The BEST Paleo Vanilla Cupcakes (w/ My New Favorite Frosting!)

I’ve done it, I’ve really done it!  In three years of Paleo eating, I have never really found a good, plain, vanilla cake recipe I was nuts about.  As a baker this posed a lot of problems since simple recipes like that aren’t just nice to have on hand to serve to a crowd, but they make a wonderful and straightforward base for other, fancier recipes.  I mean, don’t all of our mothers have a go-to scratch-made yellow cake recipe?  My mom’s happens to come from the one and only Duncan Hines.

Paleo Cupcake

Well, now I have one, too.  I’m a little shocked it took me this long to figure it out…but then again a lot of my baking adventures have been a little outrageous at times.  I blame Pinterest for that ssince, I mean, how can you look away from the flood of Cafe Mocha, Pink Lemonade, Red Velvet, Maple Bacon, Pina Colada, and Quadruple Fudge Peanut Butter Caramel Marshmallow Unicorn Poop flavored cupcakes and be all like, “Yeah…let’s go have some VANILLA!”

I was never a vanilla cake person.  I need adventure and variety in my life.  I think if I ever had to throw something together, I opted for good old chocolate cake with a fluffy vanilla buttercream…and then threw in some chocolate chips, marshmallows, or whatever was in reach.  So, I guess I just took a total 180.  Weird.  Sorry.  But for whatever reason I wanted some plain old vanilla cupcakes.  I must be growing up or something.

I’m not sure what exactly clicked with this cake to actually give it a light, fluffy texture without being *too moist*, chalky, or gritty.  I’ve messed around with all of these ingredients at one point or another in various combinations and proportions over the last couple of years but this was the first one I was 100% satisfied with.  I will say that cashew butter seems to be the magic bullet for flavor…it has a very natural “cake batter” kind of taste and made the cake taste like…cake.  As far as texture, I took a gamble and replaced one egg with 2 egg whites and left it in the stand mixer for a solid 2 minutes on high to get it to fluff up (I’ve tried whipping the whites beforehand and folding them in but I’ve had mixed results with coconut flour based stuff)…and by golly it was perfect.

Also got some great feedback from my classmates at our weekly BBQ and that helped to reassure myself that they were, in fact, edible.  No one died!  Yay!  When non-Paleo people can actually stomach my food I consider it a success.  I have a feeling my house is going to be the scene of a summer-long episode of Cupcake Wars…you know, if Cupcake Wars only featured one person talking to herself and yelling at inanimate objects all day.  Let’s see what else I can come up with now that I have a vanilla cake that doesn’t taste like a sponge.

OK, now for the best part…the frosting.  OH, this frosting.  It’s not my recipe but it may be the only one I use for the rest of my life.  I find that a lot of Paleo or Primal frostings…uh…kinda suck a lot of the time.  While I love coconut oil and palm shortening in baking…they give kind’ve an oil-slick quality to frosting, and frankly I’ve given up on trying to get something that tastes like the fluffy, grocery-store sugary crap I used to covet in favor of simpler stuff like nut butters, coconut manna, and melted chocolate.  Good enough for government work.  Until now.

I saw this recipe over at Cookies and Cups and was astonished I’d never heard of such a thing.  TWO ingredient chocolate buttercream.  Like, real buttercream.  And it’s Paleo as long as you use ghee instead of straight up butter!  Go check it out.  Right now.  And start frosting things.

But you know what’s nice about vanilla cake?  You can put whatever the hell you want on it.  So if you’re feeling lazy, try some almond butter and honey.  Split them and fill with whipped cream and strawberries.  Use this icing I made the other day.  I dunno…surprise me :-)

The BEST Paleo Vanilla Cupcakes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
  • 1/2 c Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 t Baking Soda
  • 1/2 t Gluten Free Baking Powder
  • 1 t Salt
  • 5 Eggs
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 1/2 c Cashew Butter
  • 1/2 c Honey
  • 1 t Vanilla
  1. Combine all your dry ingredients.
  2. Beat the eggs and egg whites with the cashew butter, honey and vanilla.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine.
  4. Beat with an electric mixer on HIGH for 2 minutes (this step is key to a good, fluffy texture).
  5. Spoon into your lined cupcake tins to about 3/4 full.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the cupcakes are lightly browned and pass the toothpick test.
  7. Frost with Chocolate Buttercream or frosting of choice!
  8. Makes 1 dozen cupcakes.


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47 thoughts on “The BEST Paleo Vanilla Cupcakes (w/ My New Favorite Frosting!)

  1. SophieE

    Does the honey provide a significant flavor/texture advantage? I’m thinking of using xylitol. Or maybe half half.

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Hmmm…you can certainly try. I’ve never cooked with Xylitol so I can’t promise anything. Maybe start with half and half and see if that works?

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  4. Pip

    Hi there, the buttercream you recommended looks awesome (as do your fab cakes:-))! Have you tried the buttercream with ghee? I’m doing the GAPS diet with my son who has autism and we can’t have butter yet… I’m worried that as it warms to room temperature it might run away!!! Thanks.

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Actually it works really well with ghee. As long as you whip it well it’ll be fine, even at room temp for a couple hours.

      1. Newtopaleo


        I’m excited to try these but what is the t for in your recipe…tablespoon?

        Thanks for posting!

  5. Cassie Olive

    This has the perfect texture and for a second I thought I was eating a cupcake full of gluten! I’m going to try adding some blueberries or strawberries next time to make it even more yummy! Any idea how much frozen berries I would add?

