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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 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 my 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 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

Print
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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: 1618 cupcakes 1x
  • 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

Scale
  • 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. Cake: Here is my yellow sheet cake recipe and my layered yellow cake recipe.
  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.
  7. 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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. You have inspired me to make these homemade treats for my twins upcoming birthday party instead of boxed!! Party is Sunday, if I bake them sat night and store in the fridge overnight will they be just as good? Can I make the frosting and frost on Sat too or would you wait until Sunday morn? Thanks! Cant wait!!

    1. I would frost right before serving. They are best on day 1, but stored and covered tightly at room temperature for 1 night is fine.

  2. Genuinely the most amazing Yellow Cupcakes I have ever tasted! 😀
    I find it so hard to bake a moist yellow cake, it’s always dry and crumbly.
    These are insanely good and a complete hit with my Fiancé!
    Thank you so much for sharing X

    1. I have an egg separator, but simply cracking the egg white into 1 bowl while holding the egg yolk in the shell works just fine here.

  3. Hey Sally – all I have on hand is vanilla bean paste. Can I use that in lieu of the vanilla extract?

  4. So I just made these today and I followed the recipe to the T! I was able to get 24 standard size cupcakes from the recipe. I’m not a fan of these, which made me sad cause i love the other recipes on here. Mine came out a little too sweet tasting for me. I’m not sure if I did something wrong or if they should be sweet. help?

    Question: can you substitute the milk for sour cream? Im just wondering if the sour cream will help keep it moist and maybe help with downplaying the sweetness.

    1. Hi Stefanie. Yep, these cupcakes are supposed to be sweet. However, feel free to reduce the sugar to your liking. It’s an easy recipe to adapt to fit your tastes. I don’t suggest 1 whole cup of sour cream. The cupcakes may be a little heavy tasting. How about 1/2 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup milk.

  5. Hi Sally,
    I love many of your recipes. I made these cupcakes today. I love the flavor, but they stuck so badly to the liner, I only got about 1.5 bites out of it. I feel bad because I sent them to my son’s preschool class before realizing this problem! Is this due to an error I made with the batter? Or bad liners? If I had known, I would have sprayed them, but I don’t typically have to spray liners for cupcakes. Just wondering what you think. Thanks for sharing your recipes!

    1. Hmm. I don’t think the cupcakes are the issue – I’ve never had this problem and I use all sorts of liners. So sorry Kristina. I would spray them next time. Thank you!

  6. Thank you for this frosting recipe! Needed something a bit more richer than just some chocolate buttercream; this tastes like frosting out of the can, which I love!!

  7. I just made these cupcakes, the cake part was SUPER good ! They were very moist, however the frosting wasn’t that great, I only added a 1/4 tsp of salt because I thought 1/2 tsp of salt was way to much..it probably only needed a PINCH of salt, I think taking out the salt completely would make the cupcakes overall taste much better.

  8. Is it okay if i use melted butter instead of the softened butter in the cupcake batter?

  9. hi Sally! The first time I made this recipe came out perfect, but when I made them yesterday they all sloped down in the middle so there was a big dent in the center of the cupcake. I retried after the first time but then it happened again. I checked and double checked so I’m fairly certain I used all the right ingredients and measurements… Do you have any idea what might have gone wrong?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Olivia, sounds like they were underbaked. If you try again, tack on a couple more minutes of bake time. Also, replacing baking powder would be a good idea. It expires after 6 months, but I replace every 3. Fresh is best.

  10. These are amazing!!! Really delicious. I look forward to trying your other recipes 🙂 I have a question, did I overcook mine that they’re crunchy on the top,? Yours look nice & soft. How do I do that?! Ps..appreciate the metric conversion 🙂

    1. Yep, sounds like your cupcakes were overbaked. A minute or two less in the oven should fix that.

  11. Hey Sally!
    I’m going to try to kill two birds with one stone with this comment, hopefully that’s okay. First off, I’m making these cupcakes as a 8in round cake later this week. I’m supposed to be giving it away on Friday but do not have time Thursday night to make the entire cake (at most I would have time to frost). Would you approve of baking the cake on Wednesday and storing it in an air tight container until Friday afternoon? And would you refrigerate or just leave out?

    Secondly, I’m also making some raisinet oatmeal cookies soon (my boyfriend almost drools over the thought of these). I’ve read three of your oatmeal cookie recipes and two of them call for molasses and one (the raisinet recipe) doesn’t. What is the reasoning for this?

    1. Paula, you can make the yellow cake two days in advance. Cover tightly and store at room temperature. You can also make the frosting in advance, cover, refrigerate, let it soften at room temperature for 1 hour and then frost the day before. I’ve recently started to add a slight touch of molasses to oatmeal cookies in the past year- I like its flavor.

