Friday, February 5, 2010

Starbucks (copycat) Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

For the last two years, I have been obsessed with Starbucks' vanilla bean cupcakes. They are a "seasonal" item that usually make their debut in late winter/early spring. I was so excited to see them hit stores a bit early this year and quickly made my purchase. However, I was disappointed :(

This wasn't the same cupcake from years past....they had changed the recipe and the look! This year's vanilla bean cupcakes are just not that good. The cake is dry and bland. The frosting is better but still not addictively good as it was the last two years. I' m also not the only one who feels this way. There is even a thread on Starbucks' own customer site to reinstate the old version, check it out HERE. Anyway, I knew I had to try to make my own copycat version and this is what I came up with.

I used JoyofBaking's, recipe for these vanilla cupcakes. The hardest part of this, was finding the clear,coarse sugar sprinkles that Starbucks uses. I did eventually manage to find some smaller sugar sprinkles at Target (Valentine's sprinkle combo set) and used those. The finished product turned out great! I don't think they taste exactly like the original recipe from the previous years but they are 100% better than this years version.

Side by side: My copycat version (L) and Starbucks (R).

Close-up of the frosting.

Makes 12 cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes:
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. Set pan aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides and beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Prepare frosting.

Vanilla-Bean Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , softened
1/2 vanilla bean , scraped
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk
3.5 cups confectioners' sugar (sifted), plus more if necessary

Cream the butter in a medium-size bowl until very smooth. Stir in the vanilla-bean seeds until they're evenly distributed. Add the salt, vanilla and milk, and stir until combined. Sift the sugar over the butter mixture and stir the mixture until it's perfectly smooth. If the frosting is too loose, add a few more tablespoons of confectioners' sugar, and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to use; mix well just before using.
Decorate cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: Joy of Baking, inspired by Starbucks


  1. I found the coarse clear sugar at michaels' around Christmas and our super wal-mart (of all places) also sells it. I use Wilton brand.

    Might use this recipe for my son's birthday party - thanks!

  2. These look AWESOME! Nice Job! I have never had Starbuck's Vanilla Bean Cupcakes before, but I think I will just skip them and go straight to your recipe.

  3. I just wanted to say that I got a Starbucks Vanillia Bean cupcake a week or two ago, and I AGREE THAT THEY WERE DRY! I was really bummed. I'm going to try out your recipe! Thanks!

  4. Beautiful cupcakes!!!

    I splurged on one of their red velvet cupcakes recently and thought the same thing, they were not as good as usual! The cake was so dry!!

  5. How resourceful of you ;) I've always loved their pumpkin scones -- which go out of season shortly after the holidays -- and tried a copycat recipe this weekend that I'd found online. Not only a score, but better!

  6. Have not had much of an appetite the last few days due to my cold, but those pics make me hungry for some cupcakes!!! I just have to ty that recipe! Huxy

  7. Thank you Chef Mommy! I had my first Starbucks vanilla bean cupcake on Valentines day and while we all have agreed the cake was dry the frosting was divine! Your recipe is very good. I followed the recipe to a T and I am very pleased. I do have a comment. I remember tasting a hint of coffee in the Starbucks cupcakes. I think I might try and add a bit of coffee to the frosting next time. I'm buying one more to try so I can gauge how much. You did great and thanks for sharing!!

  8. Hunnybunny-
    Thanks so much for letting me know these worked out well for you. I can see the original having a hint of coffee...that's a great idea about adding it to the frosting--Yum!

  9. Thank you Maria for sharing this recipe. I was looking for a good substitute since they aren't available in the stores anymore. They were my wife's favorite. She like the batch I made and mentioned that a stiffer frosting would be good. I'll try doing that for her next time. I had one myself and it was delicious :)

  10. Cant wait to make these but i disagree i love the Starbucks vanilla cupcakes now. Not sickeningly sweet like other gourmet cupcakes ive had recently. I think the cake is moist enought too.

  11. I tried this yesterday. The icing taste just like starbucks, but the cake, was actually very dry. I have a gas oven, when i baked them 20 mins, they were very very wet. I was worried when completing the batter because it was a weird consistensy, such as cookie batter, not cake batter. Overall i wasw entirely pleased with the icing.

  12. Love this I am going to have to try :) thanks btw your version is was more presentable good jod

  13. You are absolutely right, the Starbuck's "vanilla bean cupcake" that they are selling in their stores now is not the same. The one from a couple of years ago had an amazingly delicious icing that was flecked with golden sprinkles. You can find photos of the original cupcake online to compare what the icing looked liked.

