These light and fluffy vegan vanilla cupcakes are topped with a creamy vegan vanilla buttercream frosting and colourful sprinkles. This dairy free and egg-free cupcake recipe is the only one you will need for birthdays and special occasions.
This recipe was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated with new photos and more helpful content. The recipe remains the same!
There are some recipes that you just need to have in your back pocket, and I truly believe that a reliable vanilla cupcake recipe is one of those.
While I have my favourite vanilla cupcakes recipe which has long been my go to, when making cupcakes for a birthday or celebration, there is always a chance that someone may have food intolerances and that can make things tricky, so this is a handy recipe to have.
I started adapting my cakes to find a vegan option that still tastes like cake should because being dairy-free myself I know first hand what it feels like when everyone else gets cake for their birthday and you end up with a slice of the standard orange almond cake that seems to be the only allergy friendly cake that bakeries make, or worse, nothing because it’s just too difficult.
This is the perfect recipe to make for those who need a vegan dessert, but those who don’t won’t feel like this is anything less than the most delicious cupcake. I’ve tested this recipe on many people, both vegan and non-vegan and these cupcakes get the tick of approval from all.
There are a couple of key ingredients that help make these vanilla cupcakes vegan and taste so good, so let’s run through.
- Dairy-free milk – I like to use almond milk usually, but any non dairy milk such as oat milk or soy milk will also work. Coconut milk can be used but your cupcakes will carry that flavour through them.
- White vinegar – mixed with the dairy-free milk to create a homemade buttermilk. This gives the cupcake a light, soft crumb. I prefer white vinegar so it doesn’t impact the flavour of the vanilla, but apple cider vinegar also will work.
- Plain flour – known as all purpose flour in the US. You can also substitute with your favourite 1-1 gluten free flour blend.
- Baking powder and bicarbonate of soda / baking soda – without eggs to help with lift, we need to add both to give the cupcakes rise so they don’t end up dense.
- Vanilla – for the best flavour make sure to use a good vanilla extract and not imitation vanilla essence.
- Canola oil – for moisture and a soft and tender crumb. You can substitute with any flavourless oil. Coconut oil also works, but again you may get a slight coconut flavour through the cupcakes.
- White sugar – keeps the cakes sweet but not overly so they can be balanced with the buttercream frosting.
These cupcakes come together so quickly. You just need a few bowls and an electric mixer if you want, otherwise I generally just use a whisk for the cupcake batter. You’ll also need a cupcake or muffin pan and liners.
Start by making the vegan ‘buttermilk’ which is going to help give the cupcakes that perfect light and fluffy texture. Add the vinegar to the dairy free milk in a small bowl, mix and then set aside while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. It might curdle and look a bit odd, but that’s ok!
Next, sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and give it a quick mix to make sure it’s combined. By making sure the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda are properly mixed into the flour before adding to the wet ingredients, you don’t have to worry about overmixing which can lead to a dense, almost gummy cupcake.
Finally grab your large mixing bowl and combine the canola oil, white sugar and vanilla. You can use your electric mixer here, otherwise just whisk well to combine.
Add a little of the milk mixture, followed by about a third of the dry ingredients and mix, continuing to alternate adding the milk and the dry ingredients until the batter just comes together.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan so that each is about ¾ full and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the tops are just golden and spring back when lightly pressed.
Let them cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Decorating your cupcakes
For frosting these cupcakes we’re using a batch of my best vegan vanilla buttercream. You can read through that post first as well if you’re looking for more comprehensive instructions on making the frosting itself.
Now most vegan vanilla cupcakes keep things simple with a plain white frosting, but one of the things I love the most about using vanilla as your flavour base is that you can change things up a little bit and inject a bit of extra vibrance and personality into how they are presented.
I love playing around with my Americolor gel food colouring kit as just a few drops create the most vibrant colours without impacting the taste and texture of your food. Plus they are vegan!
For these cupcakes I’ve gone with a light purple using a few drops of the Violet colour, but you can really do whatever you like to match your party theme, or of course simply keep them white.
To pipe on the frosting I used my Wilton 1M piping tip. If there is one piping tip you are looking to buy to ensure you get pretty frosted cupcakes everytime then this is it. It’s a wide open star and is perfect for making your cupcakes look that little bit more professional without much effort.
And finally to finish, a few colourful sprinkles. Just ensure that if you do need these cupcakes to be completely vegan you check the sprinkles you’re using as some are not due to the colours.
Storing and freezing
These cupcakes are best stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place at room temperature for 2 days. Any longer or if it’s warm or humid, in the fridge is best.
To freeze, if I’m intentionally making them ahead of time, I prefer to freeze just the cupcakes on their own and then frost on the day of serving; however you can also freeze them already frosted if you prefer.
To last longer in the freezer, it’s best to wrap each unfrosted cupcake individually with plastic wrap and then stack them into a freezer bag. For frosted cupcakes, in an airtight container is best. They’ll last in the freezer for 1-2 months.
To defrost, do this on the kitchen counter or in the fridge overnight.
Yes! I’ve had many readers who have successfully turned these vegan cupcakes gluten free by replacing the plain flour with a gluten free 1-1 blend.
Yes, you can use this batter to make a 3 layer 6 inch or 2 layer 8 inch cake and adjust the cooking time as needed. Otherwise for something bigger, check out my vegan vanilla cake recipe which is the perfect option for special occasions.
More vegan cupcake recipes:
Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 1 cup dairy-free milk
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 ¾ cups plain flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- ⅓ cup canola oil
- ¾ cup sugar
- pinch of salt
For the buttercream:
- ½ cup (125 grams) dairy-free butter
- 3-4 cups icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon dairy-free milk
- pinch of salt to taste
- food colouring optional
- sprinkles optional
- Preheat oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with 12 patty cases.
- In a small bowl combine white vinegar and dairy-free milk. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, and set aside.
- Using a handheld mixer or a whisk, mix canola oil, sugar and vanilla until combined. Slowly add dry ingredients, alternating with the milk until cupcake batter comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Spoon mixture into patty cases ensuring they are only ¾ full before placing them in the oven for 18 minutes or until lightly springy to touch. Let cool completely before frosting.
- Make the buttercream. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment fitted, beat dairy-free spread for 1-2 minutes until creamy. Add in 3 cups of icing sugar and beat on medium until combined. As mixture thickens, add in vanilla and dairy-free milk. If frosting is too thin, add in an extra ½-1 cup of icing sugar until it reaches the right consistency. Add pinch of salt to taste if frosting is too sweet.
- Tint the buttercream with a few drops of food colouring, I used 3 drops of Americolour Violet gel colouring. Place buttercream into a piping bag, I used a 2D tip, and pipe buttercream on cooled cupcakes. Top with sprinkles.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.