Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

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.

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

Today I’m sharing my favorite vanilla cupcakes recipe, the mini version of my favorite white cake and vanilla cake. These homemade vanilla cupcakes are simply perfect. By far the fluffiest cupcakes I’ve ever made, not to mention soft, cakey, butter, and sweet. Perfection in a cupcake wrapper. I adapted them from my mimosa cupcakes, so if you’re into bubbly… go bake yourself a boozy batch!

Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles on a purple plate

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Cupcakes

Here’s why this cupcake recipe WORKS.

  • Softened butter: A base of creamed butter and sugar doesn’t guarantee a fluffy cupcake, but it certainly helps you get there! Make sure it’s the proper room temperature.
  • Sour cream: This is a power ingredient; it lightens up and moistens the crumb. Though Greek yogurt could be used in its place, I find that cupcakes made with sour cream are much lighter. Light and fluffy is the goal and sour cream is how we’ll reach it.
  • Egg whites: No egg yolks allowed. You’ll use 3 egg whites to give the cupcakes their structure, while also keeping them pristine white. Since we are losing a little fat from the missing egg yolks, we can add that back in via sour cream and whole milk.
  • Cake flour: Switch out the all-purpose flour for 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 that entire box in no time after you taste these! In a pinch, you can use this homemade cake flour substitute using a particular cornstarch and all-purpose flour blend.

dry ingredients for vanilla cupcakes in a glass bowl

2 images of ingredients for vanilla cupcakes including vanilla beans, sour cream, milk, and eggs

The batter is moderately thick. Here’s what it will look like when everything’s mixed up. Run a whisk through it all a few times when it’s done in the mixer; this helps pick up any pieces of butter that could be at the bottom.

vanilla cupcake batter in a glass bowl with a metal whisk

This batter actually fits perfectly into 3 6-inch cake pans, making a lovely and adorable 6 inch vanilla cake!

Vanilla Bean or Vanilla Extract?

For the most well-rounded vanilla flavor, use both vanilla bean and vanilla extract in the cupcakes. You can usually find vanilla beans at Whole Foods, but lately I’ve been ordering them online. If needed, just replace the vanilla beans with an extra 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. And, for even better flavor, make and use homemade vanilla extract. You won’t regret it for these cupcakes or any other recipes calling for vanilla!

vanilla cupcake batter in a cupcake pan before baking

Vanilla Cupcakes: Recipe Disasters

Here are two cupcake prototypes from my recipe testing. This is batch #2 and batch #3. Batch #2 (left) used 3/4 cup whole milk and sifted cake flour. That was way too much liquid and the flour was too airy from sifting. See how squat it is? The inside was wet! Batch #3 (right) was just perfect. 1/2 cup whole milk, no sifting the cake flour. Just enough liquid and flour, oh-so-fluffy and divine.

(not pictured: batch #1 which was atrocious)

2 vanilla cupcakes after recipe testing

Batch #3 was the winner. This is the texture all homemade vanilla cupcakes should be!

2 images of a stack of 2 vanilla cupcakes without frosting and a cupcake cut in half showing the inside texture

Frosting for Vanilla Cupcakes

For the frosting, you can use anything. Pictured here is my go-to vanilla buttercream. I tinted some of it pink with 2 drops of red food coloring. But your frosting options are essentially endless. Here are some suggestions: Swiss meringue buttercream, rainbow chip frosting, chocolate buttercreamstrawberry buttercream, marshmallow frosting, white chocolate frosting, raspberry frosting, or cream cheese frosting.

Sprinkles not optional, but you already knew that.

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

Favorite Cupcake Recipes

clock clock icon cutlery cutlery icon flag flag icon folder folder icon instagram instagram icon pinterest pinterest icon facebook facebook icon print print icon squares squares icon
Vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles on a purple plate

Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

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


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.


  • 1 and 3/4 cups (210g) 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
  • 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 (I use Sweetapolita brand)


  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. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. 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 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. I simply used an icing knife. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.


  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. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, use this cake flour substitute. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  3. Leftover Egg Yolks? I have some recipe ideas for you!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Room Temperature Ingredients: All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  7. Vanilla Cake: I suggest following my white cake recipe as the base, which is almost double this cupcake recipe. I also have a taller vanilla cake recipe as well.
  8. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer, Vanilla Beans, Flex Edge Beater, 5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Bowl, Cupcake Pan, Icing Knife, Cupcake Liners
  9. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin.

Keywords: cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes


  1. Natalie Munroe says:

    Vanilla is my very favorite flavor! (When people are like, “That’s so vanilla,” and they mean it’s boring, I like to respond by saying something like, “You mean it’s delicious, classic, and wonderful? I agree.”) These sound like a must-try, and I’m thinking I’m definitely gonna have to try them with the rainbow chip frosting. MMM.

