Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Strawberry Frosting (All Vegan!)

Do you remember when cupcake shops were all the rage? They’re still great, but there was a specific period of time when the concept of walking into a bakery dedicated to cupcakes and walking out with only a cupcake or two in hand collectively blew everyone’s mind (mine included). There was certainly a novelty to it, and there were delicious flavors, but I think a big part of the appeal was the fact that you could buy only one or two cupcakes. When you bake cupcakes at home, you have either 12 or 24 or some number in between. That’s great for a bake sale, but less great when you’ve had a no-good-very-bad day and just need a cupcake, stat. Or when you’re celebrating another pandemic birthday with you and…yourself. Or when you had a small victory and want a treat, but you don’t want to be tempted by dozens of cupcakes. (I don’t know about you, but if there are 18 cupcakes in the house, I will eat all of them.)

I have good news: Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Strawberry Frosting (All Vegan!). This recipe makes four delicious cupcakes because sometimes, that’s all you need. It may be a small batch, but there is big flavor. The vanilla cupcakes are not too sweet and taste like someone’s birthday. Strawberry frosting is a match made in springtime heaven with these cupcakes. A little bit of strawberry juice goes a long way to add strong, sweet, fruity strawberry goodness.

Single vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting on a strawberry towel

What Makes These Vegan, Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes Extra Special?

When I bite into a cupcake, I want the cake to be substantial, not just air. These small-batch vegan cupcakes are soft, moist, fluffy, and just slightly dense. This gives the cupcakes enough structure to hold up the frosting and give you a really delicious bite. The frosting is smooth and creamy, and all of this is done without any dairy.

Close up of cake bite on a fork with small batch vanilla cupcakes in the background

Here’s a tip: Don’t skip the pinch of salt in the frosting. Salt must be magic, because it doesn’t seem possible that such tiny grains can make such a big difference. The little pinch of salt tones down the sweetness of the sugar and somehow makes the strawberries taste extra strawberry-y.

The cupcake batter comes together in one bowl, the frosting has just four ingredients, and both are made with items you’re sure to have on hand. You’ll go from zero to cupcake in no time at all.

Small batch vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting (vegan)

Making the Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes

The cupcake batter is a simple mix of some dry and wet ingredients. First, the dry ingredients: just flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I’ve tested this recipe with both cake flour and all-purpose flour, and both are wonderful. Cake flour creates a slightly closer crumb and slightly lighter cake. Taste wise, there is no difference at all. Use whatever you have on hand!

Both baking soda and baking powder are used to help keep the cupcakes light with a nice rise, especially in the absence of eggs.

Next, the wet ingredients: milk, vegetable oil, water, and vanilla. My favorite milk to use is my favorite milk to drink, which is vanilla unsweetened almond milk. Any plant-based milk will do, though (that said, I don’t recommend a sweetened plant milk). If you’re not following a vegan diet, dairy milk works, too.

Add the wet ingredients to a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and then whisk them together until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.

Cupcake batter after wet and dry ingredients have been combined

You will have just enough batter for four cupcakes. Make sure the cupcake liners are filled evenly and no more than halfway full. Halfway full liners will give you cupcakes with a good sized, beautifully rounded dome.

After a quick trip to the oven, the cupcakes should bounce back when touched and a toothpick inserted in them should come back clean (and your kitchen will smell amazing). Their next stop is a cooling rack! Cool them in the pan or not in the pan; either way is fine.

Cupcake liners filled with batter
Row of unfrosted small batch vanilla cupcakes and a piping bag full of frosting

Dreamy, Creamy Vegan Strawberry Frosting

You might look at the frosting recipe and think, four strawberries? Is that enough? Believe it or not, it really is enough!

First, microwave the frozen strawberries. Although these cupcakes are perfect for spring, using frozen strawberries helps makes this a year-round frosting. You don’t have to wait until fresh strawberries are in season, looking bright and tasty rather than pitiful.

You want the strawberries to be very soft and very juicy. You’ll microwave them for a few reasons: to defrost them (duh), to maximize the juices when you strain them, and to remove some of the moisture. Buttercream, vegan or not, doesn’t like to be wet. So make sure those strawberries are hot and syrupy.

Mash the heated strawberries with a fork to create a puree. Push the puree through a small sieve to separate the seeds and remaining strawberry bits from the juice. The extra step of straining the strawberries creates a smooth, silky frosting. After you strain the strawberries, pop the juice in the refrigerator while you move on to the next step.

