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These vanilla cupcakes are, by far, one of the most-loved recipes on this website. Using creamed butter, plus cake flour, sour cream, and egg whites (no yolks!), guarantees a soft, fluffy, and cake-like crumb. Pure vanilla extract plus the optional addition of vanilla beans seals in a classic vanilla flavor. Use a piping tip or knife to garnish each with vanilla buttercream.

vanilla cupcakes on blue cake stand with pink, purple, and blue sprinkles on top.

Originally published in 2016, this vanilla cupcakes recipe has soared to the top of my Essential Baking Recipes list. This list includes recipes that are in regular rotation in my kitchen including banana bread, chocolate chip cookies, and sugar cookies. (So many favorites!) In fact, today’s cupcakes have been so popular around here that I’ve used the base recipe to create several other varieties.

Here’s Exactly Why This Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe Works:

Baking is a science and that’s proved over and over again in base recipes like this. Like when making white cake and vanilla cake, it’s not only the measurements you use, but the specific type of ingredient. Using cake flour instead of all-purpose produces a fluffy, soft crumb. Skipping the egg yolks keeps the cupcakes light. Sour cream helps supply a tight, yet moist crumb. My team and I have done the testing and we are confident in the results. These homemade vanilla cupcakes are simply perfect.

Reader Kristin commented: “This recipe was delicious and will definitely be a go to! I frosted with your Homemade Rainbow Chip Frosting and had rave reviews… several asked for the recipes!”

one vanilla cupcake topped with vanilla buttercream with bite taken out.

Use These Carefully Selected Ingredients

This cupcake batter calls for 11 ingredients, including the handful mentioned below, as well as basics like baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Let me explain why the following ingredients are “power ingredients” in this recipe:

  1. Cake flour: Cake flour is much lighter than all-purpose flour and helps to produce the softest, lightest cakes and cupcakes you’ll ever eat. It’s sold next to the regular flour in the baking aisle and I promise that you’ll use up the entire box in no time after you taste these! Note that you do not need cake flour for chocolate cupcakes because cocoa powder is already very light.
  2. Softened butter: A base of creamed butter and sugar (instead of using melted butter or oil) often helps achieve a soft, cake-like structure. Make sure it’s proper room temperature butter.
  3. Egg whites: While egg yolks are rich in fat and moisture, they can weigh down your baked goods. Skip the egg yolks and use the whites purely for giving structure to the cupcakes. Since we are losing a little fat from the missing egg yolks, we add it back in with sour cream and whole milk.
  4. Sour cream: This is a power ingredient because it lightens and moistens the crumb. Though plain yogurt could be used in its place, I find that cupcakes made with sour cream are lighter.
  5. Vanilla Extract & Vanilla Bean: For the most well-rounded vanilla flavor, use both vanilla bean and vanilla extract in the cupcakes. You can usually find vanilla beans in the baking aisle, but if you’re looking to purchase them online, I recommend these vanilla beans. See recipe Note if you’re skipping the vanilla bean or if you want to use vanilla bean paste.
  6. Whole Milk: Milk with fat such as whole milk or 2% milk is your best choice here. Nondairy milk is great in a pinch. I use buttermilk in this vanilla cake recipe, which is typically a fine substitution for both sour cream and regular milk in baked goods. For these cupcakes, however, the crumb stays a little tighter when using sour cream + whole milk.

Tip: Make sure ALL cold ingredients are room temperature before beginning, otherwise your batter could split and the results aren’t pleasant. Read more about why room temperature ingredients are important in baking.

cake flour, butter, vanilla extract, milk, vanilla bean, sour cream, and egg whites on gray countertop.

Want to kick the vanilla flavor up a notch? Replace store-bought vanilla extract with homemade vanilla extract and regular granulated sugar with vanilla sugar.

Success Tip: Filling Your Cupcake Pan

The batter comes together with a mixer. Give it a quick whisk by hand to make sure there are no more lumps at the bottom of the bowl.

