My conversation with my brother went something like this.

(Ah yes. More family drama. Get on the edge of your seat. You know this is gonna be good.)

“Daniel. What do you want me to bake for you for your 21st birthday?”

Fully expecting something along the lines of margarita cupcakes. Or a large cake soaked in tequila. Or just a large cake sitting next to a large glass of tequila. Or at least something involving even a modicum of tequila.

(As a family, we kind of have a love affair with tequila.)

“Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.”

Is anyone else sensing some kind of communication barrier here?

“Daniel. Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. Let me rephrase the question. I can make you anything you want. Anything in the world. So what would you like?”
“Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.”

Hmmm. Yeah I’m just not getting through to him.

“Okay. We are obviously not understanding each other. Let me explain something to you. I. Like. Challenges. Vanilla-on-vanilla action. Not a challenge. Think big. Dare to dream. Hit me with your best shot.”
“Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting.”

Sigh. Yes. I do share half a gene pool with this boy. And yes. He’s still a mystery to me.

Fine. He wants vanilla. He’s gonna get vanilla. (Yes, I am vindictive like that.)

In an attempt to make his request a little bit more. Well. Scintillating. I searched high and low for the most interesting recipe I could find. And stumbled across this one for Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes. Luckily, I had some Tahitian Vanilla Beans sitting on my windowsill (you should see the things sitting on my windowsill) begging to be used, that had been sent to me by the kind souls over at MarxFoods. Perfect. Timing.

I also thought it might be fun to dye the buttercream frosting blue. It was.

While these weren’t the most challenging or adventurous of cupcakes. They were certainly some of the most delicious I’ve made. They were light. Fluffy. A good go-to vanilla cupcake. Topped with the best frosting I’ve ever made. Daniel was very happy. I was very happy. Everyone was very happy.

Except for my fingers. Which are now dyed an indelible shade of sky blue.

Maybe the real challenge in these is going to be trying to figure out how to not turn yourself into a Smurf while making them. Maybe.
Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Makes 12, adapted from The Spiced Life

2 large eggs, room temp
2/3 cup (160 g) full fat sour cream
seeds from 3 Tahitian vanilla beans
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups (200 g) (NOT self-rising) cake flour
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 T, 170 g) unsalted butter

Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, the vanilla seeds, the lemon zest, and 3 tablespoons of the sour cream. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and remaining sour cream to the dry ingredients; mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened and a higher speed will not cause the flour to fly out of the bowl. Then mix on medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Then add the egg mixture in 2 additions, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition and scraping down the bowl in between. Finish by hand if any parts have not incorporated so as to not over-beat.

Fill each cupcake 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a tester inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove to cool completely before frosting.

Bittman’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
In theory makes enough for one 9-inch cake and 2 dozen cupcakes. If you want scantily clad cupcakes. But if you are a glutton. It makes enough for 1 dozen cupcakes. Adapted from How to Cook Everything.

1 stick butter, room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar (I usually don’t measure confectioner’s sugar and just add it until it tastes/feels right so I’m not sure that I actually used 4 cups. But it was definitely somewhere in that vicinity.)
6 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp vanilla

1. Use a fork or electric mixer to cream the butter. Gradually work in the sugar, alternating with the cream and beating well after each addition.

2. Stir in the vanilla (and a few drops of coloring gel, if using). If the frosting is too thick to spread, add a little more cream, a tsp at a time. If it is too thin, refrigerate; it will thicken as the butter hardens.

I am submitting the frosting to IHCC, the theme of which for this week is POTLUCK!

And, since this was my first time EVER working with real vanilla beans, I am submitting the cupcakes to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being hosted by Astrid of Paulchen’s Foodblog.

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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84 Responses to Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Bittman’s Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

  1. Pam says:

    Nothing like a perfect vanilla cupcake with perfect vanilla frosting! I have to agree with your bro on this one!

  2. these look perfect, but i know ho it goes trying to get family to agree to let you make something more adventurous. i went through a similar thing with my mom’s birthday-all she wanted was a chocolate cake with buttercream icing, she ended up with a 4 layer, ganache filled cake with orange buttercream.

  3. yummy! looks perfect, damn I am on a diet!

  4. Oh boy! I know what I’m going to do with the vanilla beans I have from MF! You did a great job decorating the top… I wish I was that skilled.

  5. Angie says:

    Looks perfect, love the blue frosting.

