These vegan vanilla cupcakes are easy to make and taste delicious. No one would guess that they’re egg and dairy-free.
A while ago I shared my recipe for vegan vanilla cupcakes. This was my first attempt at vegan cake baking and whilst they were nice, I’ve experimented a lot since then and realised they could be made even better. Rather than leaving you with a recipe I thought could be improved upon, I’ve replaced it with this even fluffier, even lighter and even more delicious version (which is just as easy to make).
If you’d like to get a copy of the original recipe then please contact me or leave a comment.
Now I’ve cracked the cupcake recipe, my next vegan cake mission is to adapt this recipe to make a larger birthday cake (the main reason I made a start on vegan baking was due to receiving several egg-free birthday cake recipe requests). I now feel pretty confident that with a little bit of trial-and-error I could convert any of my existing cake recipes to be egg and dairy-free. If there’s any you’d particularly like the recipe for, then do let me know in the comments.
What’s The Secret To A Delicious Vegan Cake?
To perfect my vegan cupcakes I tried many of the vegan recipes I found online. I noticed that many opted for just one egg replacer (the dairy is easy to replace). They either used…
- A dairy-free milk, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda – the milk replaces the moisture of the eggs and the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda create a reaction which helps the cake to rise.
- A dairy-free milk or water and chia or flax seeds – the chia or flax reacts with the liquid and creates a jelly-like texture mimicking the eggs.
When I tested these I found that cakes made with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda rose well and had fantastic structure, but they were a little claggy as there was too much moisture. Whereas the chia cakes were less claggy, but they lacked structure and so were very fragile.The solution – combine them.
Combining different egg replacers makes sense as eggs do many different jobs when used in baking (take a look at my recent post about the role of eggs in baking for more information). They…
- Help the cake to rise
- Add flavour
- Help “glue” the cake together
- Absorb moisture from the other ingredients to ensure your cakes aren’t claggy.
Expecting just one egg replacer to be able to do all of these jobs is a bit optimistic so it’s no surprise that using a combination of two gives a better result.
In my vegan cakes, I use a combination of cider (or white wine) vinegar and bicarbonate of soda to provide lift and structure, and chia seeds to absorb the moisture from the other ingredients and add softness to the sponge. The result is a deliciously light sponge that you’d never guess was egg-free.
However, it’s not just about the egg replacement. I made plenty of other small tweaks to get these cakes just right…
- Extra flour adds stability to the sponge.
- Almond milk (or another plant-based milk) helps to get the cake mixture to the right consistency.
- Vegan margarine adds softness and moistness. Some cake recipes I tried had more milk and less margarine. However, I found these a little dry. It’s a tricky balance though, as going overboard with the margarine ends up in a cake that lacks structure and crumbles as soon as you pick it up.
- I tried both margarine and vegetable oil. I opted for margarine as I found it gave the cakes a better flavour.
- Ground chia or flax seeds work far better than whole ones. They’re more evenly distributed through the mixture and the hard outer shell has already been broken down meaning the moisture absorbing action can work more easily. Also, whole chia seeds don’t break down as well during baking so you’ll end up with little bits running through your cupcakes (a bit like having it full of raspberry seeds).
Getting the level of ingredients just right was definitely a balancing act. Cakes made with oil, almond milk, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar rose well and were robust, but the addition of more margarine, less almond milk and chia gave a better texture. Going down the route of a little more margarine and a little less milk means these cakes do crack a little on the top but I think this is a small price to pay for a more delicious cake (especially as it can be covered in buttercream so no one will know).
Tips for success
Before making this recipe for the first time, please read through my extra tips for success…
- Make sure you have everything ready before you start baking. As soon as the baking soda and vinegar mix, or the ground chia is combined with the milk, reactions start. You want these reactions to happen in the oven rather than in your bowl so having everything ready to go means you can get them into the oven as quickly as possible.
- Don’t overfill your cupcakes cases as the cake will spill over the edges. They should be about two-thirds full.
