Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Foolproof Cupcake Recipe

This recipe is something that I hold very dear to my heart. I started baking cupcakes a few years ago and I know there is still plenty of room for improvement. Back then, I began with a simple vanilla cupcake recipe and then went through dozens of different internet and cookbook recipes. None every really turned out consistently the way I expected my cupcake to turn out. I wanted a moist, crumbly cake with a golden brown top. I had my fair share of disasters, and my family were subjected to many batches of dry pale white, floury, tasteless cakes. Poor things.

About half a year ago I finally came upon a recipe that worked well for me, no matter how lazy or careless I was. And it is SO EASY. It's adapted from an orange tea cake recipe from Stephanie Alexanders, 'The Cook's Companion', her recipes are always guaranteed to work brilliantly. I usually try to substitute the orange juice in this recipe with mandarin juice, as it helps give it that golden hue while adding hardly any citrus flavour, making it more of a yellow cake than an orange cake.
Plain Cupcakes
1/3 cup freshly squeezed mandarin (or orange) juice (Mandarin juice is preferable)
2 eggs
125g unsalted butter

3/4 cup caster sugar
225g self-raising flour (I usually make this by mixing plain flour and baking powder using the instructions on the baking powder pack if I don't have self-raising flour)

Optional: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.
There are two options for preparation, either work just as well as the other. I don't have a food processor so I am forced to use the first but the original recipe uses the food processor.
Method 1:
Cream butter and sugar together using an electric beater until light and smooth. Add eggs at a time and beat in well. Add the juice and flour and quickly mix until combined, avoid overbeating the flour.

Method 2:
Combine all cake ingredients in a food processor and blend for 2 minutes.

Pour cake mixture in paper cases, filling them about half to two-thirds full. It's usually easiest to use a table spoon to scoop the batter and then drop it into your paper cases. It will take 15-20 minutes to bake. The top should be golden brown and slightly crunchy after it has cooled for a few minutes out of the oven. It is actually better to over-bake the cakes rather than under-bake to avoid that raw flour taste. Don't worry, it takes a lot to dry out this cake, so as long as it is not burnt, it will be fine.

From here, any variation in flavour and decoration is possible! You can't go wrong with whacking some vanilla butter cream and sprinkles on top, but when you get bored of that here are some other possibilities:

Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

Blueberry Cupcakes
This is my favourite variation on the plain cakes - i throw in half a pack of thawed and washed frozen blueberries or a full punnet of fresh blueberries. It takes the same amount of time to bake and makes the cakes super super moist.
Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
125g cream cheese (room temperature)
200g sifted icing sugar

a few teaspoons lemon juice
half a teaspoon of lemon zest

Beat cream cheese until slightly softened and then mix in icing sugar. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time, mixing it in well each time, until you have desired texture. I usually use about 2, I prefer my cupcake icing on the firmer side so it doesn't run off the top and gather at the edges of the paper. Add lemon zest and then spoon onto cupcakes!

Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

Another fantastic version I have attempted is ginger cupcakes with cinnamon sugar icing. Just add two teaspoons of ground ginger to the cake mixture, replace the caster sugar with brown sugar, top cakes with plain cream cheese or buttercream icing and sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. I used raw sugar and a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Ginger cupcakes with cinnamon sugar topping

One that still needs improvement - chocolate cupcakes with mint icing. I added two tablespoons of unsweetened Dutch cocoa to the mixture which upset the dry-wet ratio and these turned out rather dry, even with the buttercream icing with a tsp of peppermint extract mixed in. I might try these again using melted chocolate instead of dry cocoa.


  1. Great stuff! A foolproof cupcake recipe is definitely something that you want to have handy and Stephanie Alexander's are definitely reliably good. I like the addition of mandarin juice too! :)

  2. Hehe Stephanie Alexander is my go-to girl :)

  3. i found adding a scoop of sourcream makes the cupcakes extra fluffi and moist (and they STAY moist the days after aswell!!)

  4. Ooh thanks for the tip! I will have to try that out sometime :) I did do a recipe with some fat free yoghurt and that added some nice moisture

  5. this was such a good recipe... THANKYOU!!. do you think substituting butter with applesauce would work???

  6. Ohh you're so welcome! Thanks so much for the feedback! I've never tried it with applesauce so I can't tell you for sure but I can't see why not?! Let me know if you do try it though, I'd love to know!

  7. Thanks for sharing your basic cupcake recipe, they were YUM! I gave these a go and have blogged about it at

  8. That's so awesome, thanks so much! :)

  9. I can't wait to try this recipe!!! I made cupcakes last weekend and they were horrible. I used an untested recipe that I found online and I won't use it again. This one looks perfect!

  10. learp17 - Ohh I've totally done that before! So many bad cupcakes from untested online recipes :( Hope you liked mine!

  11. Would more orange juice fix the wet/dry balance of u add cocoa? I want to make choc cupcakes with this recipe but you mentioned it made them a bit dry. :)

    1. Try taking out an equal amount of flour for whatever cocoa you add. I haven't done it myself but it should be fine!

  12. I use this recipe all the time for my cupcakes, and everyone always loves them, thanks Steph, love ya work ;-)

  13. This recipe has just gone into my "Keep" folder. I made mini cupcakes which I need to make for a 70th birthday morning tea. Super moist and delicious! AND I've just discovered your Pupcakes - definitely going to make these for two little girls who are visiting Melbourne from Malaysia on Saturday. Love your website, thanks so much!


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