  6. Lori says:

    When you make vanilla cupcakes with real vanilla bean, well you take it up a notch. So I wouldn’t consider these just vanilla on vanilla. πŸ™‚ They look and sound delicious! I really like that frosting recipe with the almond milk. I’ll have to try that.

  7. Katerina says:

    Funny thing about brothers, especially younger. I couldn’t understand either, how I and my brother came from the same two persons. We are totally different characters. Barriers in communication were always present when we talked. Now that he is 36 and I am 41 it seems that the gap has started to narrow. Your cupcakes look great I would love to taste them.

  8. Smurf cakes! I love it! My kids loved when they saw the blue icing. They love when I dye things. πŸ™‚

  9. What a delicious cupcake…loved the frosting recipe with almond milk πŸ™‚

  10. You made me chuckle! I have had that scene enacted here too, with my question repeatedly being met by an answer I did not want to hear “I want butterscotch cake” (darn)
    But I think you got to at least make the frosting blue, without his express acquiescence; that is good Joanne.

  11. This is my #1 most favorite baked dessert of all time. Vanilla cake and frosting. Yum! I’d eat them with totally selfish greed, and love it.

  12. elra says:

    What a brilliant color Jo! It looks like the The Caribbean sea. beautiful and delicious!

  13. Pam says:

    Oh my gosh! They look sinfully delicious and what a great color. Just wish I was at the beach enjoying one right now! Vanilla bean is the best!

  14. Lea Ann says:

    Love it! I’m sure glad you jazzed up those plain ol vanilla cupcakes.

  15. Toni says:

    Good call on the blue frosting. The Man made a key lime pie awhile ago, and instead of regular green food dye he used neon green. I’m pretty sure the pie glowed in the dark.

    Happy Birthday Joanne’s brother!

  16. Kim says:

    Your brother sounds like the typical man. Doesn’t it seem like guys like things plain and simple? However, with the real vanilla bean and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla in the frosting, they do sound like the very best vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting!

  17. Mari says:

    I have to call Sprint because I think my phone is broken that would be the only reason why I did NOT get a phonecall when you made these babies!

  18. Jennifer says:

    These are SO pretty! I love tahitian vanilla!

  19. Love the color of the frosting and definitely the moist cakey texture of the bitten cupcake.Yum! Happy belated birthday to your brother!

  20. Mo Diva says:

    Smurf cupcakes! Please note my birthday is on Thanksgiving. i will accept any and all baked gifts.
    those look awesome. but then again so does everything else you make. You inspire me to think outside my tiny culinary box

  21. Shannon says:

    smurf blue, indeed! hope your brother likes them πŸ™‚

  22. Julie says:

    Sounds like they are worth turning into a smurf for!

  23. katerina says:

    I love that swirly icing photo at the end.

  24. teresa says:

    lol! i once offered to make lunch for a friend on her birthday. she could have anything she wanted and she asked for peanut butter jelly sandwiches! what!?

    these look wonderful, i love the pretty blue frosting.

  25. Love the smurf cupcakes. Great addition of lemon zest. Gotta have the lemony kick. I want some for my B-day…


  26. I’ve clipped this…I think they will be perfect for my husband…he’s also turning 21… πŸ™‚

  27. Lori says:

    Dont you just hate that. My husband said he wanted cinnamon rolls for his birthday! Ugh. No hazelnuts, no tortes, no mousses, what? I so understand your conversation with your brother.

  28. Justin says:

    this totally cracked me up

  29. The cupcake with blueish frosting looks very pleasant and delicious.

  30. polwig says:

    Happy 21st birthday to your brother, I am sure these will taste great with tequilla. And did you know that blue fingers were totally in right now? It is a variation on the Shreck theme πŸ™‚

  31. Surely he must understand that if any recipe includes true vanilla beans (Tahitian beans at that), he is loved. This is love!

  32. Jessica says:

    Mmm sounds great! Love cupcakes!

  33. Debinhawaii says:

    I am kind of with your brother too–vanilla cupcakes are surpassed only by coconut and lime in my mind. πŸ˜‰ Love the bright blue icing!

    Unfortunately these look so good that I keep thinking I may need to go buy a cupcake from my favorite place now. My hips don’t thank you. πŸ˜‰

  34. Suman Singh says:

    big fan of cup cakes…that looks super delicious…love the blue frosting…yummy!

