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Basic cupcake recipe

Lynn Wright / 29 February 2016

Try our easy recipe for perfect plain cupcakes, which you can then personalise with your favourite flavours.

Basic cupcakes with buttercream icing
These basic cupcakes can be used with any icing

Cooking time

10-15 minutes


12 cupcakes


For the cupcakes

  • 115g softened butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g self-raising flour
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk

For the buttercream icing

  • 150g softened butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tbsp milk
  • a few drops of food colouring


Everyone should have a recipe for moist, tender cupcakes in their cooking arsenal. Our easy recipe makes a dozen delicious vanilla cupcakes that can be decorated with a simple buttercream frosting, or you can use it as a base recipe and add your own favourite flavours and ingredients.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C /160°C fan/gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until it’s light, fluffy and pale. Gradually add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.

3. Sift the flour and fold into the mixture using a large metal spoon. Add enough milk until the batter has a dropping consistency. Spoon the batter into the paper cases until they’re half full.

4. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown and springy to the touch. A skewer inserted into the middle of a cake should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

5. To make the buttercream icing, beat the butter in a bowl until soft. Add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Then add the remaining icing sugar with one tablespoon of the milk and the vanilla extract, and beat well until the icing is smooth and creamy. If the mixture is too stiff, beat in another tablespoon of milk. Add the food colouring if using and stir until fully combined.

6. Spoon or pipe the icing onto your cupcakes, and add decorations if you choose.


You can decorate your cupcakes further with sugar sprinkles, hundreds and thousands, silver balls or crystallised flower petals.


Use this recipe without the vanilla extract as a base recipe, and add extra ingredients to make flavoured cupcakes of your choice. For example, add 2tsp of lemon zest or cocoa powder; 1tsp of almond extract or mixed spice; 150g of chocolate chips; or 125g of dried sultanas or chopped glace cherries to the batter before cooking.

Take a look through our selection of cake recipes for traditional family cakes, dainty cupcakes and cakes that are perfect for birthdays and other special occasions.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.