Vanilla cupcakes

I think I have previously mentioned my slight obsession with the Hummingbird Bakery. You see, the Portobello road store is just around the corner from my flat and so if I ever feel like a pick me up I love nothing better than to pop in and snaffle a cupcake to take away. The Hummingbird bakery cupcakes are the real American deal, similar in style to the famous Magnolia Bakery in New York the cupcakes are over the top, super sweet and fabulous. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that the Hummingbird Bakery had brought out a cookbook so it was possible to feed my addiction on a slightly more economical basis. Even better the recipe for the standard vanilla cupcakes is actually pretty simple. Sure my cupcakes didn’t turn out looking quite as perfect as Hummingbird’s but they were close and most importantly they tasted just as good.

The secret which I have discovered through trial and error is that for Hummingbird style cupcakes you need to bake the cupcakes in a muffin tin and use muffin cases (available from Waitrose) rather than cupcake cases. Cupcake cases are too small and if you put them in a muffin tin the cupcakes will spread and turn out looking squashed.

240g plain flour
280g caster sugar
3 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
80g unsalted butter at room temperature
240ml milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
250g icing sugar sifted
80g unsalted butter at room temperature
25ml milk
A couple of drops of vanilla extract
A couple of drops of food colouring (I used red for pink frosting)

1. Line muffin tray with paper cases and preheat oven to 180C.

2. Cream the sugar and butter then mix in the flour, baking powder and salt until combined.

3. Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until the milk is just incorporated.

4. Whisk the eggs, vanilla and remaining milk together in a separate bowl and then pour into the flour mixture and continue mixing for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth.

5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases but only fill them two thirds full. Bake in the oven for 25 mins or until slightly golden and then cool on a wire rack.

6. Beat the icing sugar and butter together until well mixed.

7. In a separate bowl combine the milk, vanilla extract and food colouring then add to the butter mixture gradually. Continue to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.

8. Decorate the cupcakes with the frosting once cool.

Makes 12. Recipe adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I have doubled the quantities used in the book to ensure that the cupcakes are of a generous size.

If you liked reading this you might enjoy reading about the Hummingbird Bakery or if you are in the mood for sweet treats try this recipe for sticky caramel slice.


  1. I agree the cupcake papers in the UK are too small, but I also find the muffin cases a bit too big. Next time I make a trip to the US, I’ll bring you some American cupcake papers (because I think they’re “just right”). lol.

    Also, I find the cake at Hummingbird a bit too dry (they certainly look pretty, though). The vanilla cupcake recipe that’s my current fave is from the Joy of Cooking.

  2. You know, I really think Hummingbird Bakery is better than Magnolia! I know, I know…I’m probably the only person who thinks that but it’s true. Thank goodness for Hummingbird! Glad you posted this recipe. Will try it very soon.

  3. Ditto Shari, thank goodness for Hummingbird indeed, and even more so, thank goodness for your blog, its quickly becoming a favorite read of mine, especially your travel eating, very fun reads, I wish I had the time to breakaway from London, from time to time.

    PS: I really love the redesigned logo, very chic indeed.


  4. I am a big cupcake fan! I shall make a point of trying your recipe. This is really different to the Nigella recipe I usually make.

  5. Thanks GC, now that I have a Kitchenaid and a whole lotta unemployed time on my hands, I will give the recipe a go. Can I convince you to share the recipe for the red velvet cupcakes from the Hummingbird Cookbook as well?

  6. American in London – I will you to that you realise!

    Shari – I think Magnolia puts more frosting on which some people prefer and some don’t. Good luck with the recipe.

    Kang – thanks very much. I am lucky enough to be able to fit in lots of travel.

    A Girl Has to Eat – it is quite different to the one I usually make as well but really quite easy and a big hit.

    Jet Setting Joyce – If only I had a Kitchenaid that recipe would have been SO much easier to make. But think of the arm workout I got creaming the butter and sugar. With a kitchenaid no need to do that step separately you can just throw all the ingredients in. Yes I will post on red velvet so that you can get your fix in Melbourne!

  7. These look utterly lush!! Mine are always so scruffy looking…am definitely going to try these for my forthcoming stall at the covent gdn food market!

  8. mmmm most gorgeous hummingbird..defo on getting the cook book!at least i got an excuse next week to bake some for my bf!

  9. Thanks for the tip. I have that book too, but haven’t made anything yet. U know, on Market Kitchen they said that the recipies don’t turn out as good as the ones they make in the store, so I am happy to hear that you had such good results.
    Gosh, u r a lucky girly indeed living next to a fabulous cupcake shop. How I envy u (but lucky for my thighs, I don’t live in london). Still, I definitely intend on visiting the shop one of these days!

  10. These look delicious.

    I am a sucker for a good cupcake – can’t wait to give these a try.

    By the way, your site is beautiful.

  11. Gastro Geek – good luck with the stall I am sure these would go down a treat.

    CC – I love when my favourite restaurants or cafes bring out cook books..

    Heavenly Housewife – I think sometimes it would be better to live quite far away so there is not so much temptation!

    Reginald – thanks very much and good luck with the recipe

  12. I made these a few weeks back. Hadn’t made cupcakes before – did you find the raw mixture to be really really thick? I used the US measurements so wondering whether I got something wrong in there. They turned out tasty – but fairly dense. Maybe I’m just too accustomed to fairy cakes – interesting to hear what you think though.

