This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure.

This small batch of Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes yields cupcakes that are deliciously moist and tender…and vegan! If you have a small dinner party and want a great dessert that comes together easily, these are perfect.

Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes for 5 {Vegan} 1

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.

Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes for 5 {Vegan} 2

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.

Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes for 5 {Vegan} 3

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} 4

Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes for 5 {Vegan}
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 5 to 6 cupcakes
This small batch of Caramel-Vanilla Cupcakes yields cupcakes that are deliciously moist and tender...and vegan! If you have a small dinner party and want a great dessert that comes together easily, these are perfect.
Cupcakes (yields 5 to 6 cupcakes):
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon caramel extract
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or light olive oil
  • ½ cup water
Frosting (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
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon caramel extract
  • 2-3 teaspoons plain, unsweetened vegan "milk" (such as almond, coconut, rice, or soy milk)
  • Bittersweet chocolate shavings, for topping (optional)
  1. For the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350; line a muffin tray with 5 or 6 paper liners. Whisk 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 or 6 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.
  2. For the frosting, 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.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe:  


  1. kathleen Keenan says:

    I made the chocolate cupcakes a few days ago and had to make another batch as they were so good. Today I tried the caramel ones and they were equally as good. My daughter is vegan and she doesn’t eat many sweets so this is a perfect sized treat. So ez to make and I had all the ingredients. I made the two chocolate cupcakes into 4 mini cupcakes and baked 12 min. I topped them with enjoy life dairy free mini chocolate chips and that added to the decadence. I made a vanilla icing with just al,one milk, xxx sugar, vanilla and touch of vegan butter. Topped with a few more mini choc chips. Just excellent! I made a few batches of dry ingred and put in baggie for freezer for the future.
    The caramel ones were equally as good but I needed to add vanilla almond milk (about 4 tbsp) to thin the batter. Not sure if the recipe mistakenly omitted something but I know my batters and this needed a liquid.
    I also made those into 12 mini cupcakes. I made the icing per the recipe but topped with a few vegan choc chips instead of the bittersweet shavings. That would’ve worked well too but I had choc chips in freezer. Sooooooo good! Thank you soooo much for the recipe! My daughter pays a fortune for mini cupcakes at a vegan bakery and these were better!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Maybe I’m just dumber than the average person, or I’ve been reading too many of those ‘hide avocado in X baked good’ recipes, but when you say “avocado or light olive oil” do you mean avocado oil or actual avocado?

    1. Stephanie, No worries, I’m sorry if it was confusing! For this recipe you can use either avocado oil (it’s a light-colored, neutral-tasting oil) or light olive oil (which is also light colored, and typically very mild or neutral-tasting). You can probably use other neutral-tasting oils, but these two are what I’ve tested the recipe with. Please let me know if you have other questions – I’m happy to help if I can!

  3. 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!

    1. 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! :)

  4. well THESE look delicious… and this recipe makes the perfect number of cupcakes. One for the roommate, one for the housemate, one for the other housemate, and two for me!

  5. I bet you made your friend very happy with these Faith! The flavors are delectable! I like the natural frosting look – so rustic and homey.

  6. 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 :)

  7. 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….

  8. 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. Hmmm, I have never used caramel extract. I have to get some! These cupcakes look awesome. And, um, yeah, I agree – dessert is always necissary!

  10. 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.

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah! That means more to me than I can say! XO

  11. These look really yummy! I have never heard of caramel extract. That sounds good. I will have to get some soon:)

  12. If that’s a hot mess, then I love a hot mess. :) The small batch is such a good idea- I don’t need two dozen cuppies hanging around to tempt me. These sound really good!

  13. ya gots ta have dessert, silly lady! these look mighty tasty!

  14. I think the last picture is the one that says it all. This is the one who shows how moist these cupcakes are! They look super delicious Faith!

  15. 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.

  16. 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,

    1. Claudia, You are so sweet! Don’t worry, I wasn’t being hard on myself…I was giggling about the picture! :)

  17. 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!

    1. Jeanne, I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Love the idea of adding brown sugar — yum!!

      1. 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.

        1. 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…

  18. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Caramel – vanilla flavor sounds fantastic, scrumptious cupcakes!

  19. 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 ~

  20. 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!

  21. 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.

  22. Lovely texture, flavors and frosting! Yummy.



Similar Posts