French Vanilla Cupcakes with Rose Meringue

Sunday, August 19, 2007

French vanilla isn't actually a type of vanilla (for that list see this post), but rather a designation used to describe vanilla recipes that have heavy vanilla scent and contains vanilla grains. The name comes from the French style of making ice cream using egg yolks, cream, and vanilla beans. So when I tried to find a French vanilla cake recipe to study, not surprisingly, there didn't seem to be any. Anything I did find was just white cake mix with a smattering of random ingredients that varied from almond extract to gross amounts of cornstarch depending which recipe you read.

I then decided to make my own and take some inspiration from the ice cream method. I used lots of fresh vanilla, a few extra egg yolks, and a bit of cream with the milk for a rich cake that was moist and dense, yet still had a nice crumb. A simple meringue flavored with a bit of rose water was the perfect finish. Sweet, flavorful, and a nice textural match to the cake.

It took many, many, many tries to get this one to come out to something I like and would write up. They still brown a bit around the edges a bit more than I would prefer, but that doesn't affect the taste at all.

In trying to make the cake comparable to a French custard like ice cream, this cake is heavy, dense, and very powerful in flavor. I can see this recipe making for a wonderful layer cake as well. It's a comforting cupcake perfect for meeting the soon to come chilly winds that will be heralding in the fall.

French Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 24 / 350F Oven

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups of sugar or vanilla sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 egg yolks, room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup of cream
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

What You'll Do...
1) Beat butter on high until soft for 30 seconds.

2) Add sugar. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.

3) Add eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.

4) Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda, in a bowl.

5) Measure out milk and vanilla extract in another glass. Cut open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add them to the milk.

6) Mix in the flour mixture then the milk mixture, alternating between the two and ending with the flour. Mix throughly.

7) Scoop into cupcake papers about 1/2 full (due to the custardy nature of the batter, it is imperative you mix the ingrdients thuroughly and only fill halfway to avoid overflow or deflation, but frosting always covers up these little flaws so no huge worries if it happens).

8) Bake for 18-22 minutes at 350F or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Rose Meringue
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of rose water (ideally, you could also use orange blossom water, or vanilla extract as well)

What You'll Do...
Whisk the egg whites and medium speed for 30 seconds, then go to high speed. When frothy, slowly add the sugar and whip until soft peaks form. Add the rose water and whisk for a moment more. Be sure that everything and your hands are totally clean, the slightest bit of oil can screw a meringue.

I had quite a bit left over after all this, so I popped the meringue in little dollops into the oven at 350F for 30 minutes on top of some baking paper for some rose meringue cookies. Yum!


  1. Wow, those sound good. The rosewater in the icing is really clever.

  2. Your cup cake is so beautiful and very delicious to me. I too tried to look for a recipe that makes Almond apple pie but couldn't find any. So I decided to make one on my own and I got this delicious and unique Almond Apple Pie.

    By the way, you can use your rose water to make Rose Lassi.

  3. Love the hard boiled eggs in the background

  4. I have to say that as I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate vanilla much, much more; from the looks of this recipe, it seems about time I begin appreciating rosewater (even though I can be slightly allergic to roses, I'm willing to risk it--these look *good*).

  5. NIIICE! Where do you find rose water or ornage blossom water? Can you make it yourself maybe? :)

  6. LI Cakes - You can get the waters at most Middle Eastern Markets or at specialty food stores. As for making it yourself... i have no clue. LOL.

  7. Garrett, what a perfect cake for the coming fall, and what a brilliant idea!

  8. Oh... my.

    The gods of food porn graced me with your website today, and all I have to say is

    thank you
    thank you
    thank you

    {offers up sacrificial onion}

    Glory be.

  9. Your instructions for the cupcakes call for vanilla extract, but it is not in your ingredient list. How much do you use?

  10. Daniela - Best comment ever. Thanks!

    Annon - All fixed, thanks for catching that.

  11. i love the idea of rosewater in the icing!

  12. Rose water is conveniently available online at the King Arthur Flour website: for about $5 a bottle.

    Incidentally, they have about a million other baking supplies. They also have black cocoa, which is a staple in my chocolate cakes.

    I am in no way affiliated with KAF, unless you happen to count the enormous amount of money that the company has made due to my consistent ordering.


  13. Tried your recipe and the flavor is sensational. I did have a little trouble though. I made a 6" layer cake with 6 extra cupcakes. I overfilled everything and had batter overflow. It went all over my oven and the house smelled of burnt cake. Also my middles were sunk in. After decorating the little cake, It looked fine. Ate the cupcakes right away- Didn't care about the look. But the cake had lemon filling and vanilla bean icing. It was my friends 25th wedding anniversary and the cake was a big hit. I'm trying it again in a 8" cake for my family. They loved the cupcakes and said "you have to make this for us!" Thanks for a great flavor!

  14. I want to thank you so much for your cupcake idea. My fiance is allergic to eggs, so I made an eggless version, and it was a huge success! Thank you so much. We may use this idea as one of the cupcake flavors for our wedding cake in August. Thank you again. This is such a great combination of flavors!

  15. Hi Garrett

    In this recipe did you use plain sugar or vanilla sugar, I would think vanilla sugar would be a bit too much with the vanilla extract and vanilla bean. Also, is there another type of frosting I could use along with the rosewater, I really don't like 7-minute frosting. Thank you.

  16. Great recipe! What kind of cream are you using?

  17. This sounds really great!! I've been searching for a good French vanilla recipe and it looks like I've finally got one :)

  18. I'm so glad to find this cake recipe. I have a bride who has requested French Vanilla and I didn't have any idea what a "french" vanilla cake was. Thanks for the recipe!!

  19. Has anyone made these into minis?


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