Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Fresh off of a weekend with a bunch of girlfriends celebrating a bride-to-be, it’s back to business this morning. My friend Katy is getting married in a couple months and we hung out up in the poconos, rented a boat, cheers’d to the bride, and laughed the whole darn time. But this morning I’m trading my sunglasses for my nerd glasses…

Are you ready to GEEK OUT about homemade vanilla cupcakes? Let’s get right into it.

Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Remember the mimosa cupcakes from the other week? It’s a new cupcake base I’ve been trying out. Champagne makes the cupcakes incredibly fluffy and light. I also really loved how soft they were– just as soft as cupcakes made from a box mix, but with a homemade taste. I couldn’t stop thinking about the cupcakes and imagined how they’d be as pure vanilla cupcakes. Take out the champagne (sorry!) and orange flavor and ramp up the vanilla. Could this work?

The answer, my friends, is yes. In fact, it’s HECK YES!!!

These homemade vanilla cupcakes are simply perfect. By far the fluffiest cupcakes I’ve ever made, not to mention soft and cakey with buttery and vanilla notes sprinkled throughout each crumb. In this post, I’m going to explain exactly how they are so jaw-droppingly awesome so you can (1) understand what the heck’s going on inside the batter and (2) be inspired to try them out in your own kitchen.

We’ll begin with the dry ingredients.

Cake flour for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

The base of this recipe comes from my very vanilla cupcakes, which have been my go-to vanilla cupcake for the past 3+ years. I love that recipe because it’s crazy simple. You don’t even need a mixer to make the batter! While they’re soft and fluffy, they’re not as cakey and light as I want vanilla cupcakes to be. So what I did was switch out the all-purpose flour for cake flour. Cake flour helps to produce the softest, lightest cakes and cupcakes you’ll ever eat. It’s sold right there by the regular flour in the baking aisle and I promise that you’ll use up that entire box in no time after you taste these.

We’ve also got baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Baking soda for lift, baking powder for extra lift given the amount of cupcake batter we’re working with. Remember when I explained to you why recipes call for both? It’s interesting what’s happening! (Nerd glasses game is strong right now.)

Ingredients for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

So that’s the dry ingredients. Now the wet ingredients. Lots of stuff happening here! Unlike my very vanilla cupcakes where you use melted butter, you will cream butter and sugar together here. This helps to produce an all-around cakier cupcake. I mean think about it: a fluffy mixture of butter and sugar is a fantastic base for making FLUFFY cupcakes, right? And then there are the egg whites. No egg yolks allowed. You’ll use 3 egg whites to give the cupcakes their structure, while also keeping them pristine white. Since we are losing a little fat from the missing egg yolks, we can add that back in via sour cream and whole milk. Baking’s so cool isn’t it?!?

Sour cream is a power ingredient here; it lightens up the crumb. Though my fave Greek yogurt could be used in its place, I find that cupcakes made with sour cream are less dense. Light and fluffy is the goal and sour cream is how we’ll reach it.

Vanilla bean is also pretty important. When I was testing these homemade vanilla cupcakes out last week (did you catch it on my Instagram story?), I found the overall flavor was lacking when I just used vanilla extract. Enter vanilla beans. ♥ I’ve gotten a lot of questions about where to purchase vanilla beans. I can usually find them at Whole Foods, but lately I’ve been ordering them offline. So simple.

The batter is moderately thick. Here’s what it will look like when everything’s mixed up. I like to run a whisk through it all a few times when it’s done in the mixer; this helps pick up any pieces of butter that could be at the bottom. Check out all those fancy vanilla beans!

Cupcake batter for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Cupcake batter for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Rewind to when I was testing this recipe last week. I wasn’t going to post this picture, but thought it would be fun to show you what two cupcake prototypes looked like. This is batch #2 and batch #3. Batch #2 (left) used 3/4 cup whole milk and sifted cake flour. That was way too much liquid and the flour was too airy from sifting. See how squat it is? It was practically wet inside! Batch #3 (right) was just perfect. 1/2 cup whole milk, no sifting the cake flour. Just enough liquid and flour, oh-so-fluffy and divine.

Simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Batch #3 is the winner! Don’t they look fabulous inside? This is the texture all homemade vanilla cupcakes should be!

Simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on sallysbakingaddiction.com

For the frosting, you can use anything. Pictured here is my go-to vanilla frosting. I tinted some of it pink with 2 drops of red food coloring. But your frosting options are essentially endless. Here are some suggestions: rainbow chip frosting, chocolate fudge frosting, strawberry buttercream, marshmallow frosting, white chocolate frosting, milk chocolate frosting, raspberry frosting, or cream cheese frosting.

Sprinkles not optional, but you already knew that.

