Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes for 5 {Vegan}

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So, what are you making for dessert tonight?  Maybe something like that Caramel Apple Cake I saw on your blog a while ago?, a friend excitedly asked me around 2 o’clock one afternoon.  

I thought we’d forgo dessert this time, you know, since everyone is trying to eat healthy…, I trailed off.  Dead silence from my friend.  

I guess “eating healthy” doesn’t mean skipping dessert, even for a regular weeknight meal among close friends that’s not in celebration of anything other than it being a Tuesday night.  

I can roll with it.  Dessert was back on the menu, stat. 

The thing about dessert is that while everyone wants just a little taste of it after dinner, no one really wants to volunteer to take home the remainder of it (which inevitably, is enough to feed two armies with some to spare).  That’s when I decided I needed a recipe for small batch cupcakes. 

I know that small batch recipes exist in abundance on the internet, but at that point I had no time to look for them.  And so I did what I usually do when someone asks for cake.  I went to my mom’s recipe for Crazy Chocolate Cake (that I’ve remade into yummy things like Chocolate Hazelnut Truffle Cupcakes and Red Velvet Cake).  I scaled the recipe way back, but it’s essentially the same base (but with the cocoa powder omitted and the addition of caramel extract).  I am in love with how versatile that recipe can be. 

Speaking of versatility, this recipe is equally so.  If you want your cupcakes chocolate, add a couple tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.  If you want them vanilla, omit the caramel extract.  If you want them vanilla-almond, use almond extract instead of the caramel extract.  You get the idea.  Take these cupcakes and make them your own. 

The Bittersweet Chocolate Shavings on Top:  Be sure you don’t omit these, since they add another dimension and a delicious contrasting flavor to the sweet caramel flavor of the frosting.  (A huge thank-you to Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella – the beautiful chocolate I used was a gift from her!) 

A Note on the Frosting:  When I made these cupcakes it was getting late and I really didn’t have the time or energy to pipe on the frosting, which was a good thing because I don’t think this batch would have made enough for the enormous amount of frosting that goes on top when you pipe it.  (Plus frosting the cupcakes this way reminds me of how my mom did it when I was a kid…the cake recipe is adapted from hers, so why not give a little tribute to her with the frosting?)  The amount of frosting I made was generous enough though, especially considering that it’s very sweet.  If you prefer a thick piped layer of frosting on top (for example, similar to my peanut butter and jelly cupcakes), make at least a double batch of the frosting to make sure you have enough.

Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes for 5 {Vegan} 

Serves 5* 

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon caramel extract (here is my favorite caramel extract)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup water

Caramel-Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)

Good quality bittersweet chocolate shavings (for garnish) 

Preheat oven to 350; line a muffin tray with 5 paper liners.  Wisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, caramel, vinegar, oil, and water.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk to combine (a few lumps are fine), being careful not to over-mix.  Divide the batter between the 5 muffin wells; bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 18 to 20 minutes.  Cool completely, then frost with Caramel-Vanilla Frosting and top with bittersweet chocolate shavings. 

*You can probably get 6 cupcakes out of this without too much of a stretch. 

Caramel-Vanilla Buttercream Frosting {Vegan} 

Yields enough frosting for 5 to 6 cupcakes 

2 tablespoons vegan buttery spread (such as Earth Balance)

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon caramel extract

2-3 teaspoons vegan milk (such as almond, coconut, rice, or soy milk) 

Use a handheld electric beater to cream together the buttery spread, shortening, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and caramel extract.  Add the milk little by little while beating until the buttercream is smooth and creamy. 

I know this picture is pretty unsightly (ok, it’s actually just a hot mess, but it was getting late, sunlight was waning, and people were coming!), but I had to share it because I wanted to show you the inside of these cupcakes…so moist!

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  1. says

    I don’t think the last pic is a hot mess, it was my favorite! It was the one I was counting on. I’m so glad you shared it–I had to see the cake! Love how you turned it into caramel. I was thinking of using my extract in frosting too! I love that stuff-thanks for recommending it.

  2. says

    hahahah- its funny how people come to expect things from you :). These are awesome. I actually prefer frosting applied naturally vs. pipped on. Usually when its pipped- there is WAYYYYYYYYYY too much!

  3. says

    Nice recipe :) It amazes me how many vegan recipes there are out there for dessert! And because they’re vegan I automatically think they are healthy hehe :P And i love how they recipe is so versatile hehe! Thanks for sharing Faith ~ and I know what u mean when people expect desserts but then don’t want to take any home then you’re left with half a dozen or more cupcakes at home ~

  4. jeanne says

    i just made these!! soooo easy!
    since i didn’t have any caramel extract, i used 1/4 cup of unpacked dark brown sugar, added 1 TBSP of flour (to compensate for the moisture in the brown sugar), and only added 1 tsp total of extract.
    for the icing, i doubled up on my vanilla extract to give the icing a super-vanilla flavor, and add a little color. they turned out A-MAZING!
    thank you so much for the recipe! i live alone and a regular batch of cupcakes is too much. this recipe is perfect!

      • jeanne says

        my cupcakes were delish except the cupcake stuck to the paper wrapper. i’m trying to figure out if its because i used the brown sugar or if its common for vegan cupcakes to adhere to the paper.

        • admin says

          Jeanne, I didn’t have an issue with the cupcakes sticking to the wrappers (check out the last photo), so maybe it was the addition of brown sugar? I’m really not sure…

  5. says

    I guess we all have different definitions of ‘hot mess’…aren’t you being a little harsh on yourself Faith!?!

    I do believe you when you describe these cuppies as moist.
    They really look ‘deliziosi’ as well ;o)

    Ciao for now and flavourful wishes,

  6. says

    As much as I always TRY to eat healthy, dessert is a must. For the sake of my sanity.

    I love that you can make these in such a small batch! Five is totally manageable for having around the house. Especially since I’d be in danger of eating all of htem in one sitting. Caramel-vanilla? Swoon.

  7. says

    faith! i was so excited to see your little feature in cooking light this month :) i grabbed my husband and was like, “I KNOW HER”! couldn’t happen to a more deserving blogger in my opinion! and also? i want to make cupcakes now.

  8. says

    You had me at “caramel.” Sounds like exactly my kind of cake! Caramel extract is also something I’ve never baked with before, but now I’ll keep my eyes peeled when I go grocery shopping.

  9. says

    These look so yummy! I can totally relate about making a small batch. My issue with dessert is always the leftovers—no one will take them, and I end up eating them!
    I love anything caramel….

  10. says

    Faith, these cupcakes look great, I like that you have the measurements for 5…I often have to cut the recipe because I end up with tons of cake/cupcakes…
    I never used caramel extract…will have to add this item to my list.
    Hope you are having a fabulous week :)

  11. Laura says

    These look fantastic! I am always on the look out for moist cupcakes :) I was wondering if the apple cider vinegar is necessary? Or could you use white vinegar? I have never worked with apple cider vinegar before and I am curious as to the difference in taste that it makes!

    • says

      Laura, Yup, white vinegar will work fine! You really can’t taste the vinegar in the finished product — it’s just there for the reaction it produces with the leavening agent(s). If you’re interested, Baking Bites has a really helpful article on using vinegar in baked goods, and she even discusses white vinegar and apple cider vinegar! (Here’s the article: Enjoy the cupcakes! :)

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