Last week, I shared my favorite dairy-free yellow cake recipe. I was going to include a cupcake option in that recipe, but these dairy-free yellow cupcakes deserve a place of their own. They have different nutrition facts, options, notes, and instructions that are worth outlining separately. This tender, moist, and fluffy recipe is also from my flagship book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.
Dairy-Free Yellow Cupcakes worthy of Any Celebration
Due to their smaller, taller shape, cupcakes can be a bit more finicky than layer cakes, particularly with climate and altitude changes. Below, I’ve covered some basic recipe and ingredient FAQs, along with troubleshooting, just in case!
What’s the Difference Between Yellow Cupcakes and White Cupcakes?
White cupcakes are typically made with cake flour, egg whites, and oil (or shortening) to maintain a lighter, whiter color. Consequently, they have a lighter and spongier texture. For a more tender texture, they can be made without eggs. Yellow cupcakes are made with whole eggs, all-purpose flour, and butter for richness, color, and a lighter crumb. In these dairy-free yellow cupcakes, buttery spread or sticks work great.
Are these Dairy-Free French Vanilla Cupcakes?
They can be similar, since the base is vanilla and does use whole eggs. But you might want to increase the vanilla extract if you want more intensely vanilla cupcakes. You can use 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with good results.
What Butter Alternative do you Use?
Can I Substitute Oil for the Butter Alternative?
Technically, yes, you can substitute your favorite baking oil. Use the full 3/4 cup, or reduce the oil slightly to 2/3 cup and increase the milk alternative to 1 1/4 cups. The butter alternative enhances the yellow hue, provides a different texture, and adds buttery flavor to these dairy-free yellow cupcakes. So keep this in mind when making the swap. If substituting oil, I would also increase the salt by 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon.
Which Milk Alternative do you Recommend?
I just use whatever I have on hand, which is usually an unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk beverage. Most types of milk beverage should work just fine. In a pinch, you can substitute water for the milk alternative. For a flavor twist, you could even use orange juice.
Do You Have an Egg-Free Yellow Cupcakes Recipe?
Yes, there is an egg-free and vegan version in the notes that was created and tested by my friend Hannah Kaminsky.
What Frostings do you Recommend for Dairy-Free Yellow Cupcakes?
In the picture, these dairy-free yellow cupcakes are frosted with the Fudgy Chocolate Frosting Recipe from my book, Go Dairy Free. But I also love these with Dairy-Free Buttercream or my Dairy-Free Milk Chocolate Frosting. You can also mix things up with Dairy-Free Cream Cheese Frosting, Lemon Frosting, Coconut Frosting, or Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting. Yellow cupcakes are vanilla-based, so they pair well with a range of flavors.
Can I Bake this Recipe as a Layer Cake?
Yes! See my Dairy-Free Yellow Cake Recipe.
I Don’t Need 24 Cupcakes. Can I Halve This Recipe?
Yes, you can make a half batch or quarter batch. I’ve added notes in the recipe for making just 12 or 6 cupcakes.
Help! My Cupcakes Didn’t Rise! What Went Wrong?
First, it’s important to assess if your cupcakes didn’t rise or if they sunk. Cupcakes that failed to rise properly will still have a slight dome on top, but will be squat. In this case, your leavener has most likely lost its mojo. To test, put some baking powder (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) in a bowl and pour boiling water on it. It should fizz up vigorously. If it just bubbles a little, but isn’t highly active, then you need new baking powder. The test is similar for baking soda, but instead of boiling water, you add a little vinegar to it.
Help! My Cupcakes are Sunken! What Went Wrong?
Cupcakes should be flat or slightly domed on top. If your cupcakes are sunken at all (concave), then there is too much leavener for your altitude or climate. Make sure you have considered the high altitude option below if you live above 4000 feet. I’m simplifying, but basically the leavener acted very quickly, and the batter “popped” and deflated at some point in baking. If the depression is just slight, then you can reduce the leavener just a little. But if it is grand, you should reduce both the baking powder and baking soda in half.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Yellow Cupcakes
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and vegetarian. There is an egg-free and vegan option in the notes. Make sure to choose a milk alternative and butter alternative that suit your dietary needs. See the post above for suggestions.
For gluten-free dairy-free yellow cupcakes, you can try your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, like King Arthur. Please note that I have not tested this cake gluten-free, so I can’t guarantee the results. Also, I would use the main recipe (with eggs) if attempting this cake gluten-free.
- 2¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 eggs, separated (see egg-free option below)
- ¾ cup dairy-free buttery spread or sticks, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup + 3 tablespoons dairy-free milk alternative
- Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Put the egg whites in a medium mixing bowl. Beat with your hand mixer until the whites fluff up and are stiff but not dry.
- Put the buttery alternative and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat with your hand mixer until creamy. Add the egg yolks, vinegar, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes, or until the mixture looks light and fluffy.
- Add about one-third of the flour mixture to the wet mixture in your large mixing bowl, followed by about one-third of the milk beverage and beat just to combine; do not overmix. Repeat two more times until the flour mixture and milk beverage are used up.
- Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the batter.
- Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake tins.
- Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Let them cool for 15 minutes in the pans, before removing the cupcakes to a wire rack. Let them cool completely before frosting.
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days. Once frosted, they can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen to enjoy later (yes, frosting and all!).
Egg-Free & Vegan Option: Omit the eggs. Increase the milk beverage to a scant 1¾ cups, the flour to 3 cups, the baking powder to 2 teaspoons, and the baking soda to 1 teaspoon (only use ½ teaspoon at high altitude). Add ½ teaspoon ground turmeric to the dry ingredients to achieve a notable yellow hue. Bake as directed above.
Half Batch (12 cupcakes): Simply cut all ingredients in half. Half of ¾ cup is 6 tablespoons. The instructions stay the same, except you will need less pans and cupcake liners.
Quarter Batch (6 cupcakes): Use ⅔ cup all-purpose flour, ⅜ teaspoon baking powder, ⅛ teaspoon baking soda, ⅛ teaspoon salt, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons butter alternative, ½ cup sugar, ¾ teaspoon vinegar, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, and ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons milk alternative. You will only need 6 lined muffin cups.