Why does every American baking recipe call for vanilla extract?

What Youll Need For This Recipe

For this scone recipe, you’ll need just a few simple ingredients. Let’s break down each one:

  • All-Purpose Flour: When it comes to measuring your flour, make sure to spoon it into the measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife. Too much flour can lead to a crumbly dough and scones that don’t taste as good. I talk about this more in my post on how to measure flour.
  • Granulated Sugar: I typically stick with granulated sugar because I prefer the taste, but brown sugar will work too.
  • Baking Powder & Salt: There is one tablespoon of baking powder in this recipe and I promise it’s not a mistake! In order to get a good rise, you need a decent amount of baking powder. 
  • Cold Unsalted Butter: Since the amount of salt in salted butter can vary quite a bit between different brands, I prefer to stick with unsalted butter. Also, cold butter is key to creating the perfect scones. As the cold butter melts in the oven, it creates steam pockets that help the scones rise and creates a lighter texture too. 
  • Heavy Whipping Cream: When it comes to soft scones that don’t dry out, heavy whipping cream is the best option. A little cream brushed on top of the scones before they go into the oven creates a beautiful slightly crisp and lightly browned exterior too. 
  • Egg & Vanilla Extract: The egg helps to create a lighter texture and the vanilla adds flavor.



Vanilla Bean or Vanilla Extract?

For the most well-rounded vanilla flavor, use both vanilla bean and vanilla extract in the cupcakes. You can usually find vanilla beans at Whole Foods, but lately I’ve been ordering them online. If needed, just replace the vanilla beans with an extra 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. And, for even better flavor, make and use homemade vanilla extract. You won’t regret it for these cupcakes or any other recipes calling for vanilla!

How It’s Made

If you’re a beginner baker, stop here and first take a minute to read my post on how to make cupcakes. It covers some of the basics and offers up a lot of tips. I also recommend that you get yourself some essential baking tools.

Preheat your oven to 350 F before beginning.

First, scrape the inside of a vanilla bean (the seeds) into sugar and thoroughly mix everything up. Using this vanilla sugar will give the cupcakes a strong flavor and you’ll end up with visually appealing vanilla bean specks all over!

Whisk together the vanilla sugar with the rest of the dry ingredients (cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use an electric hand mixer or even mix by hand.

Tip: If you don’t have cake flour, you can substitute all-purpose flour in equal amounts; the cupcakes will end up a little bit denser. Cake flour is a finely milled delicate flour and it is best for desserts that are lighter and airier.

Mix in the butter.

Whisk together the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. These include sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

Tip: It’s very important to not over-mix the batter at this point. Mix until just combined. A cupcake with an over-mixed batter will end up squat and dense – something you definitely don’t want here. (See my post on overmixing cake batter for more information.)

Add milk to the batter, again mixing until just combined. This cupcake batter is very thin – almost liquid.

Tip: While whole milk will provide the richest flavor, any milk you have in the house will work fine.

Fill liners just over halfway full. The easiest way to fill the liners is with an ice cream scoop.

Bake for 14 minutes or until done. You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a cupcake; it should come out dry to indicate doneness.

Remove the cupcakes from the tins immediately and set on the counter or a cooling rack to cool.

Freshness evidence!

Here’s my attempt to show you how these cupcakes stay incredibly fresh. The cupcake below is 4 days old. If it was dry and stale, the crumb would not bounce back like it does, it would just tear and stay indented.

And if it was dense, I would not be able to prod it at all!

Freshness evidence – this 4 day old cupcake
Freshness evidence – this 4 day old cupcake springs back when touched. This wouldn’t happen if it was dry and crumbly!

This recipe uses classic cupcake ingredients but with Japanese techniques applied for the softest, plushest cupcakes you’ll ever make!

This post goes into detail on the steps to give bakers of all levels the confidence they need to make this. If you’re an experienced baker, you may wish to skip ahead to the recipe or recipe video. (Or Dozer ?)

How To Make This Moist Vanilla Cupcake Recipe with Oil

Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F / 175°C and line a muffin pan.

Whisk the dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients into the opening. Whisk the wet ingredients together, then whisk them into the dry ingredients.

Mix until the batter is smooth. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full.

I like to use a cookie scoop to do this, to m

I like to use a cookie scoop to do this, to make sure I add the same amount of batter into each cupcake liner.

I find I can make about 12 cupcakes using this recipe, depending on slight variations between cupcake pans and liners.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs.

Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

If you want to accelerate the cooling process, pop the pan into the freezer for about 30 minutes.

While the cupcakes bake and cool, prepare the vani

While the cupcakes bake and cool, prepare the vanilla frosting as instructed in the recipe below.

Once  the cupcakes are fully cooled, add a large swirl of buttercream. I used a Wilton 1M tip, but you can use whatever you prefer!

If you don’t have any frosting tips, you can always use a ziplock bag and just trim the tip to have a 2 cm opening.

