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 are 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!

yellow cupcakes topped with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles

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?

overhead image of yellow cupcakes topped with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles

yellow cupcakes topped with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles

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 leaving the original yellow cupcake recipe below too.

yellow cupcakes without frosting on a white plate

milk chocolate frosting in a blue bowl with a spatula

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.

yellow cupcakes topped with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles with a bite taken out of one cupcake

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yellow cupcakes topped with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles

Moist Yellow Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 16-18 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

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 (266g) sifted all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (180g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (350g) granulated sugar
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature
  • chocolate buttercream and sprinkles for decoration

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: 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.
  2. Cake Flour: 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).
  3. Room Temperature Butter: 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.
  4. Milk: For richest tasting cupcakes, I recommend whole milk or buttermilk.
  5. Frosting: Instead of chocolate buttercream, try my dark chocolate frosting, coconut frosting, vanilla frosting, Nutella frosting, peanut butter frosting, or chocolate peanut butter swirl frosting.
  6. Cake: Here is my yellow sheet cake recipe and my layered yellow cake recipe.
  7. 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.
  8. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: yellow cupcakes

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

foamy egg whites in a blue bowl with a hand mixer

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

yellow cupcake batter in a bowl with a spatula

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.

yellow cupcakes topped with milk chocolate frosting and sprinkles on a blue and white plate

86 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Delicious! Mine turned out great except they weren’t as yellow as yours…but they taste good and I love the frosting!

  2. I didn’t like how the frosting tasted but the cake was good!

  3. These were fantastic and the frosting is AMAZING!

  4. These did not turn out for me. I had flat, spread out tops that resembeled sugar cookies. We loved the batter, but may need to make some adjustments. Thanks for the advice above, I’ll give it another try. Like many others have commented, your recipes have never failed before including the pastry that is a family favorite.

  5. Hi Sally! I can’t tell you how much I loooooove this recipe! It’s been my go-to non-chocolate cupcake recipe. So moist and so delicious even without frosting! My husband and kids love it too and sometimes I only get to frost a few pieces because they have already devoured some right out of the oven. 😀 I have observed that you changed the amount of all-purpose flour from 2 1/3 cups to 2 1/4 cups.  I made this recently and they came out too sweet (1 3/4 cups sugar), so I reviewed the recipe and noticed the change.  Do you think the reduced flour amout is better (and must be sifted)? Should I just reduce the sugar? Do the baking powder and salt need adjustment too?
    Hope you can address my questions. I love your recipes, and thank you for sharing them!! 🙂

    1. I find the cupcakes are a little lighter in texture with just a little less flour (using 2 and 1/4 cups). And yes, I prefer to sift it. The baking powder and salt do not need adjustment. You can reduce the sugar to 1 and 1/2 cups. This should help Kara! Thank you.

  6. I am making cupcakes for my niece’s birthday and am doing some research. She is going to have a flower themed party, so I though I would make cupcakes and pipe flowers for the frosting. It seems that butter cream is the favorite for piping, do you think that is a good pair for this recipe or do you have suggestions?

    1. Great pair with these cupcakes, yes!

  7. Hi Sally,

    I am glad I’ve found you. I love how you separate eggs for this recipe. Do you think it will work if I add cocoa for this recipe for chocolate cupcakes? It’s just your other chocolate recipes do not have the eggs separation method, expect for the red velvet recipe. I really want to good moist not dense chocolate cake recipe. 

    1. I do not recommend turning this into a chocolate batter. You can separate the eggs in my chocolate cupcake recipes if you prefer that method.

  8. Dawn Varquez-Paulk says:

    This is the best recipe for yellow cake I have ever made, they were so moist and light and very flavorful.  I made them with fresh strawberry frosting.  Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. I just baked these. I was nervous, there were a lot of things here that I don’t typically do when making cupcakes. These are the best yellow cupcakes I’ve ever had. They’re soft, moist, and have great flavor. Mine were pale, not golden yellow, but deep enough that it’s obvious it isn’t white cake. Mine actually made almost 2 dozen even with a bit of an overfill. Did anyone else get that many? I was scared I messed something up because the recipe indicated there wouldn’t be so many, but they all turned out lovely. Thanks for this recipe!!!! (Having more than anticipated isn’t a criticism, but a tasty, tasty surprise!)