Next, you’ll mix together the room temperature vegan butter, that important pinch of salt, and some of the powdered sugar. It’s tempting to dump in the whole lot of powdered sugar, but you’ll be MUCH happier if you start with half. Slow and steady will win this race (and prevent the buttercream from separating).

Once the vegan butter and part of the powdered sugar are blended into a creamy, spreadable consistency, you can add the strawberry juice. You’ll give the frosting another quick mix, just so the strawberry juice is incorporated.

It may start to look separated at this point–don’t fret! Add the remaining powdered sugar, start off mixing slowly, then increase your speed. Before you know it, you’ll be looking at lovely, luscious strawberry frosting.

Honestly, the hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the cupcakes to cool before you frost them. Fortunately, it doesn’t take too long. Swirl the frosting in a spiral, spread it on with a spatula–whatever suits your fancy. They will be delicious any way you frost them.

Swirl of strawberry frosting

A Few Notes:

  • The frosting recipe below makes a generous amount of frosting for four cupcakes. If you want to pipe your frosting on the cupcakes in a spiral or dome, it’s the right amount. However, if you want just a spread of frosting, feel free to halve the recipe (1/2 cup powdered sugar, 4 Tablespoons vegan butter, 2 strawberries, pinch of salt).
  • I recommend straining the strawberries to create a silky frosting. If you’re in a real pinch, you don’t care how the frosting looks, you don’t have a strainer, or you like strawberry chunks in your frosting–skip the strain!
  • These cupcakes would make a great dessert after you enjoy Meu’s scrumptious Healthy Alfredo Sauce with Cottage Cheese and Squash!

These Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Strawberry Frosting (All Vegan!) are the perfect springtime treat to put a spring in your step. Celebrate that small victory, eat your feelings on that bad day, or treat yourself just because. Enjoy!

Happy baking (and Happy Easter!),
Lu

Small batch vanilla cupcakes with strawberry frosting (vegan)

Small Batch Vanilla Cupcakes with Creamy Strawberry Frosting (All Vegan!)

5 from 1 vote
Recipe by Ifyougiveagirlanoven@gmail.com Course: DessertDifficulty: Easy
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

17

minutes

Ingredients

  • Vanilla Cupcakes
  • 1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon cake flour (OR 1/2 cup all-purpose flour)

  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 Tablespoon + 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 1 Tablespoon water

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (OR other plant milk / OR dairy milk for non-vegan cupcakes)

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Strawberry Frosting (see note regarding amount)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter, room temperature (OR regular unsalted butter for non-vegan cupcakes)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 4 frozen strawberries

  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  • Vanilla cupcakes
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 4 silicone or paper cupcake liners.
  • In a medium bowl, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Whisk to blend.
  • Make a well in the flour/sugar mixture. To the well, add the oil, water, almond milk, and vanilla.
  • Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth and no lumps remain.
  • Fill cupcake liners with batter, no more than halfway full.
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick placed in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. The center of the cupcake should also bounce back when touched. Set aside to cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  • Strawberry frosting
  • While the cupcakes are baking or cooling, make the frosting. First, microwave the four frozen strawberries for about 2 minutes to 2 minutes and 30 seconds, until strawberries are very soft and juicy. They should be able to break apart with a fork very easily and lots of juices should flow when you do that.
  • Smash the microwaved strawberries with a fork to make a sort of puree. Strain this strawberry puree mixture through a small sieve. You’ll use the strawberry juice for the cupcakes and can discard (or eat!) the remaining strawberry pieces. Place the strawberry juice in the refrigerator to cool while you mix the butter and powdered sugar.
  • Place the vegan butter in a medium sized bowl if using a hand mixer or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add half of the powdered sugar and pinch of salt and mix, starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium, until the butter and powdered sugar come together and the combined mixture is soft and creamy.
  • Add the chilled strawberry juice (about 1 Tablespoon) to the frosting. Mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated.
  • Gradually add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until the frosting is smooth and creamy, starting on low speed and increasing to medium. Frost once the cupcakes are completely cool.

Notes

  • Store frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator in an air tight container. The frosting should always be stored in the refrigerator, but unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature. The cupcakes are best eaten within 3-4 days.
  • The frosting recipe makes a generous amount for four cupcakes. If you just want a spread of frosting rather than a dome, half of the recipe will be sufficient. If you want to pipe frosting into taller domes on the cupcakes, make the full recipe.
  • I strained the strawberries and used only the juice to keep the frosting nice and smooth. If you don’t care about the frosting being smooth, feel free to use the pureed strawberries without straining (be sure to cool it before adding to the butter/sugar mixture, though). Your frosting will have streaks of strawberry in it but will still be delicious.

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