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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!),