Moist Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting.

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This was a favorite yellow cupcake recipe a few years back. Since then, I’ve worked to perfect them. My updated yellow cupcakes recipe is extra moist, soft, and packed with buttery vanilla flavor. Using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, adding sour cream, and skipping the fluffy egg whites are the secrets. I would love to know if you try either recipe!

Homemade Yellow Cupcakes

Nothing beats a classic yellow cupcake topped with chocolate buttercream. And I know I’m pretty biased because sprinkles is middle name (*wishes*), but yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting taste 1,000x better when there are rainbow sprinkles on top. Am I right or am I right?

Homemade Yellow Cupcakes Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Homemade Yellow Cupcakes Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Yellow cupcakes are about as classic as apple pie. As iconic as chocolate chip cookies and as supreme as chocolate cake. I can’t remember a single birthday without a yellow cupcake covered in creamy chocolate frosting.

The homemade yellow cupcakes I remember from growing up are rich, tender, moist little versions of yellow sheet cake. Each bite seemed to completely melt in my mouth – though most of it ended up on my face and fingers. All good desserts are messy.

Before you go reaching for boxed mixes and canned frosting, take 2 seconds to read this sentence: nothing beats the flavor of a homemade yellow cupcake. If you’re shaking your head doubting your cupcake baking skills, let me tell you that it’s easy to make buttery, rich, moist yellow cake from scratch! And you can do it with everyday ingredients like milk, flour, sugar, and eggs. These yellow cupcakes taste quite similar to my very vanilla cupcakes, but have a fluffier texture. Less vanilla flavor, more buttery flavor. They’re darker in color and richer in taste (thanks to the egg yolks). My yellow cupcakes require a little more patience and a few more steps, but once you take that first bite – it is soooo worth it.

Update: And you know what? I have an even better yellow cupcakes recipe on my blog now. After seeing mixed reviews about the yellow cupcake recipe below, I worked to improve them. I’m so pleased with the new peanut butter cupcake recipe, so let me know if you try them! I’m leaving the original yellow cupcake recipe below too.

Homemade Yellow Cupcakes Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Homemade Milk Chocolate Frosting - smooth, velvety, and rich! Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

A few things:

  1. The butter and sugar are creamed together. I find this creates a cakier tasting cupcake with a lighter crumb. Make sure you beat the butter and sugar together until they are nice and fluffy, at least 2-3 minutes. It seems like a long time, but trust me. You are beating air into the mixture which produces a lighter textured cake.
  2. Separate the eggs. I tested a few methods these past few weeks and went through nearly 1 dozen eggs in my yellow cupcake mission. I found the fluffiest texture is produced when the egg yolks are mixed with the creamed butter/sugar. And the egg whites are whipped to a foamy, thick texture and then folded into the batter right before baking.
  3. For the richest tasting cupcakes, use whole milk or even buttermilk.
  4. This chocolate buttercream frosting is a favorite. It makes several appearances in my cookbook, too! I give some suggestions for other frostings you can use in the recipe notes, so take a peek.

No piping tip for these cupcakes, just a simple swirl using a knife.

Homemade Yellow Cupcakes Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Enjoy, cupcake lovers.

Moist Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting

This was a favorite yellow cupcake recipe a few years back. Since then, I’ve worked to perfect them. My updated yellow cupcakes recipe is extra moist, soft, and packed with buttery vanilla flavor. Using cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, adding sour cream, and skipping the fluffy egg whites are the secrets. I would love to know if you try either recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 2 and 1/4 cups (280g) sifted all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (180g) unsalted butter, softened too room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • chocolate buttercream and sprinkles for decoration

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe only makes 16-18 cupcakes, so you'll have 4-6 cupcakes to bake in a 2nd batch.
  2. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat 2 egg whites on high speed in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. You want them very fluffy; no liquid at the bottom of the bowl (which makes for too much liquid in the batter). See photo at the bottom of this post for a visual. Set aside.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. 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 2-3 minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add two egg yolks and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the whole milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not over-mix. Fold whipped egg whites into cupcake batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
  5. Spoon batter into cupcake liners filling halfway full. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine usually take 21 minutes. Don't over-bake.. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  6. Prepare chocolate buttercream. Pipe or spread the frosting onto cooled cupcakes. Decorate with sprinkles.