I also added a bit of gold leaf to these cupcakes to jazz them up! To do this, use a sterile paint brush to gently add the gold leaf sheets of 23k edible gold leaf

Go crazy with toppings and mix-ins

Pancakes are so much fun to make because there are a million and one ways to customize them! You can add pretty much anything to the batter, or you can throw extra goodies on top! 

  • Syrup: You don’t have to be confined to maple syrup! You can top this recipe with chocolate, strawberry, or caramel syrup.
  • Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and more all taste great when added to the batter and cooked into the pancakes.
  • Chips: Chocolate chips are the usual go-to, but what about white chocolate, butterscotch, or caramel chips? I bet they would all be delicious.
  • Coffee: Are you a coffee lover? Mix a teaspoon of grounds into your batter for a little coffee kick!
  • Candy: Mix in crushed Kit-Kats, Reese’s Cups, M&Ms (or use mini M&Ms), etc.!

What Makes This Vanilla Cupcake Recipe Made with Oil So Good

A notable ingredient in this moist vanilla cupcake recipe? It uses BUTTERMILK! I don’t know what is but I’m absolutely crazy about buttermilk.

I love baking with it, and use it in most of my recipes! It makes such a tender crumb, and adds so much moisture! It also gives my cupcakes a delicious tang.

While buttermilk can be found in most grocery stor

While buttermilk can be found in most grocery stores, some parts of the country or foreign countries don’t sell it! If you’re having a hard time getting your hands on buttermilk, don’t worry.

You can make your own buttermilk! For each cup of buttermilk that the recipe calls for, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough milk to fill 1 cup. 

You also can use plain, low-fat yogurt as an equal substitute, cup for cup.

Best frosting for cupcakes

The best frosting for cupcakes comes down to personal taste and, more often than not, storage, shelf life and transport logistics.

There’s a wide variety of frostings pictured throughout this post – I’ve noted the frosting used in the caption under each photo. My frosting library is currently sadly lacking (I’m working on it!) but here’s a few options for you:

  • Vanilla Buttercream – the classic and easiest of all whipped butter based frostings. Use the recipe in my Vanilla Cake (recipe will frost 12 cupcakes with tall swirls, or 24 frosted with a knife like the pastel coloured cupcakes at the top of this post);

  • My Secret Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting (below) – far less sweet and rich than buttercream, pipes like a dream, and 100% smooth. It’s like a really fluffy buttercream / dense whipped cream But unlike whipped cream which deflates in the fridge within hours, this Fluffy Frosting  holds its form for days!

  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream – many people consider this the superior version of traditional buttercream. Made using cooked egg whites whipped into a meringue, this is more technical to make than classic buttercream and yields a thick-yet-light silky smooth frosting that’s suitable for piping as high as you want, and holds its form for days. I haven’t shared a recipe yet but have used this recipe by a website called Sugar Spun Run in the picture below.

My secret Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
My secret Less-Sweet Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
Vanilla Cupcakes frosted with Chocolate Swiss Meri
Vanilla Cupcakes frosted with Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream

How to make pancakes

These vanilla pancakes are one of my favorite breakfasts to whip together, and not just because they taste great! Sure, they’re absolutely delicious, but they’re also extremely easy to make. When I need something that’s quick  and will satisfy my sweet tooth, these are my go-to.

1. Mix the ingredients: First, stir the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until mostly combined. If you have some lumps in the batter, that’s fine! Do not over stir. 

2. Cook the batter: Next, lightly grease a large s

2. Cook the batter: Next, lightly grease a large saute pan and set over medium heat. Spoon ¼ cup portions of pancake batter into the pan, cooking until you see bubbles form on the top, and the bottom is golden brown. Flip and continue cooking until the second side is golden brown.

3. Serve and enjoy: Set the oven to 200°F (95°C). Keep the cooked pancakes warm by setting them on a baking sheet and placing them in the oven.

7. Vanilla Ice Cream

Emily Genzer

In the case of making milkshakes, floats, and other frozen desserts, you don’t even need to use vanilla extract. Instead, use vanilla ice cream to get that vanilla essence into your dish. 

Tips and Tricks

  1. The most accurate way to measure flour is to spoon it into your measuring cup, leveling it off with the back of a knife.
  2. Do not overmix. Overmixing allows the gluten strands to develop making the cake gummy. Mix until just combined to ensure a light, delicate crumb.
  3. Fill cupcake tins about ¾″ of the way full. Any fuller than that and they will overflow.
  4. Do not open the oven door while the cupcakes are baking. This causes the structure to fall leaving you with a dent in the middle of your cakes. You can check for doneness after 20 minutes.
  5. To prevent the cupcake from sticking, use baking cups and generously spray the cups before filling them with batter.
  6. Bring your butter to room temperature before making the buttercream. If the butter is too cold, it won’t incorporate into the powdered sugar and your buttercream will be lumpy.
  7. Let the cupcakes sit for at least 20 minutes in the pan before flipping out. If you try and flip it out too early, the cake structure may not have fully set and will fall apart.
  8. Let the cake completely before decorating to prevent the buttercream from melting.