- After baking, leave the cupcakes to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. When they’re first baked the cakes are very soft and allowing them to cool for a little while in the tin will mean they firm up slightly in the residual heat and also means you won’t accidentally squash the bottoms when you try and take them out of the tin.
- I find these cakes are best if left to cool for a couple of hours before eating. All the vegan cakes I tried were a little crisp on top when they first came out of the oven (but still delicious). Leaving them for a couple of hours allows them time to soften and be all cakey.
- Don’t panic if you don’t have chia seeds (or the means to grind them). This cake recipe still works without them but has a better texture if they’re included.
- I use white chia seeds rather than the black ones as this is a vanilla cake so I prefer it to have a light colour. If you don’t have the white ones then the dark ones work just as well. However, you’ll have little black flecks in your finished cupcakes. Note that the chia seeds (whichever you use) add a slightly nutty colour to the cupcakes so they won’t be as pale as a traditional egg-based vanilla cake.
- If you don’t want to buy a big bag of chia then you can buy chia shots from the health food section of the supermarket which are just about the right size for using in these cupcakes (although I don’t think cupcakes are what they had in mind when they made them 😉 ).
- If you can’t get chia seeds then you can also use flax or linseeds.
- Make sure you sift the chia after it’s been ground to remove any slightly larger bits.
- Make sure you measure the vinegar carefully. You only need a small amount so you cannot taste it in the finished cupcakes, but if you’re at all heavy-handed your cupcakes will end up with a slight hint of vinegar which really isn’t what you want from a cupcake.
- The mixture is a little stiffer than a traditional egg-based vanilla cake mixture, but don’t be tempted to add more almond milk as they’ll most likely collapse during baking.
What You’ll Need
Before you start, make sure you have all of the equipment needed.
NOTE – These are affiliate links which means that if you purchase from Amazon after clicking on one the product links below I may earn a small commission. All of the products linked are ones I use in my kitchen.
- Muffin Tin(s)
- 14 Cupcake Cases
- Weighing Scales
- Measuring Spoons
- Electric Mixer (or a bowl and hand mixer or wooden spoon)
- Spice Grinder (or Pestle and Mortar)
- Cake Skewer
- Cooling Rack
These cupcakes are baked in the oven.
A few extra notes about the recommended equipment
Muffin Tin(s) – These need enough holes to hold 14 cupcakes.
14 Cupcake Cases – I usually choose muffin cases as they’re a little bigger.
Weighing Scales – I have included conversions to US cups/ounces within the recipe. However, for best results, I’d recommend weighing your ingredients as it’s more accurate. For more information about how the cups conversions have been calculated take a look at my grams to cups calculator.
Measuring Spoons – When baking you should use proper measuring spoons rather than the ones you’ve got in your kitchen drawer for eating and making a cup of tea as they’re much more accurate.
Mixer – I love my Kitchen Aid mixer (it’s red and looks all pretty out on my worktop 🙂 ). You can also use a hand mixer and bowl, or simply a bowl and wooden spoon.
Spice Grinder – A spice grinder is needed to finely grind the chia seeds. You can also use a pestle and mortar but you will get your chia seeds more finely ground by using an electric grinder.
If you don’t have a spice grinder or pestle and mortar then don’t worry. You can leave the chia seeds out and still get good cupcakes. However, including them will give your cakes a better texture and make them that bit more delicious.
Cake Skewer – To test whether your cupcakes are ready. You can also use a barbecue skewer or a knife if you don’t have a cake skewer. If you choose to use a knife be warned that it’ll leave quite a large mark in the middle of your cake (although this can easily be covered with buttercream).
Cupcake Scoop – I like to use a cupcake scoop to fill my cupcake cases. I’ve not listed this in the list of equipment needed as you’re absolutely fine just scooping the mixture into the cupcake cases with a spoon, but I prefer to use one as I find it less messy and easier to evenly split the mixture
FREE GRAMS TO CUPS CONVERSION CHARTS
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Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
- 270 g self-raising flour
- 180 g vegan margarine - I use Pure Sunflower
- 180 g caster sugar
- 135 ml almond milk - or other plant-based milk
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- ¾ tsp white wine or cider vinegar
- ¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 14 cupcake or muffin cases
- Pre-heat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan.
