Photo: Romulo Yanes; Styling: Sarah Smart
Hands-on Time
1 Hour
Total Time
2 Hours 33 Mins
Serves 24 (serving size: 1 cupcake)

A touch of butter adds rich, luxurious flavor to the meringue, but admittedly, it also deflates it a bit. For a fluffy, snow-white cap, omit the butter as we did for the photo.

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350°.

Step 2

To prepare cake, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Place 1/2 cup butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla extract. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, and beat just until combined. Using clean, dry beaters, beat 3 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of egg whites into batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Step 3

Line 24 muffin cups with cupcake liners; coat with baking spray. Spoon batter into cups. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into centers comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Step 4

To prepare frosting, place 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and vanilla bean in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Without stirring, cook 3 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 250°; discard vanilla bean. Combine 3 egg whites, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; using clean, dry beaters, beat with a mixer at high speed until foamy. Pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at high speed until stiff peaks form. Reduce mixer speed to low; continue beating until mixture cools (12 minutes).

Step 5

Beat 1/4 cup butter until light and fluffy, if desired. Fold in 1 cup egg white mixture. Fold butter mixture into remaining egg white mixture, stirring until smooth. Top cupcakes with frosting.

Step 6

Note: Nutritional analysis includes butter.

Step 7

VARIATION 1: Chocolate Cupcakes

Step 8

Prepare Vanilla Cupcakes, decreasing the cake flour to 7 ounces (about 1 3/4 cups). Stir 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa into flour mixture. Increase sugar to 1 1/2 cups. Decrease vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon. Melt 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, and stir into batter after adding flour mixture and buttermilk. Prepare Vanilla Bean Frosting, ­increasing sugar to 1 1/3 cups and increasing water to 1/3 cup. Omit butter. Fold 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa into meringue. Shave 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate over frosted cupcakes. SERVES 24 (serving size: 1 cupcake) CALORIES 185; FAT 6g (sat 9g); SODIUM 151mg

Step 9

Proper Chocolate Shavings: Use a block or bar of good chocolate for your garnish of chocolate curls. If you rub your thumb over the surface two or three times and then shave, the curls will be less brittle and less likely to crack and break.

Step 10

VARIATION 2: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Step 11

Prepare Vanilla Cupcakes, adding 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa to cake flour mixture. Stir 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring into batter. Omit the Vanilla Bean Frosting. Place 3 tablespoons butter and 1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until smooth. Add 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; beat until smooth. Add red food color paste to icing; stir. Place frosting in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Snip a 1/4-inch hole in 1 corner of bag. Pipe on top of cupcakes. SERVES 24 (serving size: 1 cupcake) CALORIES 201; FAT 4g (sat 9g); SODIUM 186mg

Step 12

Stylish Swirls: Dot the thick frosting with a few drops of red food color paste, and stir gently to give it a swirled appearance. Carefully spoon into a zip-top bag, and pipe out.

Ratings & Reviews

sifullerton's Review

May 15, 2012
My cupcake turned out light and airy. I used reduced fat buttermilk but otherwise everything was the same. The reason i gave this 3 stars is because I had issues with the frosting. I ended up having to scrap it all together and start over. I used a cooking light cream cheese frosting instead. They turned out nice but probably over 200 calories.

August 02, 2015
I am simply responding so that people who see this recipe do not get confused and write a bad review for a good recipe. When it comes to baking dry ingredients such as flour and sugar, 4oz is equal to 1 cup which makes 8oz equal to 2 cups.. Please do not write a bad review on a good recipe simply because of misunderstanding the conversions.

Susanjohnson121's Review

December 08, 2011

KellyDiff's Review

April 19, 2012
I give the cupcake part 5 stars - they are amazing - light, yet moist and flavorful. Definitely a bit on the time consuming side, with the extra step of folding in egg whites, but worth it. Verdict is out on the meringue frosting - it was good, albeit quite sweet. (I think, at the end of the day, I just really love buttercream, and there aren't really any good "light" options to replace it :( But these were a hit for the group I made them for, and pretty amazing for a less-than-200 calorie cupcake!

CallenD's Review

January 16, 2012
Although Cooking Light used less butter than Mrs. Paula Butter, it wasn't cut enough... so I made the following alterations: 1/2c butter = 5 TBS of butter + 1/4c of 0% fat yogurt (strained). 1c whole buttermilk = 1c reduced-fat buttermilk. Frosting: 1/2 package of reduced fat cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, 1.5c conf. sugar, .5c unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 TBS milk. It looks like a lot of alterations, but it really isn't. These cupcakes were SCRUMPTIOUS!

BrinaBee's Review

February 19, 2012
This is awesome and I even did a couple of things wrong. I wanted to make the red velvet variation but I forgot to put in the coco. So spooned out 4 tbs of batter and mixed in only 1 tablespoon of coco powder. then I mixed it to the rest and then I mixed in the red dye. I love the idea that even when you mess up a good recipe is good no matter what. I would have to say that the only thing I would do different next time is to fold in the egg whites at the very end. The frosting was perfection! I used the cream cheese. Me and my family ate all the frosting off the beaters and bowl.

Not fluffy but flopped

April 04, 2015
I followed the recipe to a tee but decided to make it into a cake instead of cupcakes.  I needed to cook it for a bit longer since it was a cake.  Came out of oven nice but ended up flopping.  :(  Despite it flopping, it was pretty tasty!  My family will be gobbling it all up! 


December 15, 2012
8 ounces is not 2 cups, it is one cup so which is it for this recipe???? read the first ingredient.