Cupcake Mixology + basic vegan vanilla cupcakes

Omg. This is like the ultimate chocolate box. Of cupcakes.

Basic Vegan Cupcakes, a million different ways // The Pancake Princess

I pretty much don’t eat candy until the holidays roll around and boxes of chocolate start to trickle in. I am totally that person who, when handed a box of chocolates, would very much like to take a bite out of each one because

  1.  I like to know my options
  2.  I’m indecisive
  3. I have grass-is-greener syndrome when it comes to chocolate.

Taking bites, however, infuriates my siblings/grosses out my parents, so these days, out of politeness, I cut each potential sucker in half. Sometimes I still get complaints, but I kind of think I’m doing everyone a favor because who wants to bite into a coconut-filled chocolate when you wanted caramel? No one, that’s who.

Cupcake Mixology // The Pancake Princess


So cupcake mixology: I’m borrowing this term from A Beautiful Mess and applying it to this mess beauty of a technique. I’m obsessed. I’m afraid I’m never going back to normal cupcakes. Why did we ever make batches of 12, 24, 36 of the exact same cupcake and frost them with the exact same frosting when we could’ve frosted 20 different kind of cupcakes with 20 different frostings??

Cupcake Mixology // The Pancake PrincessCupcake Mixology // The Pancake Princess

Oh right, because only an insane person would do that. But this is actually not thatttt much more work than say, baking a nice-looking layer cake. If I can mix and frost 30 cupcakes in different frostings before work, you can definitely pull this off. And armed with these, you’re guaranteed to be the most popular person of the next party you attend.

Cupcake Mixology // The Pancake Princess

The method:

Mix up your favorite vanilla cupcake. I purposefully chose a very basic, 1-bowl vegan cupcake so that I wouldn’t have to deal with eggs, creaming butter, or a bunch of bowls because I knew adding all the mix-ins would be plenty of work. I adore this recipe because it’s delicious on its own, but also the perfect vanilla-scented blank canvas. The cupcakes rise to perfect domes and they are so tender and moist and dewy-crumbed that it’s hard to believe they’re so simple, let alone vegan. They’re pretty much my ideal vanilla cupcake.

Assemble your mix-ins. A.k.a every possible ingredient in your kitchen that you’d want to taste in/on a cupcake.

Mix your cupcakes. Use a separate, small bowl as your mix-in bowl. I used 1 tablespoon of batter per mini cupcake. I started with the cupcakes where the mix-in was simply sprinkled on top–sprinkle-topped, banana-topped and the jam swirl. Then I started stirring in the mix-ins. I built on some of the flavors–for example: I added two tablespoons of batter to the bowl, stirred in a dash of cinnamon and scooped out one tablespoon to make a cinnamon cupcake, then added a drip of molasses and tiny dashes of cloves, nutmeg and ginger to make a gingerbread cupcake.

Pro bakers would cringe at my process–I really just added a dash of this, a tiny scoop of that to each tablespoon of batter I doctored: you’re practicing the art of eyeballing. If–whoops–you dumped in what looks like way too much cocoa powder, add more batter. If I absolutely had to guesstimate, I’d say I probably used about 1/16-1/4 teaspoon of mix-in per cupcake, depending on the ingredient.

Bake the cupcakes. Only 11 minutes for these beauties. Yeee.

Mix the frostings and frost. Once the cupcakes are baked, whip up a basic vanilla buttercream or your (preferably white) frosting of choice. I used several small bowls to dip the coconut- and sprinkle-covered cupcakes into, but for the most part I used one bowl to mix the rest of the frostings, simply wiping or rinsing the bowl out between batches and leaving the dark-colored cocoa powder and nut butter frostings until the end. (If people with allergies may be eating your cupcakes, you might want to be more vigilant about keeping your cupcakes uncontaminated.)

Cupcake Mixology // The Pancake Princess

Here’s what I made in my batch:

Cupcake Mixology // The Pancake Princess

Starting with the top row, from left to right:

  • Lemon poppyseed // Lemon zest
  • Cinnamon // Vanilla frosting with cinnamon
  • Jam swirl // Vanilla with jam
  • Coconut // Coconut-dipped
  • Funfetti // Sprinkle-dipped
  • Vanilla // Coconut-dipped
  • Gingerbread // Cinnamon
  • Banana // Chocolate
  • Chocolate chip // Black and white
  • Raspberry-filled chocolate // Dark chocolate raspberry
  • Chocolate // Vanilla with cocoa powder
  • Peanut butter & jelly // Peanut butter
  • Peanut butter // Chocolate
  • Sprinkle-topped // Sprinkle-dipped
  • Banana-topped // Honey
  • Oatmeal // Milk chocolate
  • Banana // Peanut butter
  • Almond meal // Vanilla with sliced almond
  • Mocha // Chocolate
  • Biscoff // Biscoff
  • PB2 // Chocolate Mocha
  • Rosemary // Black pepper
  • Marzipan // Coconut-dipped
  • Cornmeal // Vanilla

These make for a seriously showstopping tray. I can see so many occasions that be great for a little cupcake mixology: for someone’s birthday, for a party, for a bridal shower, or you could even host a cupcake mixology party! Because, um who WOULDN’T want to spend hours making a million different kinds of cupcakes?