- Line a muffin tin (or two) with 14 cupcake/muffin cases.
- Beat together the vegan margarine (180g), caster sugar (180g) and vanilla extract (1 tbsp) until combined and soft (the aim here is to ensure the margarine is soft so it's easy to mix in the other ingredients).
- Finely grind the chia seeds (2 tbsp). I find this easiest in a spice grinder, but you can also do this in a pestle and mortar.
- In a different bowl sift together the self-raising flour (270g), bicarbonate of soda (¾ tsp) and ground chia seeds.
- Add the dry ingredients, the almond milk (135ml) and the vinegar (¾ tsp) to the margarine and sugar mixture and beat them together until combined.
- As soon as the cake batter is ready, divide it between the 14 cupcake cases. Place into the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
- Once baked, remove the cakes from the oven. Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes and then move them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Any nutritional information provided is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you would like to learn more about how this is calculated.
Free From/Suitable For
The ingredients I used to make this recipe are all free from the following allergens. However, please check any labels carefully for allergens you need to avoid as brands can vary, and product recipes can change over time.
- Suitable for Vegetarians and Vegans
- Peanut-Free (contains almonds)
If you’d like to make these cupcakes nut-free then switch the almond milk for another suitable plant-based milk.
If you need these cupcakes to be egg-free but don’t mind about dairy, then you can use regular butter or margarine instead of the vegan margarine listed and cows milk in place of the almond milk.
What an amazing find!
This has to be the tastiest recipe that I’ve tried to date- my family have compared this to standard cakes and much prefer this . My son has many allergies (including nuts, eggs, coconut and dairy). To use this as a cake has been successful but I’m struggling with cupcakes. They don’t seem to stay risen, even though they’ve been in the oven for the allocated time . The tops come away from the rest of the bun. I have substituted the almond milk for oat milk. I know from using it on cereal that it can be very claggy/absorbes the cereal, which means we have to add more- could this be my issue? Should I use more of the milk or use a little less oat and add water? X
Charlotte Oates says
Unfortunately I have not tested this recipe with oat milk so it is difficult to advise. My gut feeling is that watering the oat milk down to be more similar to the consistency of almond milk would likely be the most successful as adjusting the overall amount of liquid will likely effect the texture and bake of the cupcakes.
What an amazing recipe! These taste wonderful- especially as a cake!
My only problem is, I’m finding the tops (on the cupcakes) are separating from the bottoms…do you have any ideas? I’ve set it to the temperature and time specified and they still seemed to be under cooked, left them in longer and this happens x
This definitely has the best texture of any vegan cake recipe I’ve tried. Using two different egg replacements makes so much sense. I do find that the vanilla isn’t strong enough to mask the flour taste. That is me being super fussy! And I’m going to experiment with a lemon sponge which might not be as subtle
Vikisha Misselbrook says
I love the taste of these, they tasted so good! Wouldn’t even know it’s vegan.
Only problem I had was that the cases started to come away from the cupcakes while cooling. Any suggestion for this?
Charlotte Oates says
I usually find this is down to the cases I use. I always recommend either Tesco or Dr Oetker white muffin cases.
It can sometimes happen in warmer humid weather due to the extra moisture in the air.
By far this is the best vegan cupcake recipe I’ve found so far. I’ve been trialing a few recipes for a vegan colleague of mine who’s leaving work soon, and the first recipe I followed felt really bland and wrong compared to non vegan cupcakes. I thought it was impossible to ever make a good vegan cupcake, but then I stumbled across this recipe and the comments were very encouraging. I trialed this recipe making just two cupcakes. They came out amazing and beautiful (though I was also guilty of opening the oven too soon and making them have a crater, oops!) and I cannot wait to see what my colleague says, he’ll be so mind blown that this is a purely vegan formula! I will come back and update you with the feedback from work when the time comes! Until then I have to resist baking more for myself as I am supposed to be on a diet…
Not sure what I did wrong they rose then sank at the last minute
Charlotte Oates says
I’m sorry to hear that. I find they do fall a little when I bake them, but they should be flat rather than having a dip (I designed them this way as I found that it gave the best texture and flavour for the cake and also makes them great for piping on to. If they fell more than that, my guess is that they weren’t quite cooked through when you first opened the oven, or that you used a little too much raising agent causing them to over-rise and then fall.