  13. Great Post! The publisher, Ryland Peters & Small, mow has copies signed by the creator of the book and the bakery on their website

  14. Candice – sorry about my very delayed response to your comment. I found that the recipe was probably slightly denser than the cupcakes you get from the shop but still quite fluffy.

    Sarah – thanks – mine is a signed copy as well (from Borders) Tarek must have signed a lot of copies!

  15. I got this book a few weeks ago and tried the vanilla cupcake recipe today.

    Was your mixture really runny when you cooked it? I used the measurements and followed the instructions as per the book other than the cooking time as they were defintely not cooked after 25 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes…

    In the end they ended up in the bin and am really disappointed. Any ideas what might have gone wrong? I’ve never had a cake disaster before!

  16. i am excited to try out this recipe! i’m planning to make some for Christmas 🙂

  17. Sarah posted on 9th nov about the cupcakes ending up in the bin…….I had the same problem!! very disapointed as I have no idea what went wrong, i even tried 2 batches.
    They were gooey and sank and shrank terribly when out of the oven.

    Should it be a certain type of milk, i used skimmed as it was all i had in, i also went for 1 tsp of vanilla instead of half cos i love vanilla. uuuummmm also i was using a regular kitchen tsp not a proper measuring tool one (didnt have them in tesco!) maybe the baking powder quantity was off.

    will try again soon tho, want to become a pro!

  18. I just found your blog via my cupcake recipe search on google. So I made these tonight and I tell you, they were very good. When it comes to baking I am disaster-prone and my oven’s temp is so unpredictable- plus I don’t have a stand mixer. But these were relatively easy and I feel like a baking success because they are so good! Thanks for posting this recipe.

  19. Sarah – Oh no sounds like a real disaster. No my mixture was not really runny – I could only suggest trying again and making sure you get the measurements spot on. Good luck.

    Janis – Hope they went well

    Mrs Parker – I used skim milk as well so I don’t think that should be a problem but sounds like your issue may be incorrect measurements with the spoon. Sadly baking is an exact science and measurements have to be spot on.

    Mn – glad you had success – I found them quite easy to make as well.

  20. Cupcakes really are quite easy. The best part is decorating them. Looking at the recipe, though, I think it should be 1 tsp vanilla instead of 1/2 tsp. If you don’t have cupcake papers, just grease and flour the muffin tin. If the batter is too runny, add more flour. If it is too thick, then add water or milk.

  21. I am a really keen baker and love the hummingbird recipie book (try the banana loaf – its AMAZING!) but i’ve been struggling with the vanilla cupcakes, i find the mixture really runny and find they aren’t as light as my oldskool fairy cake recipies. I found them a wee bit stodgey – was wondering if it could have been under cooked (got a bit inpatient after 40mins in the oven, so took them out!!)
    Shame as i’ve been lucky enough to have some from the kensington bakery and they are just divine!! any ideas?!

  22. I’ve been searching for a good vanilla cupcake recipe for awhile. I’m a huge fan of Hummingbird bakery and spent waay too much time and money there when I lived in London. I tried the Joy of Baking vanilla cupcakes and didn’t think too much of them. This recipe is currently baking in my oven but the mixture looked just how I like, thick and velvety and NOT LUMPY!

    they smell amazing.

  23. Okay, My cupcakes rose beautifully and then collapsed 🙁 not happy and throwing them straight in the bin!

  24. Anon – Thanks for the tips

    Cupcake cupid – Maybe it is worth checking your oven temperature as often they are inaccurate (an oven thermometer might help). I agree the banana loaf recipe is divine.

    Ilostmycloud – oh no – after such a good start! Were you opening and closing the oven door a lot as that could be an issue?

  25. I made this recipe today and I was not impressed with the mixture going in the oven. I poured it into the papers and it was not smooth enough for my liking. I followed the recipe perfectly as it was so different from mixtures I am used to. As suspected disaster. I will have one more try and after that what will I do with the impressive book? I am not a novice.
    I will try a few different techniques as My recipe differs from the one printed above. I will also try a different brand of butter as that is what made it lumpy while raw and readers above are correct when they say it needs a lot more time in the oven.

  26. Maryn – Sorry to hear you did not have much success. Try using the recipe I have printed above and let me know how you go. It’s hard to assist too much without knowing what recipe you used.

  27. I tried this recipe out yesterday, and while the consistency of the mix seemed rather strange while I was making them, they turned out beautifully and everyone seemed to really enjoy them, so thanks!

  28. Thank you for posting this recipe! I have tried to make cupcakes many times and always failed miserably. I tried this recipe and they turned out perfectly first try! They made my house smell beautiful and they turned out delicious, and nice and fluffy too. I am going to go out and buy the book! Thanks!

  29. Tina – Good to hear

    Anon – So glad to hear it worked out well. Yes I think the book is a worthwhile purchase I have made lots of recipes out of it and they have all worked out pretty well.

  30. YUMMMMM! I am definitely making these when I next have a kitchen at my disposal. Have only ever tried making lemon cupcakes once and they didn’t quite turn out as I’d hoped…

  31. I thank you most kindly, from the borrom of my tummy as these are indeed THE BEST CUPCAKES EVER. x

  32. Definately worth trying – these cupcakes are the nicest ever and so easy to make. Red velvet in particular seem to rise stratospherically in the oven, and are just so light and scrummy!

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