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. Decorate/assemble cupcakes immediately before serving. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3 days. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

  1. Readers have asked if cake flour can be used instead of all-purpose flour. Yes, absolutely! I recommend 2 and 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (you'll need a little more than if you were using all-purpose).
  2. Do not try speeding up the process of allowing your butter to come to room temperature by microwaving. I never suggest doing this! Butter must be softened, but not melty in the slightest. Set out 1 hour before beginning. See more about room temperature butter.
  3. For richest tasting cupcakes, I recommend whole milk or buttermilk.
  4. Instead of chocolate buttercream, try my dark chocolate frosting, coconut frosting, vanilla frosting, Nutella frosting, peanut butter frosting, or chocolate peanut butter swirl frosting.
  5. Layer cake: You can easily turn this into a yellow layer cake. Simply pour batter into two greased and (lightly) floured 9-inch cake pans and bake for 27-35 minutes. Cakes are done when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Frost as desired.
  6. Mini cupcakes: For around 40 mini cupcakes, line mini cupcake pans with liners or spray with nonstick spray. Prepare cupcakes and frosting as directed. Bake mini cupcakes for 12-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Make sure your egg whites are thick and foamy after beating and before folding into the cupcake batter. Like this:

How to make Homemade Yellow Cupcakes

The cupcake batter is smooth, velvety, and slightly thick. It is very easy to spoon into the cupcake liners.

How to make Homemade Yellow Cupcakes

The yellow cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and when the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched.

Homemade Yellow Cupcakes Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

279 Comments

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  1. These cupcakes are divine! They are defintely going to be my go-to cupcakes. I frosted them with the leftover orange buttercream I had and ran out of frosting midway, but that’s okay because these babies taste delicious on its own. In fact, they are so wonderful that I’m planning to make another batch next week with your salted caramel frosting recipe! 

  2. Hi Sally,

    I love this recipe! The cupcakes come out fluffy and moist every time. I do have a lot trouble with the frosting though. My frosting always comes out very light brown which ruins the presentation. Any idea what I might be doing wrong? Also there is always a slight salty aftertaste with the frosting. Am I not mixing it long enough? 

    1. Hi Nit! Mixing wouldn’t be the issue. You can try adding more cocoa powder and, as a result of the extra, you can add an extra Tablespoon of cream. Or you can switch out some of the confectioners’ sugar for cocoa. And feel free to leave out the salt.

  3. hey Sally, well I’m planning to bake these vanilla cupcakes for my friends birthday, am I instead of whole milk can I use buttermilk? did I understand your notes right? 🙂 thank you! 😀

  4. I made the two layer cake and followed the recipe but I found two problems with mine; 
    1. The batter was kind of thick, it was smooth but very hard to get into the pan. 
    2. When the cake came was done I tried it and it was moist but broke apart very easily. 

    Do you have any suggestions to what I did wrong or could do differently ? 

    1. Karissa- I’m concerned about how thick your batter was. It’s supposed to be thick, but still manageable to easily transfer to the pans. I recommend spooning and leveling your flour and perhaps reduce by 2-3 Tbsp total. A dry cake resulting from too much flour would make it crumbly.

  5. My son has severe peanut/tree nut allergies so for the last 3 years I have had to bake cupcakes for every party at school/home/outings and this is by far the best cupcake recipe I have found yet, thank you for your detailed instructions and the amazing recipe!

  6. Followed the recipe to a T. These were EXCELLENT. Not as yellow as yellow box cakes, but still, perfect. Thanks for a great recipe!

  7. By far the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. Box cake mixes do not compare! I just read that others have problems with the cupcakes sinking. I’ve had that happen to me as a result of not whipping the egg whites long enough. Fluffy beaten egg whites are necessary. Thanks for sharing,. I want to try these with your white chocolate frosting next.

  8. I am disappointed in this recipe and I am wondering what went wrong! I wound up baking these cupcakes for about 23 minutes, and I let them sit for 5 minutes after. They were difficult to get out of the muffin tin without breaking oh smashing! I feel like they are still a bit dense and underdone. What do you think went wrong? I did not tweak the recipe at all. I

    1. Did you use cupcake liners or not? For making cupcakes, you should always use cupcake liners to not to let them stick to the pan. I’ve tried making another cupcake recipe without the liners and it sticks like crazy, just like yours.

  9. This was one of the best yellow cake recipes I have ever tried!  I made a cake instead of cupcakes and it was a hit!

  10. This is what I have been looking for! I was just about to come to the conclusion that maybe you could get great flavor from scratch yellow cupcakes, but not great texture. You saved me from thinking I would always end up having to tweak a box. I was so tired of testing recipes and wasting ingredients. I saw your pics and thought I’d give it one more shot., and I’m so glad I did. I just made them, and they are excellent! They are delicious, moist and fluffy and not at all dense or “cornbready.”  I’m so glad I came across this recipe before throwing in the towel!

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