  35. Mary says:

    This was riveting :-). I’ll be smiling for the rest of the day and will never look at blue iced cupcakes in the same way again. Have a good. Blessings…Mary

  36. Faith says:

    How funny that he wanted vanilla on vanilla! Definitely a classic though. These look incredible — they’re so moist! Love the cute blue frosting too. πŸ™‚

  37. Amy says:

    In your bother’s defense, be happy that he was at least decisive. He could have replied with “I dunno.” And, while boring perhaps, the vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting is yummy. I’m totally digging the blue!

  38. Daniel says:

    For the record, tequila shots followed the smurf-cakes (and vanilla soy milk shots for the less motivated). PS: I definitely tasted the Tahitian beans and lemon zest. My palate is not that gullible.

  39. Chris says:

    That last shot looks hypnotic with all the swirls….or maybe it’s the tequila.

  40. Laurie says:

    I have tried different vanilla’s but have never bought Tahitian vanilla beans before. I just posted a review of a restaurant who made a Tahitian vanilla balsamic dressing. The vanilla was good but the balsamic was a bit to acidic.. so when I first thought of Tahitian I wasn’t sure. But now I think I need to have some in stock. πŸ™‚
    Happy 21st birthday to your brother!

  41. The cupcakes sound terrific with vanilla bean! And the frosting is amazing, I love the pretty blue color!

  42. Julie says:

    you. just. would. in a totally ridiculously amazing way make your bother ACTUAL vanilla cupcakes. seriously if it was me and someone said vanilla cupcakes i’d be all about the betty crocker vanilla cake mix hahaha total fail. not you. you’re a champ

  43. WOW. Just WOW. These pictures. I need to leave this page right away before I start scrounging for something sweet in my pantry to fill the void in my life left by these amazing photos!

  44. Isn’t it funny how sometimes we think out-of-the-box so often that the simplest of requests seem completely ridiculous? I never make chocolate cookies or banana bread or vanilla cupcakes because they seem so plain when I can throw raspberries, coconut, and almonds into the mix. I’m glad you made these and that they turned out well. It’s a good reminder that things don’t have to have original flavor profiles to be delicious and worth making anyhow!

  45. Stella says:

    I can understand why Daniel wanted vanilla on vanilla-it’s just good. I like the smurf effect too!

  46. Sippity Sup says:

    Love the swanky new digs! I also love that you can see the vanilla seeds in those CCs! GREG

  47. hahahaa I had a similar conversation with my Dad! I asked what he wanted me to bake for him for his birthday and he gave me a simple “Vanilla Pound Cake”, I just stared at him, and he just asked “too simple?”, but since it was his birthday I said “yeaa.. but it’s ok I will bake it :] ” He, too, was happy! πŸ˜€

  48. Great looking cupcakes! I hear you on the food coloring – I have a similar problem when making red velvet cake – OMG! Glad both your brother AND you ended up happy – Cheers!

  49. oh these are cool you really are a great sis

  50. Muneeba says:

    Pffft .. brothers .. they do baffle the mind sometimes. But those vanilla cupcakes, with REAL vanilla bean no less (u are spoiled by Marx Foods woman!!) do look like winners in my book.

  51. theUngourmet says:

    Oh yeah! I’m loving the blue icing! What a way to jazz up vanilla cupcakes! Yum!

  52. Barbara says:

    I’m with Daniel. Vanilla everything! Happy Birthday to him!

  53. sra says:

    You know, here we don’t get cupcakes with frosting, at least, I haven’t seen any in bakeries and stores, so I guess that makes them muffins! So I haven’t eaten a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting – I’ve eaten a vanilla muffin πŸ™‚

  54. tigerfish says:

    Did I read somewhere “the smurf effect”? How relevant.

    I usually do not like frosting on any cakes, including muffin. :O

  55. Beautiful cupcake,and what a lovely colour frosting…really loved it, and bday wishes to your brother, hope he liked this gorgeous cupcakes

  56. Hannah says:

    I’m a real vanilla bean aficionado, and the sound of this recipe makes me swoon! They may be simple cupcakes, but who cares if they’re such crowd-pleasers. πŸ™‚

  57. Jessie says:

    Joanne, I promise you that if you offer to make me ANYTHING I WANT in the world, I will ask for more than vanilla on vanilla action. Despite having a limited palatte with which to work, you have created a deliciously blue cupcake that has me wanting one NOW!

