Simple Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Abstract: To show how my dad–through his humbly-led life and unwavering, silent support of all we do–has kept my faith in family, dreams, and life alive. This one is for my dad: my biggest, silent fan.

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For the record: I wanted this to be a super elaborate, praise-to-the-heavens post to celebrate Father’s Day, much like I did with my Mother’s Day Post last month. However, my dad (summed up in 3 words) is a real practical man and dislikes reading anything that is longer than a page. So here’s me suppressing all my natural instincts and writing to the point for you, Dad.

Also, sorry in advance for already making this post too long, but you’d better be reading more than just the abstract (which I included anyway for you, just in case you don’t read beyond it).

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When I was 7 or 8, I went to a Father’s Day dance at the local YMCA and danced with my dad to Bob Carlisle’s “Butterfly Kisses.” My dad told me that letting go of his hand instead of holding on tightly was the easiest way to make sure my hand didn’t get all twisted up while he was spinning me around.

When I was 10, I got out of the car for summer camp one day and said I didn’t want to kiss him goodbye because my friends might see.

When I was 13, I told him that I couldn’t wait to grow up and do big people things, like driving a car. He told me to wait.

When I was 15, a close friend was critically hospitalized following an incident at home. I debated whether or not to visit the hospital that night and my dad told me quietly that I should. I did. We attended her memorial a few days later.

When I was 22, my dad introduced me to this song, Cats in the Cradle.

When I was in the cafe writing this post yesterday afternoon, I cried and had to get up to go to the bathroom so my friend wouldn’t see.

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My dad–like most human beings–is not a perfect person. He is an amazing man, and he is also wonderfully, delightfully flawed. I love him just the way he is.

He can be grumpy, yes. We joke about his grumpiness all the time, and though he can be even more so now that I’m no longer around, I wouldn’t change him for the world, any more than I would change my mom or my brother or anyone else dear to me.

If I had to be stuck on a desert island with one other person, it would probably be my dad. He’s innovative and fearless–he once fought off a guy in a huge wolf costume who was scaring my brother and me at the Universal Studios House of Horrors….at least, until the worker supervising the area said to him a loud voice, “Sir, PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE ACTORS.”

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My dad is the world’s most incredible sideline supporter. More importantly, almost nobody knows or appreciates this fact because he doesn’t tell anybody about it. He never complains, even when he has to drive an hour-and-a-half home and back to bring the case of cupcakes I had left behind on my last day of work.

So this is my declaration to the world that thinks my dad is just your average, matter-of-fact, serious, tech industry guy: my dad happens to rock, thank you very much.

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When I told him I had gotten into my English grad school program, all he said was, “Well, good job.” No fanfare, no streamers, nothing that would have made you think he was saying anything more exciting than, “I’ll have the Peking duck.”

But if you know anything about my dad, there’s a little inflection to his tone that makes you feel as warm inside as if he had shouted his felicitations off the roof of the Empire State Building for the city to hear. My dad is proud of us, but he’s not a bragger, and I learned early on in life that that was one quality towards which I would always aspire.

I’ve mostly fallen short–I still like talking a lot about my achievements with friends and family–but there he is, always: unwavering, silent, strong, and a supporter to beat all the rest.

Vanilla Cupcake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

My dad is an extreme pragmatist, but I would also call him a positivist. Even though the two terms don’t always go together, he always emphasizes the importance of living for the moment–as long as you know that your choices won’t leave you or your family without bread on the table at the end of the day. My dad may be in the tech industry, and like all Asian parents he’s a realist when it comes to getting a solid job. Oddly enough, though, I felt comfortable enough pursuing my PhD in English because he never questioned me about my motives–he accepted that I would need to explore on my own (though he entertained his share of private concerns, I’m sure) and simply let me do the things I had always wanted to try.

I am 110% grateful for his ability not to grow hysterical when I am, his knack for listening without saying a word in a way that I would never be patient enough to do, and–probably most of all–his willingness to put everything down at the most trivial phone call from us and drive right over.

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The world deserves to hear everything about him, but I know I can’t write everything–anyway, he wouldn’t want to read it. But this is the man who will wait for 4 hours outside after driving me to meet up with a friend without once complaining; in fact, he’ll joke about being my “personal chauffeur” (our shared, extremely DRY sense of humor is another topic for another time, but we are so related). In many ways, he lives for his family, and I can’t ever, ever thank him enough for teaching us that.

So I’ll end this already beyond-the-limit post by just saying this as I finish up:

Dad, I don’t care if you never share this post with anyone, because you probably won’t. But there’s one thing you should know.

I may not be silent. I may not be patient. And sometimes it may feel like I need your support more than you need mine.

But I am also–and always–your very biggest fan. I love you!