When filling your lined cupcake pan, fill the liners only 2/3 full, which is about 3 heaping Tablespoons of batter each. Filling them only 2/3 full gives you about 14 cupcakes from this batch. Using more batter per cupcake leads to overflowing or even sinking.

This Is a Multipurpose Batter

Since the results are so crowd-pleasing, this vanilla cupcake batter has become a go-to standard for many other cupcake recipes on this website. Using this recipe as the starting point, I’ve created all of the following cupcake flavors:

  1. Mimosa Cupcakes
  2. Chai Latte Cupcakes
  3. White Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes
  4. Sprinkle Cupcakes
  5. Pistachio Cupcakes
  6. Caramel Coconut Cupcakes
  7. Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes
  8. Wedding Cupcakes with Champagne Frosting

Can I Turn These Cupcakes Into a Cake?

Yes, instead of cupcakes, you can use this exact batter for making a 6-inch vanilla cake. For a 1-layer vanilla cake, I recommend my similar recipe for sprinkle cake. You can skip the sprinkles. See recipe Notes for larger layer cake options.

Frosting for Vanilla Cupcakes

This vanilla buttercream is a top choice for garnishing your vanilla cupcakes. But your frosting options are pretty much endless, including Swiss meringue buttercream, strawberry buttercream, chocolate buttercream, lemon buttercream, or cream cheese frosting. For a lighter, less sweet option, I love pairing these cupcakes with whipped frosting.

You can swipe the frosting on with an icing knife (pictured below) or with a piping bag + tip such as Wilton 1M (images in the post above). If you’re just learning how to use piping tips, my piping tips guide is a helpful resource.

And finally, here’s just one photo of our multiple test variations. The left cupcake had way too much liquid and produced a wet, squat cupcake. The right cupcake was from our final batch, simply perfect!

2 vanilla cupcakes after recipe testing.

Printable recipe & video tutorial below.

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vanilla cupcakes on blue cake stand with pink, purple, and blue sprinkles on top.

Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 14 cupcakes 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This is my favorite recipe for homemade vanilla cupcakes. Using creamed butter, cake flour, sour cream, and egg whites, these cupcakes are soft, sweet, fluffy, and infinitely buttery.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 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 extract
  • seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature
  • vanilla buttercream and sprinkles for decorating

Instructions

  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 and beat on medium-high speed until smooth and combined, at least 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed and then beat in the sour cream. 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 over-mix. 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 30–36 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. You can swipe the frosting on with an icing knife or use a piping tip such as Wilton 1M. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Amount of Batter: This recipe yields between 3-4 cups of batter which is helpful if you’re reviewing the Cake Pan & Conversions page.
  3. Cake Flour: Cake flour is the only ideal flour for this recipe. In a pinch, you can make your own homemade cake flour but the cupcakes won’t taste as light. You can find cake flour in the baking aisle near the all-purpose flour.
  4. Leftover Egg Yolks? I have some recipe ideas for you!
  5. Vanilla: For best flavor, pure vanilla extract is strongly recommended. If using imitation, increase to 1 Tablespoon (3 teaspoons). If you can’t get your hands on vanilla bean, simply leave it out or replace with an extra 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. If you want to use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract and vanilla bean, use 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste.
  6. Whole Milk & Sour Cream: 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. Nondairy milk works in a pinch. You can replace both the whole milk and sour cream with buttermilk (1 cup; 240ml) if needed.
  7. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  8. Vanilla Cake: I suggest following my white cake recipe as the base, which is almost double this cupcake recipe. I also have a taller 3 layer vanilla cake recipe as well. For a 1 layer cake, I recommend this sprinkle cake and you can skip the sprinkles in the batter.
  9. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin.

Keywords: cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes

Reader Questions and Reviews

    1. Hi Josephine, you should be able to halve this recipe without any issues.

  1. I made them many times and they are always yummy but I find the batter is spliting for me lately right after ill put the whites in and I’m doing everything same way …all in room temperature.
    Even tried doing them ald fashion way mixing by hand but still happening
    They still come out tasty but not as fluffy.. what could I be doing wrong?