    Have a great day, Joanne!

  58. I bet you didn’t know this, but I am obsessed with cupcakes. I have more cupcake cookbooks than regular cookbooks. Reason number 2292470 why I can’t get a date…

    I love the color of the frosting — very alluring. And how you can see the vanilla bean speckles baked into the cake. Nom nom nom. Oh, and I am turning 21 in Nov. and you can certainly make me any kind of cupcake you want, including margarita cupcakes πŸ™‚ Really, I won’t mind.

  59. Pam says:

    This totally reminds me of asking my daughter what she would like for her b-day dinner… I tell her she can pick anything she wants in the world and what does she pick? A bean and cheese burrito. UGH.

    The cupcakes look moist and delicious. The blue frosting makes them look pretty and I am sure it looks pretty on your fingers too. πŸ˜‰

  60. I don’t know why but I love blue food! Pretty, blue food. I always liked smurfs too. I bet these were outstanding with those fancy vanilla beans!

  61. Love that smurf blue color! What a lucky brother Daniel is to receive a totally gourmet cupcake.

  62. your brother is easy to please! i like that πŸ™‚

  63. Nadji says:

    They look perfect and delicious.
    I like.
    See soon.

  64. katy says:

    LOVE the vanilla bean. these look awesome!

  65. LOL, I like vanilla on vanilla too!

  66. Gulmohar says:

    Oh my ! the last picture is tempting me to just grab and lick the good

  67. Ben says:

    Your family has a love affair with tequila? I suddenly love your family! Hehe. You did great with this cupcakes, you transformed something boring into something amazingly blue, haha. I’d like to eat one of those beauties πŸ™‚

  68. Lo says:

    Well, I just have to say — I commend your efforts. I think truly GREAT vanilla cupcakes can be some of the most challenging to make! For me, the goal is a moist cupcake with a lovely, true vanilla flavor — something that you could eat plain (sans icing) and still love. I’m quite sure you’re onto something using real vanilla beans for these.

    And I love the blue icing!

  69. sweetlife says:

    brothers are soooo bring, mine is strawberry and strawberry c’mon..guys..I love these the shade to perfectly sumrfie….


  70. Jeanne says:

    These look delicious! I really should start using vanilla beans. I recently had my own run-in with blue frosting. Now I used disposable food-safe gloves when working with colors. My counters may turn out blue, but not my hands! πŸ™‚

  71. grace says:

    vanilla on vanilla? BORING. πŸ™‚ i love how you spruced it up, though. and hey–i always enjoyed the smurfs…and the names of their enemies. gargamel, azreal, balthazar, hogatha–those are awesome names! but i digress… πŸ™‚

  72. figtree says:

    What a nice sister you are..I would love someone to ask me that question before my bday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  73. Raina says:

    These sound wonderful. Not just your average vanilla cupcake with that vanilla bean in them. Your a very nice sister! I bet your brother loved them!

  74. Juliana says:

    JOanne, how fun, blue frosting…yummie!

  75. Deborah says:

    I’m a vanilla girl, so I’ll gladly take one of these!!

  76. Joanne,,My B’day wishes to ur brother dear..CupCake looks perfectn esp i like the frosting colour dear,,eye catching cream colour..

  77. Katy says:

    I really enjoy a good vanilla cupcake; this looks terrific!

  78. Eliana says:

    Your brother and my sisters are the same. The always ask for the simplest desserts. But sometimes the simplest things bring the most comfort. And there is something to said for an outstanding vanilla cupcake. This one sounds like a winner.

  79. msmeanie says:

    Sometimes the simplest desserts are the most delicious and these cupcakes look seriously awesome. I love that you put vanilla bean in them. I just made some vanilla cupcakes with extract but I bet beans would really up the flavor.

  80. Pierce says:

    Tequila has been my undoing lately….but I am loving your post here!

  81. Simply Life says:

    I love the color of that frosting!

  82. Cynthia says:

    These look and sound amazing! I love vanilla! Your brother has good taste even if he is a bit crazy to pass on tequila πŸ˜‰

  83. Yvette says:

    Your cupcakes look yummy, love the color of your frosting!

    Really have to go bake myself some cupcakes soon…..

  84. Marisa says:

    Would you believe I have yet to use real vanilla beans or pods? Crazy stuff I know. I think that makes all the difference in a perfect vanilla cupcake – much like yours!

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