Yields: about 24 cupcakes

TIP:  For best results, have ALL ingredients at room temperature before starting.

Tie-Dye Vanilla Cake 

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 ¾ cups whole milk (or buttermilk; let the cup overflow a bit)
  • 3 to 6 food colorings  Pro tip: Americolor GEL food coloring is Melissa’s favorite and elicits the brightest colors. You can get it on Amazon!

  1. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter for 1 minute on high speed, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
  2. Add the vanilla extract. While mixing at medium-low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Scrape down the edges of the bowl midway through.
  3. Combine the flour, baking powder, and sea salt in a separate bowl.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add half the flour mixture. When it’s mostly incorporated, add half the milk. Add the remainder of the dry and wet ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Stop mixing as soon as you have a smooth batter.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two standard 12-cup cupcake pans or line them with paper liners.
  6. Divide the cake batter evenly among 3-6 small bowls (one bowl for each food dye shade you plan to use). Add food coloring to each bowl–1 drop at a time–until the desired intensity of each color is reached. Scoop each color into a disposable pastry bag and snip the tip of the bag. I tie the ends of the pastry bags with plastic wrap or rubber bands to keep the batter in. TIP: If you don’t have pastry bags, just use a ziploc bag!
  7. Pipe the batter into each of the cupcake cups, one color at a time, one over the next. (You could also use a spoon, but the pastry bags/ziploc make this much easier.)
  8. To make the tie dye effect, drag a skewer through the batter in a swirl motion. Don’t overmix the colors.
  9. Bake until the cupcakes feel springy when you gently press your finger against it, about 25-30 minutes. Set the cupcakes aside to cool completely before icing.


Vanilla Icing 

  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

  1. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on high speed for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and whip just to incorporate.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the confectioners’ sugar and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the sugar mixture 1 cup at a time until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. Whip on high speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. (optional) If desired, add food coloring to icing, one drop at a time until desired shade is reached, mix to distribute.  (Americolor Food GEL colorings are great and result in the most vibrant colors!)
  4. Once your cupcakes have cooled completely – Fit a disposable pastry bag with a round tip and fill with the Vanilla Icing (recipe below). Pipe icing in a swirl motion to cover each cupcake.  Or just use a knife.

Add sprinkles, chocolate chips or whatever you feel like! Get creative!