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Even though I don’t think he’d go out of his way to eat these cupcakes (he’s not a big sweets fan), they’re not overly sweet–just simple, fluffy vanilla cupcakes with an easy chocolate buttercream frosting. But this unassuming pairing is one of the most amazing things I have made in a long while, and so it’s the perfect treat to be posting for my dad today. Since I was delivering these cupcakes long-distance, I also created these styrofoam cut-out cupcake holders to protect them from jostling against each other–something I thought my innovative dad might find amusing. All you have to do is cut out the bottom of the cup and slip in a cupcake–and push it up from the bottom when you want to eat it. Neat, huh? I hope you guys love this recipe as much as I do!

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, and to all of the fathers out there who are celebrating today!

Love, your baby dragon and Daddy’s girl.


Simple Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 1 dozen cupcakes


For the vanilla cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the chocolate buttercream frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon Kahlua (can substitute with vanilla)
  • 1 tablespoon soy milk or milk, as needed


For the vanilla cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 muffin tin cups with cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together melted butter and sugar.
  3. Stir in egg whites, yogurt, and soy milk. Add vanilla extract and mix in.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold in very gently until mixture is just incorporated into wet batter.
  5. Divide batter between 12 liners, filling each liner approximately 2/3 of the way up. Bake for 17-19 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out mostly clean with moist crumbs clinging to it. Allow to cool completely before frosting with chocolate buttercream frosting (instructions below).

For the chocolate buttercream frosting:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, cocoa, and confectioners' sugar. Add vanilla and Kahlua (if using). To thin out your frosting even more, add milk as needed, up to 1-2 tablespoons.



20 Replies to “Simple Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting”

  1. What a wonderful tribute to your dad 🙂 And these cupcakes look amazing! Simple is often best! I also love the idea for these cupcake holders. So Cute!

    1. Aw, thanks a bundle, Allison–I’m glad you like the cupcake holders, they’re pretty cheesy but useful 😉 I hope you had a wonderful weekend as well!

  2. This is such a lovely post. Thank you.

    1. No, thank YOU, Phyllis! So glad you could stop by to read 🙂 have a wonderful week!

  3. Good job. 😉 Both on the cupcakes and the post. Lovely tribute, and I’ll bet your dad will read every word.

    1. I hope so, I just sent him the link–but thank you for your faith, John. I appreciate it!

  4. Beautiful post, I hope your dad had a great day! These cupcakes look delicious and the holders, so cute!

    1. I called him yesterday and he said he had a “normal day,” but I think he was secretly happy after getting our presents and reading this post 😉 heh, go figure. Thanks, Jess!

  5. Ala, this was beautiful, heartfelt, funny, thoughtful. I loved it. Your Dad sounds like an amazing person.

    1. Courtney, you are so spot on–I am one lucky daddy’s girl! Thank you so much, it means a lot 🙂

  6. Girl, saying “I’ll have the peking duck” is pretty damn thrilling to me so I’m sure he was crazy proud of you (just silently and inwardly, as all Asian parents are). What a wonderful tribute to your dad. You were sentimental and emotional while keeping it real. You know how much I love it when people keep it real! Your dad showed (and continues to show) you love in whatever way that he would. I love that he would wait for hours to drive you home or that he drove back to get your cupcakes at your office (ummm, major emergency! I would’ve sent someone to get them too!). I hope he reads every word of his post. And your cupcakes look fabulous. Nothing’s better than a really delicious vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting.

    1. Dawww I melt every time I read your comments. My dad did eventually read every word and jokingly gave me a hard time about it afterwards (he thought I was seriously going to keep it to one page–as if my job wasn’t hard enough already!!). I’ll keep in mind to bring you for peking duck or something when you come, hehe. You should send me your travel plans when you have em! And I’m still trying to get to your latest man food post but things have been so busy…..aghh soon!!

  7. they look yummy!

    1. Thanks so much, Dina!

  8. I love this post so much. As a fellow daddy’s girl, it touches my heart in more ways that I can express — what a lovely tribute. And YUM, these cupcakes! They look like utter perfection (as do those adorable cupcake holders!! Genius!) Love this, Ala 🙂

    1. Aw, YAY for us daddy’s girls! I’m so glad you enjoyed reading as I enjoyed writing–my dad always reminds me (when I send my parents “mom appreciation” vids) that dads do the same thankless job, which is so true. <3 You're too sweet, Cynthia--have a lovely weekend.

  9. What a sweet tribute to your dad 🙂 I hope he read it! My dad seems pretty similar to yours – I called him and it was a 10sec phone conversation: “Oh thank you. How’s work? Doing well? Okay bye.” Maybe it’s an asian dad thing…

    ps that styrofoam cupcake holder deal is frickin genius.

    1. HAHA it’s definitely an Asian dad thing (at least, I think so?)! I actually just had a totally representative conversation with him about my conference and he sort of made jokes about my incompetency, though I could tell he was pretty darn proud. Thank you, Shelley, you’re such a sweetheart!! <3

  10. Oh my goodness, YES! Love everything about these INCLUDING the Kahlua in the frosting – so smart!! Pinned!

    1. Haha, so glad you like it, Trish! Kahlua makes everything 100 times better, as you know very well 😉 thank you!

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