9. Brandy

Lexi Nickens

If you don’t have vanilla extract hanging around in your house, whip out the brandy, and make a brandy and banana bread or a brandy buttercream frosting. Use the same amount of brandy as the amount of vanilla the recipe calls for. 

Vanilla cake ingredients

As mentioned above, this cake uses standard pantry ingredients. But choosing quality ingredients is key to a great tasting cake with the best texture. Let’s go over those ingredients in detail.

  • Butter: Unsalted butter that is softened to room temperature will cream perfectly with the sugar.
  • Sugar: Granulated white sugar is what works best.
  • Eggs: I use 4 whole eggs in my cake recipes.
  • Vanilla: Look for high-quality vanilla to use. I prefer Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla * or you can make your own vanilla.
  • Flour: Bob’s Red Mill Super Fine Cake Flour * is the best and will ensure the cake has the best texture.
  • Leavening: Baking powder is used to give the cake rise.
  • Salt: Salt helps to balance the sweetness.
  • Milk: Whole milk works best but you can also use buttermilk.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

These vegan Vanilla Cupcakes are unbelievably delicate and moist with a touch of sweetness for an easy and delicious cupcake that everyone will love.

4.85 from 39 votes

Print Pin RatePrep Time: 30 minutesCook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Servings: 12 cupcakesCalories: 287kcalAuthor: Sarah McMinn


Measure the ingredients correctly. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale.

Preheat the oven at least 15 minutes before getting started to give it plenty of time to reach the ideal recipe temperature.

Don’t overmix the batter. Instead, mix just until you’ve evenly distributed the ingredients throughout the batter.

Bake the batter as soon as it is ready. 

Don’t open the oven door until your baked good has set. Leave the oven closed until the minimum time stated in the recipe.

Every oven is different, so baking times always have to be taken with a grain of salt. Oven thermostats can be wildly off, and that will all affect baking time, so keep an eye on yours.

The BEST Scones Recipe

Learn how to make delicious, soft, light, and tender scones with this easy recipe and tutorial. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dessert! Course Breakfast Cuisine American

Keyword scones

Prep Time 20 minutes Cook Time 20 minutes

Total Time 40 minutes

Servings 8 scones Author Danielle


For the scones:

  • 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour spooned & leveled
  • 1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter cubed into pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream plus more for brushing the tops
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the vanilla glaze:▢ 1 cup (120 grams) powdered sugar ▢ 1-2 tablespoons (15-30 ml) milk ▢ 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


To make the scones:

  • Preheat oven too 400°F (204°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside.

  • In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the cold cubed butter and use a pastry cutter or fork to cut it into the dry ingredients until you have small pea-sized crumbs.

  • In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the heavy whipping cream, egg, and vanilla extract until fully combined. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. The mixture may be a little crumbly at this point, this is okay!

  • Scoop the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and work it together in a ball, then flatten into a 7-inch circle. Cut the dough into 8 equal-sized pieces and place them on the prepared baking sheet, making sure to leave a little room between each one.

  • Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 5-10 minutes or until the scones are chilled.

  • Brush the tops of each scone with a little heavy whipping cream. If you’re not adding a glaze, you can top them with coarse sugar if desired.

  • Bake at 400°F (204°C) for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the scones are lightly browned and cooked through.

  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

To make the vanilla glaze:In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until well combined. If the glaze is too thick add more milk to thin it out and if the glaze is too thin add more powdered sugar to thicken it. Top the scones with the glaze and allow to harden for 10-15 minutes, then serve, and enjoy.


Store scones in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Milk: Whole, 2%, 1%, skim, or almond milk all work fine for the glaze.  Scone Variations: Here are a few ways that you can change up this scone recipe. I suggest mixing in these ingredients right after you cut in the butter and before you add the wet ingredients. Blueberry: Add 1 cup (150 grams) of fresh blueberries Cranberry Orange: Add 2 teaspoons of fresh orange zest plus 2/3 cup (105 grams) of sweetened dried cranberries (or 1 cup of chopped fresh cranberries) Cinnamon Raisin: Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon plus 2/3 cup (105 grams) of raisins Lemon Poppy Seed: Add the zest of 1 medium lemon plus 1/2 tablespoon of poppy seeds Glaze Variations: You can replace the milk in this recipe to create different glazes too.  Orange Glaze: Omit the vanilla extract and use fresh orange juice in place of the milk Lemon Glaze: Omit the vanilla extract and use fresh lemon juice in place of the milk Cinnamon Glaze: Add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Did you try this recipe?Mention @livewellbakeoften or tag #livewellbakeoften!


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