Addictive Recipes from a Self-Taught Baker

Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

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

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!

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

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

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 online. 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

Cupcake batter for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

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

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

For the frosting, you can use anything. Pictured here is my go-to vanilla buttercream 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 buttercreamstrawberry buttercream, marshmallow frosting, white 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!

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

Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes


  • 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 (or an extra 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature3
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature3
  • vanilla buttercream and sprinkles for decorating


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2-3 liners since this recipe makes about 14-15 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. 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 40 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Frost cooled cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. 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.


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


  1. Will adding sprinkles to the batter change anything? D you have a suggestion to how much sprinkles to add?

  2. I am confused, if I want to use pure vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean. How much do I add?

  3. Sally! These are the BEST cupcakes I’ve ever made….and I’ve made a lot!!! I was looking for a good, solid, vanilla cupcake recipe. I liked the sound of your recipe; something about the sour cream intrigued me. I didn’t have cake flour, so I used your suggestion and made my own. Can I tell you they are amazing?The flavor of the cupcakes as they baked! The finished product is simply delicious. I love the texture- pretty darn close to that of a boxed cake mix but the taste far surpasses any box mix I’ve ever made. Thank-you for a lovely addition to my recipes. Now, what do you have for a true chocolate cupcake??

  4. I made these cupcakes yesterday and they are wonderful. Hands down the best scratch-made vanilla cake I’ve had. I’m curious if you have used this recipe for cake, would it be sturdy enough for layering/stacking?

  5. Hi there! Can this recipe be halved for 6 cupcakes or will it not work as well?

  6. I come from a long line of bakers and have made many different types of cakes and cupcakes. These are hands down the absolute BEST white cake cupcakes I have ever made or even tasted!!! The texture is perfect!! The vanilla flavor is so good!! I LOVE them!!! I will be using your salted caramel frosting to ice them. I have high hopes for that also.
    Thank you thank you!!!

  7. Love love love these cupcakes. They are amazing. Ive made them for a gender reveal for a friend as well as for the super bowl! 
    Can this be made into a cake round cake? 

  8. Hi Sally can i substitute sour cream with any other ingrident?

  9. Hi sally 
    I hear many bakers say you can double but not triple baking recipes. Does that rule apply here? Fourteen will not be enough for a weekend party. 

    Thanks! Aisha 

    • I typically just make 2 or 3 batches instead of doubling/tripling. Personally I find that working with so much extra batter risks over or under-mixing.

  10. Hi Sally what if you dont have vanilla bean. But you do have vanilla extact (not the concentrated one). What will you do ? Just ignote the vanilla bean and carry on with the 3 tsp of the vanilla extract ?

  11. Hi Sally, Would heavy cream, instead of whole milk, work?

  12. I was looking for a cupcake to make for a colleagues little girls birthday. I needed something that didn’t go dry after a few hours and could sit out all day without getting stale. Oh.My.Goodness. These cupcakes are fantastic. They’re soft but spongy – in a good way – and they’re delicate too. The cake flour makes all the difference. After getting the tick of approval from both my husband and my brother I’m confident that these little cakes are going to be a hit.

  13. Can I use non dairy milk like almond milk instead of whole milk for a non dairy option? 

  14. If I am making a 4″ smash cake should i use this recipe or the white layer cake recipe?

  15. Hi Sally,
    These are on my next up bake list (tomorrow)
    Question though, if some is a little sensitive to dairy, can margerine or vegetable be used with the yolks…(even though it wont result in the white color )
    Thanks for the wonderful recipe

    • Hi Tara! I haven’t tested the recipe with either, but not only will the color of the cupcakes change– the texture and taste will as well. Creamed butter + sugar is the base of this recipe, so leaving the butter out (even replacing the fat with yolks) isn’t ideal.

  16. Hi! I was wondering, if I don’t have whole milk, then can I use 2% milk instead?

  17. I LOVE LOVE LOVE (<3) this recipe! In fact I was thinking of using them for Boston Cream Pie cupcakes – do you think it would work? <3

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