  12. Hi Sally! This recipe is amazing – such buttery, vanilla goodness!! One question though, I’ve tried the recipe twice now and my cupcakes are dense and moist rather than light and fluffy. They’ve got more of a pound cake like texture. Any idea where I’m going wrong that’s causing them to be that way? Thanks!!

    1. you may be overmeasuring your flour. an easy mistake to fix! be extra cautious and use the spoon and level method– if you are sure you are measuring correctly, feel free to reduce by 2 Tablespoons.

  13. Hey Sally! I love love love your blog! Your recipes are absolutely delicious! I have a quick question. Can this milk chocolate frosting be used on top of your classic chocolate cupcakes? Thanks!

  14. So excited to try your recipe 🙂 thank you for posting this! Do you think it would work if I plop a little rafaello chocolate in the middle of the cake (so it baked inside the cupcake)?

    1. Hmm.. I think that would work! Worth a shot. You can always try it with one cupcake first. Bake it (just one in the pan!) and then see how it is. Then, bake the rest.

  15. Hi, Sally!! I love your recipes!! Especially the red velvet cupcakes!! I also love this recipe! I made this today and it was so moist and fluffy! Perfect yellow cupcakes! I was wondering if I can add sprinkles in the batter like in your funfetti cupcakes recipe? Really hoping for your answer!! Thank you, Sally! Please post more cupcakes and cakes recipes!

    1. Yep, you may absolutely add sprinkles to the batter. Stir them in lightly; you don’t want them to bleed their color.

  16. Just made these for the first time as a trial run for my son’s 5th birthday party this upcoming Saturday. OMG, so GOOD!!! So light and buttery. Absolute winner! Thanks for this recipe Sally!

  17. Hey Sally,

    For the icing can we use half and half instead of milk?

    Thanks!

  18. Hey Sally, this recipe looks great, and I’ve already started it however the recipe calls for 1 and 3/4 cups of sugar that seems like an awful lot of sugar, am I meant to use all of that in the cupcakes?

    1. Yes. This recipe makes 16 cupcakes; that amount of sugar is relatively normal for a large batch recipe.

  19. These were a fail for me. The batter was perfect but I must have overfilled the cupcake liners because they completely overflowed while baking even though I made 20 cupcakes. After I tried to take them out of the pan, they completely broke away form the liner. This is the first recipe that didn’t work for me from this website 🙁 I will be using the cake to make cape pops.

  20. Hi Sally!
    I love your blog. Really enjoy reading all your recipes.
    I’ve tried to make these cupcakes twice but mines seem to cave in the middle of the cupcake. Where as yours are nice and fluffy and curve shape.
    Do you know what I can do to fix this problem?
    Thank you

    1. Bonnie, your cupcakes could be underbaked. I would (1) check your oven temperature with an oven thermometer. They are very inexpensive and will save many, many failed batches of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, etc. It’s the most important tool in my kitchen. (2) Bake for a couple minutes longer.

  21. Hi Sally! I can’t wait to try these cupcakes! Hey, I heard that you can substitute oil for melted butter, which I actually often do. Yes,yes I know you’re not supposed to do that for softened butter, but… well, Ill only have 100 grams of butter left after making the frosting. So can I just add some oil to the butter? Will it turn out fine?Thanks, Amy James.

    1. Hi Amy. No, you need to use creamed butter for this particular recipe.

  22. Keeping this recipe!! Was a huge hit and the tips were all so helpful. HIGHLY recommend!

  23. Have you ever used half and half or heavy whipping cream instead of milk in your cake recipes?

  24. Could this recipe be used to make a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake? If so, would the baking temperature and time be different?

    1. Absolutely! I’m unsure of the bake time. Same oven temperature.

  25. I’m so sad, my attempt did not turN out. My cupcakes crumble when you try to remove them from the paper. They simply fall apart. They taste great! I have no idea what I could have done wrong, I make cupcakes all the time. Regardless, they taste yummy, and I’ll try again. Love your recipes 🙂

  26. I was so happy to find a recipe so detailed as yours. Most recipes I tested ended up dry, or heavy, or both. But I managed to ruin your lovely recipe by opening the oven too soon (to take a tray of chocolate cupcake off)… I literally saw my cupcakes sinking one by one… 🙁 So sad and frustrating….
    I’ll try again this wweek, but let my mistake be an example by other clumsy cooks 😛

  27. Hi Sally,

    I tried making this into a cake last night and failed =( The cake looked and tasted amazing but stuck to the bottom of my pans and when I tried to take them out just turned into a mess; I sprayed them thoroughly with Pam so I’m not sure what else to do. I want to try again tonight; do you have any suggestions on how to prevent my cake from sticking?

    Thanks!!
    -Kimie

    1. Hi Kimie. I would spray with Pam and lightly dust the inside of the pans with flour. This should help.

  28. I made these last night as mini-cupcakes for a party and they were absolutely delicious. Followed the recipe to a T. Had no problem with sticking (make sure not to overbake!). Thanks for the great recipe!