The only problem with these is that you’ll want to eat all of them.

Cupcake Mixology // The Pancake Princess…to which I say, you only live once!

Mix-in ideas: I have endless ideas for cupcake mix-ins and I’m sure you do too. Here are some I came up with:

For cupcakes mix-ins:

  • Citrus zest: lime, lemon, orange
  • Chocolate: Cocoa powder, chocolate chips, chopped dark chocolate shards
  • Coffee: Instant coffee, espresso
  • Fresh fruit: apples, mashed or sliced banana, shredded coconut, mango, strawberries, plums, peaches, cherries
  • Fruit butter: pumpkin, apple/applesauce
  • Grains: Almond meal, cornmeal, rolled oats, quinoa
  • Herbs: Rosemary, basil, thyme, pepper
  • Nut/seed butter: peanut, almond, cashew, tahini, sunflower
  • Nuts/seeds: poppyseeds, chopped almonds, peanuts, cashews
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom
  • Spreads: Biscoff, caramel, nutella
  • Syrups: agave, maple syrup, molasses, honey
  • Vegetables: Grated zucchini or carrots, pumpkin or sweet potato puree

Frosting/topping mix-ins/dip-ins:

  • Shredded or toasted coconut
  • Cocoa powder
  • Grated chocolate
  • Black pepper/other herbs
  • Toasted coconut flakes
  • Malted milk powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrus zest
  • Jam (swirled in or dolloped on top)
  • Pumpkin
  • Yogurt
  • Biscoff
  • Nutella
  • Sprinkles
  • Candied nuts
  • Fleur de sel
  • Truffle salt


  • Apple cider vinegar is a good ingredient to have on hand if you’re trying out vegan baking. Often, a pancake, biscuit or cake recipe may call for buttermilk or yogurt. In many of these cases, you can sub a mixture of milk and vinegar to take its place (1 cup milk minus 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon vinegar). You can use any kind of vinegar that doesn’t have a strong taste (distilled white, for example), but I generally prefer apple cider since it has the least unpleasant scent to me. The vinegar adds the acid that is naturally found in buttermilk and yogurt that is required to react with the baking soda to help your baked goods rise.
  • Olive oil is a great sub any time a recipe calls for canola or vegetable oil since those are highly processed. I haven’t had an occasion yet where I could taste the olive oil in a baked good. Coconut oil is another great option.

Basic Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 32 mini cupcakes or 12 standard cupcakes


  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or dairy-free milk of your choice)
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 teaspoon table salt

  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I think this could be cut down to 1/4 cup. Let me know if you try it!)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2.5 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin pan* with cupcake liners.

Whisk the almond milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside for a few minutes to get good and curdled.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt until no large lumps remain.

Add the oil, sugar and vanilla to the measuring cup. Add your mix-ins! See above for how I did this.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds of the way and bake for 11-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before frosting.

*If using a standard-sized cupcake pan, fill each cupcake two-thirds of the way and bake for 20-22 minutes.


Adapted from PPK.

For more basic vegan goodness, try my favorite basic vegan pancakes (both these cupcakes and the pancakes are adapted from recipes by the ultimate vegan goddess):

Vegan Pancakes, two ways // The Pancake Princess

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62 thoughts on “Cupcake Mixology + basic vegan vanilla cupcakes

  1. Lesan

    I made these with my children tonight and they were WONDERFUL!!! We had just picked some blueberries and wild blackberries from our yard and there couldn’t have been a better recipe to try them with! I didn’t have any white sugar on hand, so we used coconut sugar, and opted for 1/4 cup of olive oil. No frosting needed, we gobbled them up warm! Thanks so much for this recipe! It’s going to be our “go-to” forever!

    1. erika Post author

      Ahh Lesan so glad to hear it!! Thank you for the lovely comment; I’m so glad you and your children enjoyed these!! Using coconut sugar sounds like a fabulous substitute, and I’ll have to try these again with less oil. Hope you have a fantastic week!

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  3. Stella

    This recipe looks fabulous and I love the assortment of cupcakes!! Quick question, is there a substitute to the vinegar I can use?

    1. erika Post author

      Hi Stella!

      Yes, you should be able to sub white vinegar with no problems. You really can use any type of vinegar (you just need the acid in order to react with the baking soda in the recipe) but the mild, sweeter flavor of apple cider vinegar tends to work the best. I just wouldn’t recommend using balsamic vinegar since that would add quite a different flavor to your cupcakes! :)

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    1. erika Post author

      No I haven’t! I actually never tried baking with a gluten-free flour mix so I have no idea how they work…but let me know how it goes!

