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Ombre vanilla cupcakes and whipped vanilla buttercream. One white rectangular plate with 8 cupcakes. One white round plate with 2 cupcakes, one is cut in half.

Hello, Recipe Critic fans! I’m so happy to be back guest posting today! My name is Alicia and I blog at The Baker Upstairs. I have two adorable little girls, ages five and almost two, and I’ve been married to my sweetheart Geoff for almost ten years. I work part time as a nurse, and spend the rest of my time chasing kiddos around, knitting, reading, running, sewing, and doing lots and lots of baking!

So… I have a secret. Are you listening? Today just happens to be Alyssa (the Recipe Critic herself)’s birthday! While she’s off on an awesome cruise with her hubby, I’m going to share with you an awesome birthday treat! First of all, though, I just have to give a little shout out to Alyssa for being awesome. I’m lucky enough to be her neighbor, and here are just a few of the things I love about her:

1. She’s hilarious. We text back and forth all day, and I am constantly giggling over each of her texts.

2. She makes awesome food. I know you already know that, if you visit here, but I’m lucky enough to get to taste some of what she makes, and it’s delicious!

3. She takes care of my toddler for me while I’m at work! My little Lizzy absolutely adores “Sissa” (as she calls her) and is so excited every time I tell her it’s time to go to Alyssa’s house. And as an added bonus, I love seeing Alyssa’s pics on Instagram from her adventures with Lizzy.

4 pictures of a little girl. One of her pink flower bow, one of her high heals, one with a hat on that's too big, and one with a braid in her hair.

4. She has been an amazing help and resource to me as I have entered the blogging world this last year. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked her ridiculous questions, or wanted her opinion on my pictures, or freaked out about any tiny thing going wrong, and she is always there to listen and cheer me on. I’m so grateful for her friendship!

Since Alyssa is the only girl in a house full of boys, I thought it might be fun to give her a super girly birthday treat. And these ombre cupcakes are delicious, fun, and easy to make! The cake is moist and has great vanilla flavor, and the frosting is light as a cloud, with just the right amount of sweetness. Birthday cupcake perfection. Happy birthday, Alyssa!


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Ombre Vanilla Cupcakes with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream

By: Alyssa Rivers
The cake is moist and has great vanilla flavor, and the frosting is light as a cloud, with just the right amount of sweetness. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 24 Cupcakes






  • To make the cake, preheat the oven to 325˚ F. Line 2 cupcake tins with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir with a fork to blend. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.
  • Separate the batter into four bowls, being careful to add an equal amount to each. Color each bowl according to your preference. I added 1 drop of red food coloring to the first bowl, 3 to the second, 5 to the third, and 7 to the fourth. Starting with the darkest color, add a small amount of batter (I used about a tablespoon) to each cupcake liner. Repeat with each color, going from darkest to lightest. The cupcake liners should end up about 3/4 full. Bake at 325 for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.


  • Whisk together the flour and the milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring with a rubber spatula, until you can start to see the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the mixture has the consistency of thick pudding or paste.
  • Put  mixture in the fridge and let it cool completely, it’s fine if it stays in there long enough to get chilly, you just don’t want it warm at all. As it’s cooling, feel free to stir it occasionally to speed up the process and keep it from forming a crust on top.
  • It an electric stand mixer, beat the butter and the sugar using the whisk attachment for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy. While beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat to combine and then scrape down the sides. Mixture will separate and look messy, keep beating! Continue beating until mixture comes together and is light and fluffy, about 7-8 minutes, but time varies. Take a sample of frosting between your fingers; frosting is done when light and fluffy and sugar granules are dissolved.


Calories: 264kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 3gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 99mgPotassium: 112mgFiber: 1gSugar: 22gVitamin A: 419IUCalcium: 54mgIron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

About Alyssa Rivers

Alyssa Rivers is the author of 'The Tried and True Cookbook', a professional food photographer and experienced recipe-developer. Having a passion for cooking, her tried and true recipes have been featured on Good Morning America, Today Food, Buzzfeed and more.

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