Rose Water & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about the demise [read: the snap, crackle, POP] of the über trendy cupcake shop bubble. I posted the article on the Kailley’s Kitchen Facebook page and Twitter feed, but in case you missed it, here it is. Read it and inform yourselves.

It’s not exactly big news, but it’s certainly useful dirt for two demographics: current/prospective investors and cupcake enthusiasts (I’m still trying to come up with a good, succinct euphemism for “those who love cupcakes”… crack lovers are “crackheads”, car lovers are “gearheads”… I’m at a loss and accepting suggestions. If I deem yours worthy, I’ll gladly credit you as the originator of the newly-coined term).

The cupcake shop business plan is brilliant: bake cupcakes at minimal cost, wrap them up in a glittery little package, and sell them off for $4.oo a pop. As our collective waistline expands, our collective wallet slowly drains out until its more skeletal than an anorexic hooked up to a feeding tube. I’m not here to condemn these places, nor am I in a position to even if I wanted to; they’ve been making bank since the craze hit about a half-decade ago and I’ve long envied their seemingly overnight celebrity status in the bakery world.

However… it’s not a sustainable model. Like pink terrycloth track suits, trucker hats, and platform sneakers from the Spice Girl era, cupcakes just aren’t that sexy anymore. At least, paying $4.oo for one that’s aesthetically pleasing but devoid of drool-inducing flavor isn’t.

On a mission to bring sexy back (cliché, but apropos), I spiked the following recipe with all the lust-worthy sensuousness a batch of cupcakes could possibly handle: they’re pretty, delicious, and smell realllll nahhhhce. I guess if you’re into the whole tactile thing, they’re perfectly spongey and silky, too. You can’t hear the ocean if you hold one of ’em up to your ear, but hey, capitalizing on four outta’ the five senses ain’t bad.

Sense of smell is the most under-appreciated and underrepresented facet of the experience of food consumption. Usually, about 70% of the appeal lies in the taste, and the other ~30% on visual gratification. With a hit of rose water in both the cake batter and the icing, these cupcakes manage to please your nostrils in a way that most foods can’t. Except bacon, perhaps.

Unlike Sprinkles and Crumbs and Cupcake Wars, this recipe is timeless. Sell a girl a cupcake, she eats for a night. Give a girl a great recipe, she eats (and bakes) for a lifetime. And if you give a moose a muffin…

*If you can’t find rose water at your local grocery store, click here to buy it on Amazon | $3
*If you can’t find vanilla powder at your local grocery store, click here to buy it on Amazon | $12

Rose Water & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Rose Water and Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Rose Water & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Rose Water & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Rose Water & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Rose Water & Vanilla Bean Cupcakes


    For the cupcakes:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon rose water (I used Ziyad brand from Whole Foods)
  • For the frosting:
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (NOT melted)
  • 2 teaspoon rose water
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream (or more for desired consistency)
  • Raw sugar and vanilla powder to sprinkle on top


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin pan with liners
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between each
  4. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and extract and mix until just combined (don’t overmix!)
  5. Slice vanilla bean length-wise, scrape seeds into batter and mix until there aren't visible clumps of vanilla bean
  6. Add milk, vegetable oil, and splash of rosewater and mix until just combined
  7. Spoon batter into cupcake liners and fill each 2/3 full
  8. Bake for 16-18 minutes until slightly golden, then allow to cool on a wire rack.
  9. While cupcakes are cooling, add butter for icing in a medium mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy with handheld beaters
  10. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well between each
  11. Add vanilla bean, vanilla extract, and rose water and mix
  12. Slowly add heavy cream until desired consistency is reached
  13. Use a piping bag to pipe icing onto cool cupcakes, top with a sprinkle of vanilla powder and raw sugar



  1. says

    Ah, vanilla beans…I always want to buy and use them, but I can NEVER come up with a recipe that seems “special” enough for a $5 vanilla bean. It’s like cooking with gold ’round these parts.

    I want your cupcake liners. NOW.

    • Kailley @ Kailley's Kitchen says

      Right!? Vanilla bean prices are definitely a deterrent, which is why I’ve avoided them until now. I’ve been mulling over vanilla bean recipe ideas for months, and finally decided that if there was a time to splurge, it’d be for these– especially since they’d work well for a special occasion like a wedding shower or baby shower. The cupcake liners are from the impulse aisle at Marshall’s!

  2. says

    Wow, I love looking at jazzed up cupcakes, they always give me great ideas! My sister-in-law just told me about rosewater and how oddly Good it would be in cake. I’m definitely going to try it! Thanks for sharing your recipe and design 🙂

    • Kailley @ Kailley's Kitchen says

      Thanks so much, Cindy! Let me know how the recipe turns out for you if you decide to give it a try!

  3. says

    I am currently into home baking gourmet cupcakes. I’ve already made Irish Car Bomb, Bacon & Maple, Piña Colada, Key Lime Pie, Chocolate Ganache, and my next cupcake is your recipe. While I love finding all these wonderful cupcakes on line, I always try to change something up to make them my own, plus I like experimenting. I hope cupcakes don’t fade too soon as in a few years I would like to retire and work parttime baking and decorating cupcakes. It is such a creative way to relax! Thank you for your recipe, I can’t wait to make these cupcakes this weekend. Then I bring them to work as a treat for my employees as a thank you for all their hard work.

    • Kailley @ Kailley's Kitchen says

      Great question, Dylan! The rosewater is actually colorless– I added a couple drops of red food coloring to dye the icing pink 🙂


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