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  9. Ala

    What a wonderful mixology! I TAKE BITES OUT OF EVERY CHOCOLATE IN THE BOX TOO. Decency as a human being has not led me to change this habit; the only thing I am using the knife for is to defend my idiosyncracy (okay, I kid–but I am not wasting my perfectly good time in trying to neatly cut a too-big piece of that coconut chocolate off when it doesn’t deserve it). I love a great vegan cupcake recipe, and 20 is even better. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Kym

    I am almost in tears at how beautiful this idea is. Who wants to receive a box of Turtles chocolates for Christmas when you can receive a box of assorted cupcakes? Amazing. I wish i lived closer to you, i would be your self appointed taste tester!!! ;P

    1. erika Post author

      Oh man I didn’t even think about using this as a Christmas present–hello, Erika that is the logical next step! Putting Christmas sprinkles on my list :) And I wish you lived closer to me too because I would love to foist these off on you!!

  11. Katina

    Holy smokes, that is one army of delicious cupcakes! I just discovered your blog, and it looks like I have a ton of new desserts to try out. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Kelly

    Oh my goodness girl, it’s like a cupcake buffet! Super fabulous idea! Haha, I’m the same way with chocolates too and can never decide what flavor cupcake I want too :) You are superwoman for creating all of these – I seriously want a taste of all of these, they look so incredible!

  13. Nancy @ gottagetbaked

    You’re a mad scientist and I say that with the greatest of love and admiration. Damn Erika, this is amazing!!! Why in the hell have I never thought of this? Why only have one boring kind of cupcake thirty times when you can have thirty completely different cupcakes?! I can’t believe you did all of this before work. You’re superwoman. These cupcakes look incredible. That overhead shot of all the different flavour combos is beautiful. And I want to take one bite out of each cupcake so that I can sample all the combos. If I’m feeling polite, I might cut them in half 😉

    1. erika Post author

      Nancy, you get me! And ha–I didn’t quite do ALL of this before work…the cupcakes were already baked, but thanks. I was a hot, sweaty superwoman mess who was a little late to work. And I know–it was torture trying not to sample them all before I brought them to my friend!

  14. Lynsi

    These sound really good! How did you mix the PB2 into the batter? Dry or wet? And what did you use for the chocolate mocha? Just chocolate and coffee? I would really like to make these this way! Thanks!

    1. erika Post author

      Hi Lynsi! I stirred a little dash of PB2 into a tablespoon of the batter before baking. And yes, for the mocha cupcake, I added a little cocoa powder and a pinch of espresso, with cocoa added to the frosting on top. If you want to make an entire batch of mocha cupcakes, I might try adding 1/4 cup of cocoa powder to the recipe (I think there should be enough sugar and liquid to compensate for the extra dry ingredients) and a teaspoon of espresso. If you really want an exaggerated coffee flavor, I’d try using coffee in place of the almond milk (still adding the vinegar) or replacing half of the milk with coffee. Hope that helps! :)

  15. Two Red Bowls

    Oh. My. God. Seriously, Erika, this is the most stunning blog-feat I’ve seen in SO long. “Showstopping” doesn’t even begin to describe — this is honestly incredible. I love it so much. Amazing job! I’m about to share this on every medium I can think of!! :)

  16. Dawn

    I’m confused. Vegans don’t use animal products, but your recipe calls for milk. Will it still work if I use coconut or almond milk?

    1. erika Post author

      Hi Dawn–sorry for the confusion. I only ever use almond milk when I cook/bake and forgot to note that when I was typing the ingredients. I’ve fixed the recipe to reflect that–and coconut milk should also be fine, it’ll just give the cupcakes a coconutty flavor!

  17. Kaylie @ Skinny Muffin

    I like the way you think. About eating half of the chocolates. About making 12 different kinds of cupcakes. Seriously. Why haven’t I thought about this?? This is perfect. Especially when dealing with picky people. Except if I were at a party and you had made this, I wouldn’t want just one cupcake. I would want to sample ALL OF THEM.

    So great. Love it.

    1. erika Post author

      I love that we think basically the same. You’re totally right–I wanted to sample all of them too!! This is basically worse than a box of chocolates because you can’t really cut these tiny cupcakes in half. So you just gotta pop em like candy!

  18. The Vegan 8

    Omg Erika, I’m on my way over!!! I seriously, believe it or not, love vanilla cupcakes probably more than any other dessert. So simple, so basic, so good. I know I post a lot of chocolate recipes, but I really do prefer vanilla over chocolate when it comes to cake…it’s just so pure and gourmet tasting. This idea of different frostings looks so beautiful…more work, yes, but beautiful and worthy of a special occasion. Ok, on my way now! :)

    1. erika Post author

      Haha! I was just about to invite myself over to your place for that raw cheesecake, which looks bonkers incredible. And you know, I’ve always preferred chocolate to vanilla but these days I feel like I’m being converted more and more over to the vanilla side! Eek. It is pretty good, I have to admit. And glad to see you’re not totally scared off by the prospect of all the mixing! :)


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