Alright, time to quickly recap and take these nerd glasses off. Here are the power ingredients making these the most simply perfect vanilla cupcakes ever:

  • Cake flour
  • Sour cream
  • 3 egg whites
  • Whole milk (1/2 cup, no more)
  • Vanilla bean

Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Here are my favorite chocolate cupcakes if you’re interested 🙂

Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour1
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract2
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature3
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature3

Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 - 5 cups (480-600g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • salt, to taste
  • optional: 2 drops red food coloring to tint pink, sprinkles

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners - this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners - fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Frost cooled cupcakes. I simply used an icing knife.

Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

  1. If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  2. For best flavor, pure vanilla extract is strongly recommended. If using imitation, increase to 1 Tablespoon (3 teaspoons).
  3. Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.

Did you make a recipe?

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© Sally’s Baking Addiction. All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use my images without prior permission. If you want to republish this recipe, please re-write the recipe in your own words, or link back to this post for the recipe.

SHOP THE RECIPE

Here are some items I used to make today’s recipe. The sprinkles are by Sweetapolita called the Masquerade twinkle sprinkle medley.

Kitchenaid Stand Mixer | Vanilla Beans | Flex Edge Beater | 5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Bowl | Cupcake Pan | Icing Knife | Cupcake Liners

Some of the links above are affiliate links, which pays me a small commission for my referral at no extra cost to you! Thank you for supporting Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com
Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe! sallysbakingaddiction.com

210 comments

  1. Sally, you’re my #1 person I go to. Question about Cake Flour. I’m going to make a container of 4 cups of cake flour. So if the recipe I’m making says to use 1 1/2 cups AP flour, how much of the Cake Flour that I’ve made up would I use? Would is use 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbsp of the Cake Flour? I’m kind of confused on this!

    • I’m a little confused as well! But you always want to use slightly more cake flour because it’s much lighter and more airy than all-purpose. I’d say 1.5 cups + 2 Tbsp would be accurate.

  2. Hi! Quick question, baking these for my daughters birthday… however, my youngest is milk/dairy intolerant, so in order to keep everyone happy and healthy…can I substitute full fat coconut milk for sour cream and the silk coconut milk for whole milk? 

    • I’m actually making these today with coconut milk instead of whole milk! I can let you know how they turn out, but the real issue is probably from the sour cream substitution. I don’t know anything about sour cream vs full fat coconut milk but my guess is that it might be too heavy for the cupcakes and make them a little dense. I’ll let you know how my coconut milk cupcakes turn out though if it helps!

  3. What would I need to change in this recipe to make it chocolate cupcakes?  I made the vanilla ones and they were fabulous. Just want to make chocolate using cake flour and sour cream … made the cupcake so light and fluffy!!!  Thanks. 

  4. Hi Sally! Do you think I could add raspberries to the batter by just folding into the batter prior to baking? My boyfriend loves the combo of white chocolate and raspberries so I wanted to make a simple vanilla cupcake with raspberries and white chocolate icing. I also found your blueberries ‘n creme cupcakes (which look AMAZING) and thought about just switching to raspberries and topping with white chocolate icing? I’m planning to make a test batch this weekend so maybe I should just try both!

  5. Can this batter be used to make your snickerdoodle cupcakes? Or will the cinnamon sugar weigh it down? Thanks!

  6. What is the measurement for 2/3 of a cupcake? 
    How can I fill the cupcake wrappers even? 
    My cupcakes always come out different sizes.

  7. Could I easily turn this into a cake instead of cupcakes? I need to bake my daughter’s birthday cake and this recipe looks lovely. 

  8. Any tips on tripling the recipe? I need about 40 cupcakes.

    • I recommend making 3 separate batches. I do not recommending tripling it all in 1 bowl. Working with that much batter and you possibly won’t be able to cream the butter properly OR mix without overmixing the batter.

  9. Hi Sally, I made these yesterday for my niece’s 2nd birthday and they were amazing! The best vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever tried. I’ve made your very vanilla cupcakes countless times but wanted to give this recipe a try and I’m so glad I finally did. I could tell they were going to be good by how light and mousse-like the batter was. I made one change by using one egg + 1 egg white, because I didn’t want to waste extra yolks. They still came out perfect. Thank you so much for another foolproof recipe.

  10. I have made the cupcake recipe (not the frosting) twice this month. The second time I made it I doubled it, poured it into three 6″ cake pans and had enough leftover for 11 cupcakes. I baked the cakes at 325 for about 25 minutes and they were beautiful! Delicious recipe! Thanks!

  11. Quick question: I love your strawberry shortcake cupcakes and was planning to make them this weekend. Would you recommend switching to this for the base? I like a cupcake that is a little denser in general. Thanks so much! Love your blog bake from it all the time 🙂

  12. Hi Sally,

    Is the cake flour self-rising or not self-rising?