I didn’t grind the chia seeds, although I did bash them with the back of a spoon in a mug it didn’t really work! Also I made 12 cupcakes, not 14 because that’s how many were in my tray. And I made them with my toddler so I didn’t really get round to stirring everything. I used regular sugar because I ran out of caster, didn’t sift my flour. Anyway, my point is, it still turned out really well. I am a very slap dash cook, it doesn’t always work out well so love when it does! Top marks for this recipe which worked out very well.
Ps. I would make these adjustments if I could, I’m sure it would have turned out even better!
Actually incredible, I am a little also day but they turned out really well! Very pleased.
Grinding the chia seed made such a difference, easy to make and very moist and tasty cupcakes.
Sarah Bragg says
Mum and Dad are here for Abigail’s birthday so ideally l’d make a vegan birthday cake. She wants a yellow one so I’m thinking of trying the above as a cake – any tips?
Charlotte Oates says
I’ve been testing this as a cake all morning (it’s been on my list for ages, but I hadn’t got around to it) and I think I’ve figured it out. I want to test it a bit more, but thought I’d share where I’m up to now rather than missing Abigail’s birthday.
The mixture for the cupcakes will make an 18cm sandwich cake. Make the mixture as described (I’ve also found it works well melting the marg at the start, mixing it together with the other wet ingredients with the sugar, sifting in the dry ingredients and then whisking the mixture until there are no lumps). Split it between the two tins. Bake at 160C (or 140C fan) for 25 minutes, until the skewer comes out clean. The oven temperature is lower than for baking the cupcakes as I found cooking it at a higher temperature gave it really crusty edges.
I can recommend a few other vegan cake websites if you’d like to have a look at those too, so you’ve got more cake options to consider.
Angela / Only Crumbs Remain says
They look fab Charlotte – you’d never know that they didn’t contain eggs lookig at them. I’m quite a traditional baker too so the thought of making a vegan cake / cupcake sends me into a cold sweat! lol 😉 Great tip about using the white chia seeds, will definitely have to try.
Charlotte Oates says
Eggs are definitely harder to get rid of dairy. I think vegan baking is one of those things that seems scary at first but as you do it more and more it because much easier to figure out how to adapt a recipe to get it to work.
I’ve never tried to make cakes without eggs. Maybe this recipe is my first start xD
Also, I’d like to add my nutella on them. It will be awesome!!!
Charlotte Oates says
Ooh I love the sound of Nutella on top. Is yours a homemade vegan version? What recipe do you use?
Mine is always with eggs. My recipe is really simple and easy because I love the fast recipe xD. Normally, the ingredients are baking powder, vanilla extract, eggs, and other stuffs to make the cupcakes having different tastes. Aww, your question makes me want to write my own recipe right now xD
Rebecca Smith says
Delicious, you’re right they don’t look vegan at all….going to give this recipe a go
Charlotte Oates says
Thanks Rebecca. I hope you enjoy it x
Midge @ Peachicks' Bakery says
Ooh well done Mrs! Good old ground chia seeds! Definitely my go to egg replacer, although they work best stirred into the flour before being added to the other ingredients. Agree about the colours… White is great for pale sponges & dark for chocolate ones.
Charlotte Oates says
Thanks Midge. I was surprised at how different the cakes looked switching from dark chia to white. They just look more like traditional vanilla cakes.
Thanks for the tip about mixing the chia into the flour first. I’ll have to give that a try. What difference does it make to the cake by doing that?