  10. I made these cupcakes for my daughters graduation party last weekend. Delicious!! Very light and tender cake. Frosted some with Chocolate cream cheese frosting, some with butter cream split the frosting to make some pink and some white. Toasted some coconut for some and put sprinkles on others. Made the table colorful, beautiful and very delicious! This recipe is definitely a keeper!!

  11. Hi Sally, i have made your Yellow Cupcakes twice now, and while i LOVE the taste and texture of these cupcakes, the tops are sticky when i leave them to cool.
    It isnt an issue when i top it with buttercream, but i usually leave some plain because my kids love eating them without the buttercream (go figure huh!!! hahaha). And it is sticky. It doesnt affect the taste at all, but there must be something i am doing wrong. what advice can you offer me??????

    1. Perhaps they are underbaked? Other than that, I don’t think you are doing anything wrong. The tops of my unfrosted cupcakes (any recipe) sometimes get a little sticky after being stored in an airtight container. It’s just all the moisture.

  12. Hi Sally!

    I just wanted to say thanks for this AMAZING recipe! I followed all your instructions for the yellow cupcake to a T (with the exception of the sugar, I used caster sugar instead) and they came out incredibly delicious. I didn’t have problems with overflowing or too much cupcakes as some of your readers did, following the exact measurements as per you recipe, it made exactly 14! I was a little nervous making them as they were for my fiancè’s birthday and I was afraid I’d ruin them (it was also my first time making cupcakes!). He absolutely loved them and said they were the best cupcakes he’s had. I had a question — do you separate the egg whites and whip them up for your other cakes? 

    Thanks again! Xx

    1. So glad you loved these! I sometimes separate the eggs for cakes and cupcakes. When whipping the egg whites, it truly makes the cake more airy and fluffy.

  13. I made these for my daughter’s first birthday a couple weeks ago and they were delicious!! The cake and the frosting were delicious and the recipes were so easy to follow! The recipe made more than 16 cupcakes for me, but I’m always okay with more cupcakes. I also used your vanilla frosting recipe which I liked even more than the chocolate. Sooooo good!!!

  14. Do you measure 3 cups of powdered sugar and then sift it for the frosting? Do you recommend sifting or is it not a necessary step? I’m not one to make frosting much, so this would be a really useful and helpful tidbit for me. Thanks so much!

    1. I do not sift the confectioners’ sugar for this frosting. However, you could sift the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder together. Simply measure each out (3 and 1/2 cups, 1/2 cup respectively) and sift.

  15. The cupcakes turned out so well, thank you so very much Sally 🙂

  16. These cupcakes did not turn out as expected ! I followed the recipe exactly. The cupcakes were extremely crumbly and the frosting was entirely too thick, which made it very difficult to frost the cupcakes without breaking them.  

  17. BEST cupcakes ever! Sally, thank you so much for this recipe. I made two batches last weekend for a birthday party and several people asked me for the recipe. I love how soft the cupcakes are. And the flavor is outstanding.

  18. I forgot to tell you Sally, that we made these cupcakes on Friday night! It was my niece’s birthday and the birthday girl herself wanted to help out in the kitchen. We all had a ball making these from scratch. The cupcakes are moist and light as your describe. Thank you for sharing this one!
    I saw one commenter say the cupcakes turned out greasy. Ours weren’t like that at all but I wonder if her softened butter was melted. I mean even the smallest bit melted. I like to only have butter out for 30 minutes before creaming it. Any more than that and the creamed sugar/butter becomes greasy. 

  19. 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! 

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

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

  24. 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.

  25. 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

  26. 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!

  27. 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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