    • Cake flour typically is not self rising. Self rising flour will have leavening agents added to them!

      • I asked because Presto does make a self-rising cake flour as opposed to Swan’s which is not self-rising and never make the assumption since I have seen the Presto brand requested in certain recipes. Thank you.

  13. Sally, Im a huge fan of yours and everything you bake! You rock! Thanks for sharing such great recipes and knowledge! Not sure if you have shared it before, but this will be my first time using vanilla beans and I dont know how much should I use for this recipe. Should I use 1 complete bean? Half? And also, how should I add the beans into the batter? Just whisking them? Im a little confused. Huge thanks, and again, you rock!

    • Hi Diana! I’m excited for you to try these cupcakes. You’ll need 1/2 of a vanilla bean. Cut a vanilla bean in half. Then cut it in half again lengthwise to open it up and reveal the seeds. Scrape the seeds out with a knife and add to the batter in step 3. Then beat on medium-high speed as it instructs. 🙂

  14. Hey Sally! 
    I need to make a large, rectangular cake approximately 24 ” x 18 ” 
    Would this recipe be appropriate to do and would it be strong enough to hold a few layers of cake and buttercream and a covering of fondant? Will it hold it’s shape?

  15. Sooo, I am in love with everything almond.  Could I sub out the vanilla extract for almond extract and make almond/vanilla cupcakes?

    • Those would almost be *TOO* almond-y. So I suggest subbing out some vanilla for almond. Maybe 1 teaspoon almond.

  16. Sally- Do you ever use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla beans? I know they are supposed to be an equal substitute, but I wanted to get your opinion if the taste was altered if I used vanilla bean paste instead of scraping the inside of a vanilla bean. Thanks!!

  17. I LOVE this frosting! How much would I need to fill and frost an 8 inch, 2 layer cake? 

    • Hi Stacey! I would 1.5x the recipe. I feel double the batch may be too much. To be safe, you can double– but you may have leftovers.

  18. Hello Sally! I never really keep sour cream in my fridge so I usually sub with its DIY versipn. However, you didn’t note that it could be used in this recipe. So can I use the DIY one instead of buying the actual sour cream? Thank you very much.

  19. Hey sally! I’m trying to make birthday cake cupcakes with nonpareils.  Trying to decide between this recipe +sprinkles and your funfetti cupcakes. This recipe looks real light and fluffy with the cake flour and sour cream. But I’m wondering if they will lack the birthday cake flavour. I can’t really tell from comparing the recipes what makes the distinct birthday cake flavour in the funfetti ones. Or is really just the sprinkles so I could go with either one? Thanks!! Really trying to capture the birthday cake like the ones at Sprinkles my friend is obsessed with (but we live in Canada!). 

  20. Thanks so much Sally. Sticking to this recipe plus sprinkles, now with confidence !

  21. Hi Sally, I’m getting ready to try this cupcake recipe. At what point should I add the milk? Thank you!!

  22. I love many of Sally’s recipes including this one. They are always a hit. However, while the cupcake portion of this recipe is truly delicious and fluffy, the best frosting is a cream cheese frosting. The buttercream frosting does not work with this recipe unfortunately. 

  23. I made these yesterday and they came out PERFECT! I even tried the two-toned roses with the 1M and look awesome. I’m going to make another batch today to use up the rest of the frosting. 🙂

  24. Very tasty but somewhat dense. aftet they cooled the top sank and they were a little undercooked. I ended popping them back on the oven for another 10 minutes. I know it wasn’t the recipe but this is the only thing I could think of.
    Could the density be affected by the fact they were undercooked and I had to put them back in once cooled? 

    • The same thing happened to me today. I took them out when they looked just a tad golden brown. But I think I should have waited a few more min. I’m going to try them again and see how that works. Tasted wonderful though! 

      • Yes they definitely taste delicious! I’m going to retry again as well.

      • I tried them again and the same thing happened. I baked them longer so they didn’t flatten out and they aren’t quite as dense as before. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. My batter is not as thick as in her video so I don’t know where I’m going wrong and maybe that’s why they’re turning out this way. 

  25. Hi Sally! Can i use the dry ingredients listed here as a cake mix to use in Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies? I’ve been searching for homemade vanilla cake recipe because i don’t want to just use a boxed cake mix. And also, is the sugar listed in the batter here is considered a part of the cake mix, or should i leave it out when making cake batter chocolate chip cookies? Because the recipe does call for sugar in addition to the cake mix. Thank you in advance for your answer

    • Hi Laksmi, I’m a little confused about your question. Are you trying to make the cake batter cookies without cake mix? I would suggest just making chocolate chip cookies and adding sprinkles. The cake batter flavor will not be present though– I’m unsure how to sub it back it without the mix.

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