My very favorite cupcake flavor combo is a classic vanilla cupcake with thick chocolate frosting. It’s so simple but there’s something very classic, nostalgic, and comforting about this pairing. I’ve refreshed this childhood favorite by creating a tender, scratch-made vanilla bean cupcake topped with a chocolatey cream cheese frosting. The frosting adds the perfect amount of richness to complement the vanilla bean cupcake and the rainbow sprinkles are just as fun as when you were a kid. You don’t want to skip out on this classic combo of Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting.
Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
I wanted to be sure that the vanilla flavor really came through in these cupcakes so this recipe has a whole tablespoon of vanilla in the batter. With the addition of vanilla extract as well as some vanilla bean paste, these are definitely not lacking in flavor. Many cupcake recipes call for oil, like canola or vegetable, to ensure the cupcakes come out moist. I wanted to go a different route but still end up with a tender cupcake. I started with butter as the main fat and also added sour cream and buttermilk. This creates a moist, fluffy cupcake without needing the addition of oil.
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
I went with a cream cheese base for the frosting and even if you’re not a cream cheese lover, I highly recommend giving this one a try! Anyone who has tasted this frosting instantly falls in love with it. The sweetness of the powdered sugar and the cocoa powder balance out the flavor of the cream cheese so the frosting is not overly tangy like you might expect. It creates this perfectly smooth, thick, and luxurious frosting that you will want to put on all your cakes and cupcakes!
How to Decorate Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
You can frost your cupcakes however you’d like – with a piping bag and tips, an offset spatula, or simply using the back of a spoon. I like to use a combination of techniques by piping the frosting onto the cupcake with a large round tip and then using a small offset spatula to give the tops a whimsy swirl.
- Fit a piping bag with a large round tip. To make filling the bag a cleaner and easier process, first make sure to fold down the top of the piping bag (it helps to do this over a drinking glass). Hold the bag in one hand under the fold (or keep it folded over in the drinking glass), and fill the piping bag about halfway full with your other hand.
- Give the piping bag a squeeze to release any air bubbles. Start just inside the edge of the cupcake and gently squeeze the bag, while slowly moving the tip in a circular motion, making each rotation smaller in diameter than the last.
- Use a small offset spatula to press down on the top of the frosting, while smoothing it out to create a fun swirl. Then top with your favorite sprinkle mix – as little or as many as you’d like!
Helpful Tools to Use
Cupcake Pan: These are hands down my favorite brand of pans for baking. They are super durable and long-lasting and everything I’ve made in these pans bakes up really nice and even. Metal pans conduct heat better too so they are always a better option as opposed to glass when baking.
Cookie Scoop: I have multiple sizes of cookie scoops and they all get plenty of use in my kitchen. I use them the most for portioning cake batter and cookie dough. For this recipe, I like to use the largest scoop in the set to portion the vanilla cake batter into the cupcake liners. I find that a slightly heaping scoop is the perfect amount.
Piping bags: I always make sure I have these disposable piping bags on hand. The 18” size is great to use for larger amounts of icing (like for these cupcakes) and the 12” ones are nice to have for smaller, more detailed piping.
Round piping tips: Ateco piping tips are my absolute favorites and these sets are a great way to get varying sizes of one shape, for a good value too. I use tip 806 for cupcakes.
Small offset spatula: This tool is a staple to have in your kitchen. It’s great for so many baking and decorating projects. It creates the perfect swirl on the top of these cupcakes.
How do I store the cupcakes?
If you need to store the cupcakes overnight, place them in an airtight container and store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Remove the cupcakes from the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving to sit at room temperature, for the best texture and flavor.
Can I freeze the cupcakes?
Yes, the vanilla cupcake bases (without frosting) freeze great! Allow the cupcakes to cool completely then place them in an airtight container and store them in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the cupcakes thaw at room temperature before frosting.
Can I make the frosting ahead of time?
The frosting can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge. It will become very stiff in the fridge so you’ll want to pull out the icing a couple of hours ahead of time before frosting the cupcakes.
What sprinkles should I use?
I love to create my own sprinkle mixes by combining multiple textures and shapes in the same color palette. Use a few different sprinkle varieties, like jimmies and nonpareils, then add in either a pearl or another fun shape. There are endless possibilities and color combinations. You can find sprinkles just about anywhere from the grocery store, to craft stores, or even buy from an online specialty shop like Fancy Sprinkles or Sweetapolita, who sell beautiful pre-made mixes!
More Cake Recipes You’ll Love
- Tiramisu Cupcakes
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Snack Cake
- Raspberry Orange Pistachio Cake
- Lemon Bundt Cakes
- Chocolate Chip Banana Cake with Chocolate Frosting
Lastly, if you make these Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, be sure to leave a comment below and tag @sweetkitchencravings on Instagram or TikTok. Or if Pinterest is more your style, you can save my recipes to your collection there. Happy baking!
Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting
For the Vanilla Cupcakes
- ½ cup (1 stick or 113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (155g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg + 1 large egg white, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 1⅔ cup (190g) cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (120g) sour cream, at room temperature
- ½ cup (120ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
For the Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 oz (1 block or 227g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 cups (340g) powdered sugar
- ½ cup (43g) cocoa powder
- 2 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Vanilla Bean Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy and light in color, about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the eggs, vanilla, and vanilla bean paste, combining well after each addition. Scrape the bowl well with a rubber spatula then mix on high for about 1 minute until the mixture is smooth and light in color.
- Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture and the sour cream to the bowl. Start the mixer on low speed and slowly stream in about half the buttermilk. Mix just until combined then scrape the bowl. Add the remaining flour and slowly stream in the remaining buttermilk with the mixer on low, just until combined. Scrape the bowl again and give the mixture a few final folds with a spatula to ensure everything is incorporated.
- Use a cookie scoop to divide the batter among the prepared muffin pan. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back to the touch (or a toothpick comes out clean). The rim of the cupcakes should be slightly golden brown. Set aside to cool.
- Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until well combined and smooth with no lumps remaining. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla. Mix just until fully combined. Add more milk if needed, for a looser frosting.
- Frost the cooled cupcakes with a piping tip or swirl using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Add your favorite sprinkle mix and enjoy!