Start with one simple base, then stir in some mix-ins for quadruple the cupcakes.

By Sarah Karnasiewicz
June 24, 2018
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Sarah Karnasiewicz

These pale white vanilla-scented cupcakes are a great blank canvas for bakers. For a fun addition to your dessert table, play around with a variety of easy mix-ins, like tart lemon zest, rich hazelnut spread, tropical coconut, and playful rainbow “confetti.” Or simply top them with a cloud of fluffy marshmallow buttercream and serve as is.


Hands-On time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Makes 20 cupcakes


  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • 5 egg whites*


  • The zest of 1 lemon (about 2½ teaspoons), plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons colored sprinkles, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes, plus more for garnish
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two standard 12-cup muffin tins with 20 cupcake liners.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and beat to combine. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir the yogurt and milk until smooth. Add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter, stir to combine, then add ⅓ of the milk mixture, and stir again. Continue adding the flour mixture and milk mixture in alternately until all combined, then set the batter aside. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until they are tripled in size but not stiff, about 1½ minutes. Fold the egg whites into the batter. Do not over mix.
  3. Divide the batter equally among 4 small bowls. (Each bowl should contain approximately 1 heaping cupful.) Stir the lemon zest and the lemon juice into the first bowl. Stir the colored sprinkles into the second bowl. Stir the coconut flakes and the almond extract into the third bowl. Place the Nutella in a small microwave-safe container along with 1 tablespoon water and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir mixture until loose and smooth. Cool the Nutella for 1 minute, then stir it into the batter in the fourth bowl.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among 20 muffin cups, filling each cup ¾ full. (You should have 5 cupcakes of each flavor.) Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely. Frost with marshmallow buttercream (recipe below).

* Want extra credit? Use the egg yolks leftover from the cupcake batter to make homemade citrus curd. It’s delicious smeared on baked goods (like, say, lemon or coconut cupcakes) or spooned onto vanilla ice cream

Marshmallow Buttercream

A generous helping of sticky, sweet marshmallow crème elevates this buttercream to decadent and airy new heights. While delicious on its own, this frosting also takes well to tinkering: add a ½ teaspoon of extract (Almond! Rum! Orange!) if you want to get creative.

Hands-On time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Makes 2½ cups


  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 7.5 ounces marshmallow crème (homemade or store-bought, such as Fluff)


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft and pale. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat until smooth. Add the marshmallow crème and beat until fluffy.