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. Had to laugh at the “all good desserts are messy” thing. With me, even a simple peanut butter cookie makes a mess 😉

    Anyways, these look so good! The classic yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting were always my requested birthday treat, though my mom would get help from Betty Crocker…. Baking from scratch is ALWAYS better!

    1. I know it’s quick but I just had to add that I just put them in the oven! I already had some butter out because I was making cookies, and then *someone who shall not be named* informed me we needed a dessert for his mother’s dinner tomorrow so…

      Excited to see how they turn out!

  2. Sally they look awesome! Last year, well always actually, but one of the goals I always have for my baking is to remake/focus on some classic, and about a year ago I made yellow scratch cupcakes with milk choc frosting and I belabored that recipe for like a year before I even posted it! It’s such a great feeling to make a scratch classic and have it turn out just the way you want it and these look picture perfect:)

  3. These yellow cupcakes look delicious! I agree, scratch is always superior to boxed mixes 😉 I’v been looking for a go-to yellow cupcake recipe, I’m definitely going to be giving these a shot soon.

    Sydney Sun

  4. You are always so positive and encouraging to your readers, Sally; it’s something I love about your blog! So many bloggers seem to be TRYING to intimidate people out of trying a recipe, to prove how hard it is, but you always assure us that we can do it 🙂 These look delicious, as always 😀

    1. Thanks Caley! I can’t imagine trying to intimidate readers from making my recipes. What’s the point of having a blog then? Haha. Anyway, I got your email and will respond as soon as I have the chance.

  5. I’ve never really used whole milk in a recipe. Do you have any other whole milk recipes so that if I buy some I can use up the leftovers?

    1. Oh sorry, I didn’t see the whole milk recipe list earlier… Would a milk and vinegar buttermilk replacement be acceptable? Thanks for all your great recipes and advice.

  6. wow! these look amazing. Nothing beats a simple, classic recipe, especially if its done well. I can’t wait to try making these! in past experience, I’ve found that beating the butter and sugar thoroughly definitely produces a fluffier cupcake 🙂

  7. This is definitely up there with one of those recipes which takes you back to your kiddo days. I had so many cupcakes in elementary schools for birthdays. Yellow boxed cake mix + canned frosting. SO MANY.

    I love making homemade versions of EVERYTHING. You know what’s going into these delicious morsels and it makes a difference in healthy (as far as I’m concerned, anyway 😉

  8. I want to turn that last photo into a bookmark for myself! It’s such a beauty! These cupcakes look amazing and definitely must have those sprinkles! : )

    1. Thanks Denise! Those photos are so old, but I like to keep them up to see how much I’ve learned about photography in 2 years. And you know what? It’s hard to make yellow/chocolate cupcakes look bad – even with an iPhone!

  9. This is a classic! And like all classics, you’ve gotta get it right. And clearly, you have. Thanks for being very specific, or I would be pouring the 2-percent milk out right about now instead of buying whole!

  10. There must be a direct correlation between number of presence of sprinkles on chocolate frosting and the perceived deliciousness of cupcake.
    These look absolutely perfect Sally, as always, and I can’t wait for the perfect excuse to make a batch for my family. Friday is always a good excuse isn’t it?
    And with this sort of cupcake, the magic is in that first butter and sugar creaming step. Perfection. Thanks Sally 🙂

  11. It took me so.freaking.long to master my yellow cake recipe, but when I did, ohhhmygosh it was SO worth it, and I think I cried a little. Hahaha. You’re right, it is AT LEAST 1,000x better than a box. Maybe even 10,000x. I love the yellow color of them… For some reason, they just appeal to me more than a plain old vanilla!

    1. Okay Rachel, I follow you and Sally both. I can’t even imagine you two living near each other and collaborating. I picture little hearts of smoke coming out of your chimneys. What a world that would be 😀

  12. These look fabulous and your first few sentences just made me like you all the more, because FOR SURE homemade tastes so much better than boxed cake of any kind. And I love that you shared your “old” post with your iPhone photos because that only inspires fledgling bloggers to keep it up because we all can improve with practice and experience. Great recipe, beautiful pictures and I love your “voice” (and your name 😉 )

    1. Thanks for the kind words Sally – and I must say, I love your name as well. There aren’t too many Sallys in the world!

  13. Hi – Yum! All of your recipes look so scrumptious. I wanted to say that I really appreciate in your recipe instructions that you say to use a handheld or stand mixer. One of these days I hope to buy a stand mixer, but until then, I like recipes that indicate a handheld mixer or hand mixing can be used. Gonna make these cupcakes this weekend!

    Thanks,
    Jojo

    1. I use my hand mixer more than my stand mixer, to be honest! I like to have more control over frostings and batter sometimes. Let me know how you like these cupcakes! Thanks Jojo.

  14. I know fancy, quirky flavored cupcakes have become the newer ‘thing’ in the past few years, but my all-time FAV will always be yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. I’ll eagerly be awaiting an occasion to make these, they look amazing!

    (and thank you for your take on can frosting…people act like I’m such a snob because I REFUSE to ever use it…but it’s disgusting! Yuck.)

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