call it the fancy vanilla because, well, it is.

  • Reply ccr in MA July 24, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    There is nothing like real vanilla! My mother was a firm believer. Nothing like chocolate chips cookies with the real thing, it just gives them that edge. Yum! (Now I want cookies. Hmmm.)

  • Reply Jessica July 25, 2013 at 12:39 am

    My grandparents live in Arizona and whenever we visit them we cross the border to buy good Mexican vanilla. So yummy!

  • Reply Emily July 25, 2013 at 1:02 am

    We love adding vanilla to granola, but it's too hot to turn on the oven for long so even cookie dough is great. I once heard that the vanilla flavor is even stronger in non-bake recipes….maybe.

  • Reply Merrick July 25, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Whoa, never even thought to add more vanilla to a recipe. Definitely doing that next time I make cookies (with my new silpat liner :))

  • Reply dreamweaver July 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

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  • Reply Christina Widner July 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    We love to add lots of vanilla to our chocolate chip cookies. We also add vanilla bean to a container of sugar just for baking. 🙂

  • Reply Amy Johnson July 25, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Vanilla cake from "Garlic and Sapphires"…I'm sure it would be WAY better with real vanilla.

  • Reply Emily July 26, 2013 at 12:44 am

    I really enjoy making panna cotta. It's a custard-like dessert. A nice vanilla flavor served with fruit on top is delicious.

  • Reply Wren July 26, 2013 at 2:31 am

    Thank you for sharing the recipe. They look wonderful.

    My favorite to make with vanilla is Poppyseed cake. Sigh.

  • Reply Krissy July 26, 2013 at 3:24 am

    I really need to stop reading your food posts when I'm hungry! My favorite thing to make with vanilla is definitely vanilla ice cream or good ole' chocolate chip cookies!

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  • Reply Jes August 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    These cupcakes look tasty! I don't even usually measure anymore, just add a healthy splash to pretty much all sweet baked goods. Chocolate chip cookies tonight…

  • Reply Beth August 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    It's all about the Tollhouse pan cookie, somehow exotic on the West Coast but remniscent of the 80's on the East Coast!

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