    1. Laura ~ Raise Your Garden says:

      Totally agree! You can’t beat “real vanilla” from a bean. Thanks Sally for giving me another excuse to buy more vanilla beans, they are swell. And Champagne for lightness? I’d never think of that. Of course, aside from weddings, I can’t say I know anybody who has champagne on hand. I’ll have to work on that one! They look spectacular (but what else would I expect?) 

      1. The mimosa/champagne cupcakes are even lighter than this if that’s possible!

    2. Vanilla is best of the best of the best. I’m glad you agree!

  2. Love the look of these! Just wondering, can the sour cream be substituted with plain yogurt? Because..we don’t have sour cream here in Pakistan ;( Or can I sub it with cream mixed with a bit of lemon juice?

    1. It can, yes! See my recipe note though.

  3. Charlotte @ What Charlotte Baked says:

    As soon as I saw these cupcakes, I knew there would be sour cream in the recipe. It never fails to make cakes and cupcakes even better 🙂

    Sally, I love all your extra photos. Like the ones of the ingredients and batter, etc. It brings everything to life. I wish I had the time and sunlight to do that!

    1. Thanks Charlotte, I really appreciate that!

  4. Oh my gosh, those look amazingly soft! I always love your cooking science…so cool to see the different effects of ingredients! Have you seen the cookie/brownie/truffle/muffin/piecrust guides on I bet you’d love them if not 🙂

    1. I don’t believe I have! Sounds right up my alley and I love Dorothy’s blog.

  5. Oh Sally! They look like bakery cupcakes, I can imagine my self making it with your rainbow chip frosting…and, if sprinkles are not optional, maybe I could use it for the butter too, Sweetapolita style 😉
    Just one question, Don,t sift the cake flour in batch 3#? They look so fluffy that I can`t belive it…

    Want you to know I made your Bakery style peanut butter cookies and…they kill me! I had to hide it from my self…just say that… ;D

    1. Do not sift it. It makes all the difference, as you can see! I’m glad you love the bakery-style PB cookies. I have a video for that recipe coming soon.

  6. The cupcakes look awesome…. Perfect golden colour with the right texture!!! Love all your photos but particularly that photo without frosting is sooo good 🙂

    1. Thanks Sindhiya!

  7. I don’t mind your nerd glasses at all. The first time I made cupcakes with champagne I went crazy for the texture. So then I tried them with ginger ale, and the same thing happened, but cheaper, 🙂 Such a great discovery!
    These look incredible. All that happy vanilla bean action! And the top…dreamy.

    1. Ginger ale– that’s genius.

  8. Dawn - Girl Heart Food says:

    You just can’t beat a beautiful classic vanilla cupcake with all those pretty sprinkles, can ya?  And, I agree sprinkles are not optional 😉

    These look so moist and are definitely making Monday morning a little brighter 🙂 

  9. Marina @ A Dancer's Live-It says:

    Love the nerdiness! I think this is super helpful anyway, I appreciate all of the breakdowns and explanations. I’m definitely making these to the “T” and will let you know how they turn out! 🙂

  10. Patricia @Sweet and Strong says:

    I am usually a chocolate person, but your very vanilla cupcakes are my favorite, so I can’t wait to try this recipe with a few of the changes.  Baking is so crazy how a such a little amount of different ingredients effects the end result.  I love reading your ‘nerdy’ comments about the ingredients!

    1. I couldn’t believe that 1/4 milk made such a difference!

  11. I was literally just looking for a perfect vanilla cupcake recipe and here it is! Thank-you Sally, I will definitely be making these 🙂 my younger sister just got braces and needs something soft and tasty

    1. That’s the sweetest thing you’re doing! <3

    2. I agree- SO SWEET!

  12. OMG these look amazing !

    Candice | Beauty Candy Loves

  13. Lynn @ Fresh April Flours says:

    YES to the vanilla bean!! I steep a vanilla bean in some cream before I add it to my vanilla cupcakes. There’s just something about that straight up bean that makes all the difference in the world. Love that photo of the fluffy texture inside!!

    1. Love the steeping method you use!

  14. Since my grocery shopping for the week is done can you refresh my memory on the All-Purpose to Cake Flour hack? 🙂 Thanks!

    1. Hi JC! I added that to the recipe notes for you.

  15. PS — I’m thinking these will make a delightful First Day of School snack…..

  16. Good morning! Would use this vanilla cake recipe for a sheet cake or the yellow sheet cake recipe from your birthday link?

    So many choices! Thank you!