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Hmmm good idea! Maybe just a half cup…or even a full cup if they’re small like blueberries!

  6. Jen

    DO NOT try using sunflower butter…Oh man, just tried making a batch using the Trader Joe’s Sun Nut butter…My son’s face just said, “Mommy, why do you keep doing these horrible things to food?” Fail! Ha!

  7. Elise

    Thanks so much for your site, I’m just getting into the whole gluten free/paleo/vegan cooking and baking, so sites like yours are very helpful as I have a lot to learn!

    I’m going to attempt these cupcakes for my daughter’s 1st birthday. I haven’t given her honey yet based on the pediatrician’s recommendations and was wondering about substituting maple syrup… Do you think that might work, or would that fact that the syrup is a bit runnier in consistency than honey make a big difference?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Elise

      One more question… How well do these keep? Like if I made them 2 days in advance of the party (and didn’t frost till day of), do they store well in the fridge?

      1. tgipaleo Post author

        They are definitely best the day of, but you can store them in the fridge for a couple of days without frosting and I’m sure they’d be fine.

    2. tgipaleo Post author

      Maple syrup would work just fine! I wouldn’t expect any change in consistency since I interchange honey and maple syrup in recipes all the time.

  8. Rick

    I just made these today. I love them. I was looking for something that I could make that would replace strawberry cream cheese danishes that I used to like once in a while. I made these cupcakes and created some strawberry cream cheese frosting for them.

    I used xylitol instead of honey that I powdered with my coffee grinder. It worked great.

  9. kendra

    I need to make cupcakes for birthday celebrations at school (it seems like they are celebrating something everyday in kindergarten!:). The school nurse said I could leave cupcakes in her freezer and they would take out when celebrations take place. Do you think these would hold up in the freezer? Thanks!

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      I don’t know about the freezer, but they’ll definitely keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.

  10. Carrie

    I made these for my birthday with the chocolate frosting link above. They were AMAZING! I ate four in one day (yes, I do have a problem:-) I gave them to my non-paleo friends and they absolutely loved them too. The chocolate frosting makes them go from good to great! I made my own ghee (Alton Brown’s recipe) and it gave the frosting a wonderful nutty, caramel flavor. YUM!

  11. jennifer

    I picked a terrible time to start Paleo! I’m doing a thirty day challenge and my son’s birthday is today! So cupcakes were a must. These tasted amazing! My husband and two year old gobbled them up. I was so nervous that I was going to have to throw them away like I do with most failed paleo recipes…. not this one. I will never go back to box.

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Thank you so much! These are my personal favorite and I’m so glad they worked out for you!

  12. Shalis

    I’m new to the whole Paleo foods, would love to try these for my son’s birthday this weekend but he has a tree nut allergy (not “severe” yet, just vomiting), wondering what I can replace the nut butter with besides peanut butter?? Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Sure thing! If you can get it, coconut manna (also “coconut butter” or “coconut cream concentrate” is the perfect replacement and a lot of people prefer te flavor. In a pinch, I’ve made these with coconut oil…they provide a nice, light cake.

      Good luck!

  13. Steph

    These came out a little more dense than I had expected (I may have filled the cups a little too much?!) but the taste of the cake is amazing. I’m always put off by recipes that use coconut flour as I usually find them too “gritty” or “coconutty”. These, however, are the exact opposite.
    Awesome, thank you!

  14. Angela

    Is there any chance these could be successfully made with almond flour instead of coconut? My husband is allergic to coconut and I need a good go-to cake option for his birthday tomorrow.

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Sure! I’ve used 2 9 inch pans at the same temp for 25-30 mins (definitely test to make sure!)

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  16. Mindy

    I’m officially impressed! They were delicious and I used the chocolate buttercream icing too! Amazing! Just curious if your tops browned before the inside finished cooking? I took mine out at exactly 25 min and the tops were pretty toasty, so they look more like muffins. May need to reduce the heat a bit or cover them next time? Or, just add blueberries and call them muffins!

    Thank you!

  17. Mindy

    Just curious if you intended for us to beat the egg whites separately and then fold into the rest of the ingredients once mixed together? So, combine dry, mix all wet except egg whites, mix dry and wet, beat eggs whites until fluffy and then fold into batter?

    I followed the directions and beat the wet ingredients with the eggs/whites, but they never got fluffy, then mixed with the dry. They were still delicious, but I was curious if they would come out even fluffier if you intended for the whites to be beaten and folded. I noticed that you did this in your red velvet cupcakes. Thank you!

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      Hmm…I didn’t but I’ll definitely try. The beaten whites worked really well with the red velvet

  18. Yuli

    Hi. If you substitute coconut oil instead of the cashew butter (for those with tree nut allergies), how much do you need to use?

    1. tgipaleo Post author

      I’d say 1/3 cup…definitely less since it is more liquid than nut or coconut butters.

  19. Christy

    I made this tonight and used it as a base for pineapple upside down cupcakes. I didn’t feel like making frosting. So I diced up some fresh pineapple and covered the bottom of each cupcake liner with it and add just a touch of maple syrup to each and filled with cake mix. These where so good and really moist.

  20. olga

    these tasted nothing like yellow cake. They were just ok. A little bland for my taste but the texture was good.

  21. Jody

    I think I did something wrong. It came out like a good bread but not like a cupcake.

  22. These were absolutely delicious! I made them for my sons 7th & 9th birthday party and they were a hit with everyone. Great recipe, and much healtlhier than a store bought cake.


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