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 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

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
  • 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 liners - this recipe makes about 14 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 30 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. Oh my sweet goodness, Sally!!!!! I have been looking for a coconut cupcake recipe and thought hmm I wonder what would happen if I replaced the sour cream with coconut yogurt.  So I did. With half vanilla extract and half coconut extract! I Topped these with a mango buttercream! Like Hawaii in my mouth.  soooooo amazing!!  And also all your fault.  Ever since you shared that mango cake.  I don’t know where mango buttercream has been all my life but I am sooo glad I found it!  A thanks for always keeping my kitchen fresh with new ideas! Seriously this recipe is the best!

  2. I’m not an experienced baker but have made a recipe of yours in the past with great success.. I’ve recently taken on the task of making cupcakes for my daughters birthday party and thought this vanilla cupcake would be perfect..My question is- Can this recipe be doubled? is it as simple as that? Just x2 each ingredient? or would adjustments need to be made when making a large batch? Thanks for any advice:)

  3. This is the one! That’s it! This is the one I have been looking for a long time.I made it yesterday and ate one last night. It was fluffy, soft and just right amount of sweetness. So Yummy and… I put the rest in the freezer for over night then frosted with buttercream this morning. It was not same as fresh one BUT I think it gets more moist and so so so GOOD. This is my first time to use your recipe and can’t wait to try more of your recipes. I have one question for you. Which yellow or Vanilla cake or cupcake recipe is good for making 9X13 sheet cake pan?
    Thank you for your all hard work!!

  4. Hi Sally! This is my absolute favorite cupcake recipe, and I’ve baked it dozens of times to the delight of my friends and family.

    I just have one question: do you have any idea if I could adapt this recipe to make them matcha green tea flavored?

    I need to use up some matcha powder I have left over, so if I were to add it, how much would you recommend? Would I have to take out some flour, and/or add more moisture to compensate? 

    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Brenda! I wish I could help, but I don’t want to give any wrong suggestions. I haven’t tried matcha powder in any baking recipes so I really can’t say anything with confidence. Sorry!

  5. Hi sally.!!!! I baked these last night and they were amazing.! I stored them in a container and left on the kitchen counter, however today the cupkaws are very sticky and almost wet.. not sure what’s happened. I’m baking them for my wedding and plan to freeze them once I’ve baked them. Can you help.? So that I have the perfect crumb for my day…xx

  6. Hi Sally! I LOVE all of your delicious recipes! For sone reason, when I made these, mine went flat.(looked more like the pic on the left). I LOVE the volume in your wedding cupcakes! Do you think I could use that technique for these, folding whipped egg whites in at the end? Thanks so much!

  7. Hi Sally,

    I only ever have nondairy milk on hand, do you think using it in place of the whole milk would cause the same issue as skim milk?

  8. Do you always use store brand butter?
    What brand of flour do you use?
    Thank you.

    • I like all different brands of butter– store brand is great too! I use King Arthur flour almost exclusively.

  9. to avoid waste, do you think I could use the egg yolks? ie, 2 whole eggs, instead of 3 whites?

    • I don’t recommend it– the 3 egg whites are important to the texture and taste. See the post for why! 🙂 You can try another cupcake recipe that uses the whole egg instead if you’d prefer that.

  10. These look delicious! Do you have any idea whether you could use/substitute using vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract and vanilla bean would work?

  11. Hi Sally,

    I have a silly question for you: what on earth is the difference between yellow cake and vanilla cake? I know you have recipes for both on your site, but I could never figure out the difference (besides the slightly different hue).


  12. I made these over the weekend and they were absolutely perfect! Made 2 more cupcakes for me than what you stated in your recipe, but the 2/3 full tip was very helpful in determining that. I LOOOOVE these cupcakes! They are so soft and airy and they remind me of angel food cake! So delicate yet strong enough to hold up to a heaping load of frosting! It’s amazing thank you for sharing!

  13. Can this recipe be used for a layer cake? It looks perfect!

  14. Hi Sally, quick question, can I use whipping cream instead of sour cream? 

  15. could I replace the sour cream with buttermilk or heavy cream? No yogurt or sour cream in the house!

  16. Hi, Sally! I love this recipe and am using it to make 6 dozen cupcakes for a funeral tomorrow. Is it possible to double it? I know you recommended against it in some comments, but you say that your vanilla cake recipe is basically this recipe – only doubled. Would it hurt anything to double this, or would using the cake recipe yield the same results as these cupcakes? I really want these, but would rather not have to mix up 5 batches if I didn’t have to. Thanks! 

  17. Is there a way to use this batter and make chocolate cupcakes ? 

  18. Hi Sally,
    I think my first message went missing :/  I made these yesterday, finally a decent home made vanilla cupcake yay!    Im in Australia so just had a question about the type of sugar you used because sometimes we call things differently!  I do think when you say granulated sugar we are talking about the same thing, the stuff we put in our coffee, the finer grade we call caster sugar, you guys call super-fine I think.  But the reason i need to check is that after beating granulated sugar with butter for only 2 minutes I wouldn’t call it ‘creamed together’, its still extremely grainy. Is it still meant to be really grainy at that point or is my sugar wrong ?
    I went ahead and baked with a grainy cake mix (eek!)  but they still tuned out awesome.
    However if I’ve use the wrong type of sugar and can get an even better result would love to know the answer to that.. 
    Thanks Sally x

    • Hio Rhonda! It looks like you commented on the frosting recipe I recommend creaming for a bit longer if you find the two aren’t coming together. It will still be slightly grainy, but perfectly incorporated into the butter.

  19. Hi, would like to use this for a cupcake war birthday party. Is there a substitute for the vanilla bean seeds? Thanks!

  20. Hi Sally,
    Can you replace the whole milk with buttermilk in this recipe?

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