    The one that Starbucks introduced in place of the formerly perfect vanilla bean cupcake does not taste nearly as good. The icing tastes sugary but not really not very good.

    What I want to know is what is the original recipe and what bakery company made/makes it. Starbucks for some reason is very secretive about who the bakery company is. This I don't understand.

  14. OMG!!!! I am also obsessed with Starbucks vanilla much so, that one day last week I drove to 7....YES, SEVEN, Starbucks just trying to find them! I was then told that they weren't a big seller, so they aren't ordering them anymore! WHAT??? Anyway, I've since tried all the local so called "rave" cupcake bakeries only to be sadly disappointed! The frosting is awful! It's either cream cheese, which is okay, but I'm not a fan of cream cheese, or the buttercream frosting is grainy, like they've used granulated sugar, and not light and buttery at all. So here I am, about ready to try your recipe and I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. I found some organic granulated sugar at Publix that is very nice. I did make a batch of my own a couple of days ago from a recipe for Vanilla cupcakes I found online, and they were okay....just not as yummy as I was ho[ping. So thank you for taking the time to develop a recipe and then share it. I'll let you know how mine turn out.

    Enjoy the day! Sue

  15. I'm also OBSESSED with the vanilla cupcakes!
    Your cupcake recipe looks awesome! :-) I'm gonna go home and try it instead of going to sbux \o/ It's so comforting to read all of your postings. I thoght I was going crazy when I tried this year's version of the cupcake. It was truly different than the first one from 2 years ago.

    I love your pix and yes, your cupcake looks even better in photos than the sbux version.

  16. I was wondering if it was possible to add food coloring to the frosting? Would it change the consistency of the frosting at all, make it watery or runny? And since I don't have gel coloring or vanilla bean, I'll substitute the coloring with liquid coloring and the vanilla bean with 1/2 tsp of pure vanilla extract.

    Hope it works!

  17. Hi there!

    Add liquid coloring and vanilla extract should to change the frosting much b/c you are only add a very small amount of each. But you could also just cut down on the milk to start and then add more as needed. Enjoy!


  18. Holy moly, I just made this frosting for my vanilla bean seriously rocks. Only bad thing was I really needed to make 2 batches to cover all 24 cupcakes, other than that...I would HIGHLY recommend this recipe! Thank you for sharing

  19. What brand or icing sugar do you use? I've tried icing before and it always comes out too sweet but not in a good way, the icing sugar I find here is a bland but still sickly sweet icing sugar and it's horrible! I was wondering if anyone could tell me of a good quality brand of icing sugar that will give me good results! If anyone has any suggestions could you please email me at , Thank you!

  20. I hated this recipe. The cake was basically flavourless and too spongy and the frosting was runny and too sweet. I will not be using these recipes again.

  21. To make a 13x9 cake, should I just double the recipe?

  22. I just got done making these and frosting them, while the frosting is excellent the cake is very dry. I was disappointed. I'm glad I have kids so they won't go to waste, but next time I will try a different recipe.

  23. Hmmm...sorry you didn't like these. I honestly haven't made them in a long time. Try the Dorie Greenspan "Perfect Party Cake" recipe. That's my go-to cake/cupcake recipe.

  24. I liked the over all flavor of the cupcakes, but the cake was very dry. I was soo excited to make these, thinking that the cupcake would be much more moist than the new-dry starbucks cupcakes, but to no avail. :( I think next time I will try to add vanilla pudding to make the cakes more moist (I only cooked them for 13 minutes and the cake was still too dry, almost like cornbread instead of a cupcake).

    The frosting was good, I enjoyed mucho grande! I was so happy with the flavor that I'll be using this recipe as a base to creating my own recipe, thank you for posting this for me to try. :)

  25. Thanks so much for the feedback. I think I will need to revisit this recipe in the future with a new cake recipe.

  26. I made these 2 days ago, and they were very dry. I did however use medium eggs instead of large. It's my own fault as I noticed it was dry before I filled the cupcake pans and I did nothing about it. The frosting though is AMAZING and it has a permanent spot on my roster. I'm happy to note that today the cupcakes are super good, as the frosting has moistened the cake just enough.
    I would suggest that other people who had this come out dry, should verify the egg size or add 2 tbsp more milk.
    Thank you for the recipe :)

  27. This is my second time making these, and each time the cupcake is super moist and amazing. I use madagascar vanilla so its extra vanilla-y. the frosting is delicious too. thank you :)

  28. This recipe is AMAZING!!!! Best ever!!! I have doubled this recipe and made it a cake pan and added blueberries and used the same frosting and had the most moist blueberry vanilla cake ever... A MUST TRY!!