• Nothing Vanilla About It

    Magnolia Bakery’s Best-Selling Vanilla Buttercream Recipe–Plus Cupcake Decorating Ideas For Kids

    By Jessica Roblin

    Photo by KelsEats

    Vanilla on vanilla is the consistent best-seller at all eight Magnolia Bakery locations, and Bobbie Lloyd, president and top baker at the iconic bakery, is sharing their recipe–and how to make cupcakes a family activity–with New York Family readers. 

    Tips for kids

    Lloyd suggests finding kid-sized baking tools like small whisks and 6-inch wooden spoons so that somewhat older kids can help during the baking process. For the younger kids, decorating makes the easiest projects. “Always set up a work area where you’ll have the least amount of cleanup problems, espeically if you have sprinkles,” she cautions.

    For a fun but hassle-free back-to-school project, Lloyd loves Dec-On cake decorations made of sugar and starch in all sorts of shapes and themes, available at baking stores like Williams-Sonoma or Michael’s. For a very special teacher, a cupcake with themed Dec-Ons make for a great apple replacement. Find Dec-Ons at baking stores such as Williams-Sonoma or Michael’s. As for icing, an easy trick is to fill a Zip-Lock bag, seal it, snip the corner and decorate away. Polka dots and squiggles are the simplest and most engaging for kids.

    Finally, Lloyd advising giving each munchkin his or her own cupcake pan and letting kids color white icing to desired colors. “The brighter the better!” she says.

    Tips for adults

    Lloyd also has some tricks of the trade for the grown-up bakers. “Step one is: Be fearless. Just go for it,” Lloyd says. Next, she recommends reading the recipe a few times through before beginning–then making sure you have a thermometer. Especially if you’re working with a new oven, you don’t want to end up in her shoes and find out too late that it’s 75 degrees under the proper temperature after a move.

    She also has an answer for the trickiest question of all: How do you know when a cupcake is done baking? “The room starts to smell like cake and the cupcakes start to pull away from the edges of the pan,” she says. But mostly importantly, make sure the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.


    Magnolia Bakery Vanilla Buttercream Cupcakes

    Makes 2 dozen cupcakes


    For cupcakes

    1 ½ cups self-rising flour
    1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    2 cups sugar
    4 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    For Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    1 box (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar
    2 – 3 TBLS milk
    1 teaspoons vanilla extract


    For cupcakes

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.
    3. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.
    4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.
    5. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
    6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
    7. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla.
    8. With each addition, beat until the ingredient are incorporated but do not overbeat.
    9. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
    10. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full.
    11. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
    12. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

    For Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

    1. Cream the butter in a large mixing bowl.
    2. Add the vanilla.
    3. Gradually add sugar one cup at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl often.
    4. When the mixture starts to thicken and appears dry add 2 TBLS of milk. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy about 2-4 minutes. Add more milk as needed if you want a thinner consistency.
    5. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.

    Note: Store the icing at room temperature.  Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


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