    1. This wouldn’t be enough for a sheet cake, so the yellow sheet cake would definitely by my choice.

  17. Jessie @ Chasing Belle says:

    Another go to recipe that I am sure I will use for special occassions! I know quite a few women who are having babies and these would be perfect for a shower!

  18. I love vanilla! I love chocolate too! I think I just love cake! Do you think adding 3 Tablespoons of Sprinkles would make this too much? Thanks again for a great recipe.

    1. To the batter? Not at all! I’d add even more 🙂

  19. Can’t wait to make these!  Made the mimosa cupcakes, using my mini pan and they were a hit.  Love, love your recipes and all your hints!!!

    1. Can’t get enough of the mimosa version!

  20. I love chocolate cupcakes, but I have to say I think vanilla cupcakes are the best for their sweet simplicity; plus no cocoa powder messes. Vanilla cupcakes just have a light delicate taste to them whereas the best chocolate cupcakes – all you taste is chocolate (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I mean, it’s CHOCOLATE). I usually make your original vanilla cupcakes when making cupcakes for a party, but next time I think I’ll try this variation – I never want to stop experimenting in the kitchen 🙂

    1. Love your baking enthusiasm as always!

  21. As previously asked,–dying to know if this can be done in 9×13 glass pan for a cake?  What changes in time would you do?
    –Since I pretty much keep 1 % milk on hand and full fat coffee cream…..can I use coffee cream for the whole milk?
    –Last but not least, every September or so, I go through my entire pantry and renew my spices, stock up on flours, sugars etc.  Absolutely love to bake in the fall/winter months.
    Instead of keeping vanilla beans in my pantry, I was considering buying Madagascar Vanilla Paste for a longer shelf life over the beans.  
    How much paste would I use to swap for vanilla beans?
    Thank You !!

    1. Hi Brenda!

      1) 9×13 could work, though the cake will be on the thinner side. I’m unsure of the bake time. I would actually use an 11×7 if you can.
      2) I would use 1/4 cup 1% and 1/4 cup cream.
      3) Paste is a fantastic swap. I would use 1/2 teaspoon paste.

  22. Where can I find those adorable sprinkles?  They are very different than what I can find in my grocery store.  Thank you.

    1. Hi Nancy! Below the recipe I list out where the sprinkles (and other products) are from. Sweetapolita has the most charming, colorful, happy sprinkles around.

      1. Thank you so much!

  23. Michele Davidson says:

    Can’t wait to try these. Made your Vanilla Almond Cupcakes again yesterday and they’re absolutely devine! I love your nerdy posts, I think they’re fascinating. Loving the mixing method of this recipe, while I absolutely love the Vanilla Almond recipe, it always makes me nervous, I don’t know if it’s the melted butter or folding in the egg whites.
    And anything with vanilla bean is a definite must, can’t wait to try this recipe!

    1. I hope you enjoy them! These are definitely suuuuper simple to make.

  24. Stella @ Stellicious Life says:

    These look divine, would be perfect for a baby or bridal shower! (or a girl’s birthday party) 😀

  25. Sally, I am always looking for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe so will definitely try this out. It is my all time favorite classic recipe. And of course must be paired with chocolate frosting. Thanks for all of your hard work on our behalf!!

    1. I always always always love vanilla cupcakes and chocolate frosting together.

  26. I LOVE when you get into the science of it all!! These look so yummy!

  27. These vanilla cupcakes look perfect – inside AND out. Last week, on a whim, I decided to make the rainbow chip frosting. It was DIVINE! All I’m saying is, this won’t be the last time I’m making that frosting! 😉

    1. I’m glad you love it!

  28. Amazing recipes but one question… Many recipes call for baking powder and baking soda….. What is baking soda??? Is it bicarbonate soda

    1. Yep! Different names for the same thing.

  29. I can’t wait to try these! I’ve made your Very Vanilla Cupcakes a number of times and while they’re fantastic, I do agree that they’re a little bit dense so I’m really looking forward to the lightness and fluffiness of these =) I also like that there’s no extra whipping and folding of egg whites involved lol. I’m sure you hear this a lot but one of my favorite things about your blog is when you talk about baking science (I actually get excited when I see a Baking Basics email in my inbox hehe). Keep it coming!! And thank you, as always!

    1. Thanks Melissa, I love the feedback. Because the feedback has helped me create the path for my recipes, writing style, and the whole blog in general! Let me know if you give these a try 🙂

  30. These look so delicious, cant wait to try them out!!! Have you considered dedicating a category to all your different frostings only? That would be sooo helpful!

    1. Jill, that’s a great idea. Maybe I can create individual pages/posts for each with a category. Because most are paired with a cupcake or cake, but I like the idea of just frosting recipes.

1 2 3 12

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love



Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally