I made these deliciously decadent Vanilla cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream and Blood Orange Caramel Drizzle to celebrate the end of 2017 and to welcome in 2018. Vanilla, chocolate, and caramel are a winning combination!


This post is partially a review of Madhava Deliciously Organic Super Yummy Yellow Cake Mix. Last night I rung in the New Year with a small group of friends. We played games, drank red wine, prosecco, and champagne, ate small bites, snacks, and these cupcakes.

Decorated vanilla cupcakes with nutella buttercream

The frosting for these vanilla cupcakes came about from something I saw on an episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Master Chef tv show. One of the competitors made a blood orange caramel for a cake he baked. It sounded so interesting to me, I made a mental note to try it on something myself. Fortunately, blood oranges are currently in season, yay, so the timing was perfect for our New Year’s Eve celebration.

Blood orange

Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

I have been working on a scratch vanilla cake recipe for a while now and I have yet to perfect it. So I decided to search for a yellow box mix that is healthier than the ones we’re all used to seeing and buying in our local supermarkets. The hunt was on and I found several options but ultimately decided on a yellow cake mix by Madhava Naturally Sweet.

Front of Madhava cake mix

This mix is made with ancient grains like Spelt and Kamut, two types of wheat. Spelt and Kamut are both excellent sources of protein, dietary fiber, dietary minerals, and several B Vitamins. This mix also has less sugar than the more popular yellow cake mixes you and I grew up eating.

Cake mix ingredients list

This mix was not easy to find. I ended up ordering it from Vitacost because although I’m a big Amazon shopper, it cost a lot less on Vitacost.

Once I received the mix, preparing it was as easy as any other box cake mix. The only things I needed to add were eggs, oil, and water. I also added a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, which is completely optional because there is some vanilla in it already. The addition of an extra teaspoon did not change the flavor or make it taste too strong. I like to taste the vanilla in my vanilla cupcakes!

Back of box

Once the cupcakes were finished baking I couldn’t wait to taste them. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would like them or not. Well…I did! The cupcakes came out light, moist, and airy. They had a nice mild vanilla flavor without being too sweet.

Vanilla cupcakes ready for the oven
Vanilla cupcakes ready

While they were cooling I prepared the buttercream frosting. I do not like American buttercream at all, and by do not like, I mean hate. It’s usually waaaaayyy too sweet and it tastes like biting into a stick of butter. While that may sound good to some people, it sounds awful to me- like a stomachache waiting to happen. So instead I opted for the Italian meringue buttercream. This buttercream requires more steps and more ingredients but it is also lighter, thanks to the addition of egg whites, and less sweet.

Nutella Buttercream

ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM- I used this Recipe from Serious Eats. I only made half the amount as I was also adding a jar of 13 oz Nutella and that made up for the difference.

Nutella buttercream

With this amount of frosting, I was able to generously frost 12 cupcakes. Once the buttercream was ready I mixed in the Nutella with a silicone spatula. It tasted SOOOOO good. I then added the frosting to a piping bag and piped all 12 cupcakes which by this point had cooled. Always, make sure your cakes or cupcakes have cooled completely before frosting otherwise your frosting will melt and slide off. 🙁

Frosted vanilla cupcakes

I set the frosted vanilla cupcakes aside and began working on the caramel sauce. Caramel is one of the easiest sweets to make. It is also one of the easiest to mess up if you don’t pay attention to what’s happening in the pot. I think the blood orange caramel was a nice addition to this cupcake but you can leave it off. If you prefer, you just make a regular caramel sauce and leave out the blood orange. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract at the end if you aren’t using any orange.

Blood Orange Caramel


1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tbsp water

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/4 cup + 2 tbsp heavy cream

3 tbsp fresh squeezed blood orange juice (or another orange type if blood orange cannot be found)

Ingredients for caramel


Add sugar and water to a heavy bottomed pan and give a quick stir with a fork to make sure it is at an even level and all of the sugar is moistened by the water.

Place the pot over a medium-high heat and cook until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture goes from cloudy to clear.

Carefully swirl the pot regularly to keep the sugar moving and even. There is boiling sugar in the pot so don’t swirl it too vigorously. Cook until the sugar mixture turns to a dark honey or amber color. Once it reaches this stage turn off the heat, add the heavy cream and stir while adding the butter. Continue to stir until smooth and creamy, just a couple of minutes. Pour into a heat-resistant bowl or jar and add the blood orange or vanilla, mix it in, and let it cool before using.

Blood orange caramel sauce

Once cooled I used a mini whisk to drizzle the caramel over the vanilla cupcakes.

I hope you try these Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream and Blood Orange Caramel Drizzle. Also, check out Madhava yellow cake mix. It tastes great and is a big help when your time is limited. Also, if you aren’t able or just don’t want to make a cake from scratch. Check out some of my other dessert recipes on My dessert page.

Follow my blog on Bloglovin’. Enjoy!

*This is not a paid review.


  • I LOVE your blog! It’s so informative and very easy to follow the recipe. I don’t cook so I really appreciate that. I want one ( or some ) right now!

  • Holy moly, this looks and sounds amazing! I’m actually gonna try this, at least the cupcake part and using the healthier along alternative. I will try with the frosting (minus the Nutella, because I don’t care for the taste or consistency) , but beyond that, this is a total WINNER! I’m a real cake person, so this is right up my alley! Gotta say I love your recipes and your attention to detail!

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