    1. Hi Aga, Batter will look curdled if all ingredients aren’t properly room temperature – the different temperatures keep the ingredients combining correctly. But, some curdling is normal with wet ingredients, does it come together once the dry ingredients are added? Thanks for giving this recipe a try!

  2. This recipe was delicious and will definitely be a go to! I frosted with your Homemade Rainbow Chip Frosting and had rave reviews.. several asked for the recipes!

    1. Hi Kimberly, pure cane sugar *should* work just fine in this recipe. The granules are a little larger so it’s possible there could be some grittiness, but it shouldn’t be an issue.

  3. This cake was pretty good! Very spongy and moist. I made this for Father’s Day and my whole family loved them!

  4. I absolutely adore this recipe. Would adding sprinkles to these to make them funfetti have any material effect on the results, or do I need a specific recipe for that alteration?

    1. Hi Max, sure can! We’d start with 1/2 cup of sprinkles in the batter. Then add a little more if you think it needs more. Happy baking!

  5. I love this recipe and have made it a bunch of times! I am making these for a client who has an egg allergy, can anyone recommend a great substitution with this recipe? Thanks!

    1. Hi Judy, we haven’t tried this recipe with any egg replacements, but let us know if you give anything a try. If you’re interested, here are all of our egg free recipes on the site.

  6. I finally made this recipe and they were a hit. Mine looked like your photo, but they were more white than golden colored around the edges. Also mine had a sponge cake consistency. I wondered if that is the texture? Or should they have a soft crumb texture? Did I do something wrong with the eggwhites?
    I absolutely had all ingredients at room temperature.

    1. Hi Marylou, the color of the cupcakes is likely the pan you are using. Whenever I bake these in a lighter pan, the cupcakes do not usually brown around the edges. Using my slightly darker pan, however, leads to more of a golden exterior. The taste and texture do not change though. The cupcakes should have more of a soft crumb texture. You really want to mix the egg whites into the creamed butter and sugar, for at least 2 full minutes.

    2. Same here. Cupcakes raised beautifully but had more of a sponge cake consistency. Did I perhaps use too much egg white? I used pasteurized egg whites from a carton.

    1. Hi Nav, you should be able to halve this recipe without any issues.

      1. Hey there— what about scaling up? Can the recipe be doubled (or even tripled), or is it best to make multiple batches? Thanks!

      2. Hi Suzanna, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches rather that doubling.

  7. These have always been our favorite! Love the new photos and video.

  8. I followed the recipe exactly, but somehow my cupcakes look a lot more yellow than the ones pictured in the page and on the video. Could that be the color from the vanilla? I’m using a very pure extract from México

    1. It could be, or the color of butter. Some brands and types of butter are more yellow than others. How do they taste?

    1. Hi Susie, absolutely. Hope you enjoy the cupcakes!

  9. Hi Sally! Trying this recipe today and am wondering if it will work to double the batter- Thanks!

    1. Hi Heather, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches rather that doubling.

  10. Hi.
    I made half the batch as a trial run for a special birthday. Cakes were delicious and texture was heavier than your chocolate cupcakes, but still fine. I found though on cooling they did sink. Could this have been due to the egg ratio being wrong on halving? I only filled the pans halfway and it was perfect size coming out the oven but then they sank.
    Any tips would be great. Kids gave them two thumbs up.

    1. Hi Jo! We’re happy to help troubleshoot. Sunken cupcakes often are slightly undercooked and simply need a minute or two longer in the oven. When halving, be sure to use 1 egg white, then measure another egg white and use half. Finally, you’ll want to fill the liners 2/3 way full for vanilla cupcakes. We’re glad they were a hit!

  11. Hi Sally! Your cupcake recipe is amazing and I am looking forward to trying but I was wondering if I don’t have sour cream and baking soda, will my cupcakes still taste good and fluffy. Will the cupcakes be affected if I leave out two ingredients and still look the same as yours.

    1. Hi Chisha, the cupcakes will not turn out without those two ingredients. We recommend following the recipe exactly for best results.

  12. I just made these and they came out PERFECT! Paired with your strawberry frosting and topped each with a blueberry.

  13. Can’t wait to make these! Would it be okay to prepare them two days before my event and refrigerate them unfrosted until the day of?

    1. Hi Emily, absolutely! Just make sure they are well covered to prevent them from drying out.

    2. So, I made 168 of these bad boys for a wedding this weekend. I found that measuring the whole milk on my scale produced a beautiful cupcake coming out of the oven that would then sink as it cooled. When I just measured the milk with a measuring cup (=less liquid than the more exact scale measurement), though, the cupcake held its shape better. It was fun problem solving with the help of the above photo of the two different cupcakes, but ingredients are expensive and I was on a time crunch, so it was slightly frustrating. I’m definitely keeping my amended version for future batches, though!

  14. Hi Sally and team, these taste great and look alright after I cover them with frosting, but why do my cupcakes sink after they come out of the oven?
    Thanks!
    Irene

    1. Hi Irene! Usually cupcakes sink if the liners have been filled too high or the cupcakes have been slightly under-baked. Both easy fixes for next time!

  15. It is fluffy, but way to eggy in its flavour. I do not particularly like it!

  16. What happens if I use whole eggs instead of egg whites? I have so many egg yokes left over from baking. I also want a bit more dense cake. Suggestions?

    1. Hi Melanie, the fat in the yolks will weigh the cake crumb down, so if you’re looking for a denser cake, you could certainly try using whole eggs!

  17. Hi there!! I live in Asia, and it’s hot & humid all year round. How do i gauge my room temperature and your room temperature in your country? I saw on one of your recipes room temperature is 21degrees. My room temperature would be 27 degrees. And I am afraid my butter is too soft, sour cream and milk is too warm?
    How can I troubleshoot this?

    1. Hi Eileen! Do you have an instant read thermometer? Room temperature butter is about 65°F (18°C), which would be colder than your kitchen. You could use a thermometer to gauge the temperature of your ingredients, or use them when they still feel quite cool to touch, but not cold.

  18. Made these before and they were delicious!!! Highly recommend! Any idea how many this recipe would make for mini-cupcakes?

    1. Hi Grace! For around 30–36 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11–13 minutes, same oven temperature.

    1. Hi Sydney, We haven’t tested the reverse creaming method for these cupcakes, but you could use our strawberry shortcake cake recipe which uses the reverse creaming method and bake the batter as cupcakes (yields about 12 cupcakes/about 20 minutes bake time). Let us know if you try anything!

  19. Okay I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. I’ve tried making these two days in a row and both times the cupcakes come out squatted. I followed the recipe exactly but have no idea what is going wrong. I’m extremely discouraged now. PLEASE HELP!

    1. Hi Amanda, we’re happy to help troubleshoot. How are you measuring your ingredients? Squat cupcakes can happen when there is excess wet ingredients in the batter. Spooning and leveling your flour (or using a scale) helps to ensure just the right amount to soak up the wet ingredients. Over mixing can also cake cupcakes to become squat and dense. This post on tips for baking the best cupcakes may also be helpful to review. Let us know if we can help to troubleshoot further!

  20. Flavor was great. Not giving up, and will try again. I used a scale all ingredients, and room temperature, but they came out dense and squat. A pastry chef was at our party, and thought that the egg whites needed to be whipped first before adding. I’ll give that a try next time. Your chocolate recipe was perfect!

  21. I’m really keen to try this recipe! Is it possible to make them gluten-free by just substituting the cake flour for gluten-free flour? Is there a gluten-free alternative?

    1. Hi Kimberley, We haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free cake flour, but we’d love to know if you give it a try.

  22. Hey Sally. I have these really cute but super mini cupcake cases and was wondering if I could use this recipe for them? When I say they are mini, they are mini! Or if you have a recipe for mini cupcakes?

    1. Yes, you can make mini cupcakes! See step 4 for baking instructions.

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