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

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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

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

  • 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
  • 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. 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 30-36 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. I simply used an icing knife. 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. 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

305 Comments

  1. Thanks Sally, these turned out beautifully!
    I paired them with strawberry buttercream frosting; so cakey, fluffy and all around delicious 🙂

  2. Ahhh, these cupcakes are so good:) I’ve never used vanilla beans but I ordered on line and what a difference in taste…my only complaint is my own fault… I used my moms “homemade” vanilla…ya, didn’t taste as good as using my vanilla from MX! It was delish but I could tell vanilla was a bit different…I’ll make them again in a few wks for my sons bday….minus mamas vanilla….Thanks Mademoiselle Sally for this great recipes along with all your great recipes. BTW love reading your blog. You’re funny! 🙂 Have a great weekend from Montreal.

  3. These cupcakes are hands down the best!!! I have struggled with trying to find a cupcake recipe that is not only easy, but tastes great and has good consistency! This is it!! I can see making these many times in the future! Thanks!

  4. barbara rowell says:

    These cupcakes are absolutely perfect! I’ve made them many many times now….
    My daughter wants the exact flavour and texture for her wedding cake? Should I modify the recipe in any way if I want to use the batter as cake instead?

  5. I made these for a work birthday with the strawberry icing and they were a huge hit. Especially topped with a few chocolate chips. They are the best vanilla cupcakes, hands down.

  6. Made these this morning as a trial run for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend. I love your very vanilla cupcakes but think that these will now take the spot of BEST VANILLA CUPCAKES EVER!!! They are so good we have devoured 1/2 the batch before even getting a chance to frost them 🙂 Thank for the wonderful recipe!

  7. Hi Sally, I just had to post to say how awesome these are!  I rarely bake from scratch as I am never happy with the end result.  These, well you are so right, they are awesome.  I followed the recipe to the letter and the result was so yummy.  I can’t wait to try your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe next.  Thanks so much for your hard work in creating the perfect vanilla cupcake.  You did that, for sure

  8. Sally, Im a huge fan of yours and everything you bake! You rock! Thanks for sharing such great recipes and knowledge! Not sure if you have shared it before, but this will be my first time using vanilla beans and I dont know how much should I use for this recipe. Should I use 1 complete bean? Half? And also, how should I add the beans into the batter? Just whisking them? Im a little confused. Huge thanks, and again, you rock!

    1. Hi Diana! I’m excited for you to try these cupcakes. You’ll need 1/2 of a vanilla bean. Cut a vanilla bean in half. Then cut it in half again lengthwise to open it up and reveal the seeds. Scrape the seeds out with a knife and add to the batter in step 3. Then beat on medium-high speed as it instructs. 🙂

  9. Sooo, I am in love with everything almond.  Could I sub out the vanilla extract for almond extract and make almond/vanilla cupcakes?

    1. Those would almost be *TOO* almond-y. So I suggest subbing out some vanilla for almond. Maybe 1 teaspoon almond.

  10. I made these yesterday and they came out PERFECT! I even tried the two-toned roses with the 1M and look awesome. I’m going to make another batch today to use up the rest of the frosting. 🙂

  11. Very tasty but somewhat dense. aftet they cooled the top sank and they were a little undercooked. I ended popping them back on the oven for another 10 minutes. I know it wasn’t the recipe but this is the only thing I could think of.
    Could the density be affected by the fact they were undercooked and I had to put them back in once cooled? 

    1. The same thing happened to me today. I took them out when they looked just a tad golden brown. But I think I should have waited a few more min. I’m going to try them again and see how that works. Tasted wonderful though! 

      1. Yes they definitely taste delicious! I’m going to retry again as well.

      2. I tried them again and the same thing happened. I baked them longer so they didn’t flatten out and they aren’t quite as dense as before. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. My batter is not as thick as in her video so I don’t know where I’m going wrong and maybe that’s why they’re turning out this way. 

  12. Sally these are amazing! Best cupcakes to come out of my kitchen. I’m on to master your chocolate cupcakes. Thanks for the perfect recipe! 

  13. Oh my sweet goodness, Sally!!!!! I have been looking for a coconut cupcake recipe and thought hmm I wonder what would happen if I replaced the sour cream with coconut yogurt.  So I did. With half vanilla extract and half coconut extract! I Topped these with a mango buttercream! Like Hawaii in my mouth.  soooooo amazing!!  And also all your fault.  Ever since you shared that mango cake.  I don’t know where mango buttercream has been all my life but I am sooo glad I found it!  A thanks for always keeping my kitchen fresh with new ideas! Seriously this recipe is the best!

  14. Hi Sally! This is my absolute favorite cupcake recipe, and I’ve baked it dozens of times to the delight of my friends and family.

    I just have one question: do you have any idea if I could adapt this recipe to make them matcha green tea flavored?

    I need to use up some matcha powder I have left over, so if I were to add it, how much would you recommend? Would I have to take out some flour, and/or add more moisture to compensate? 

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Brenda! I wish I could help, but I don’t want to give any wrong suggestions. I haven’t tried matcha powder in any baking recipes so I really can’t say anything with confidence. Sorry!

  15. These look delicious! Do you have any idea whether you could use/substitute using vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract and vanilla bean would work?

    1. Hi Kristina, paste is a fantastic swap. I would use 1/2 teaspoon of it.

  16. I made these over the weekend and they were absolutely perfect! Made 2 more cupcakes for me than what you stated in your recipe, but the 2/3 full tip was very helpful in determining that. I LOOOOVE these cupcakes! They are so soft and airy and they remind me of angel food cake! So delicate yet strong enough to hold up to a heaping load of frosting! It’s amazing thank you for sharing!

  17. Hi Sally! I tried your recipe above. My cupcakes did not come out as light and fluffy as yours. I used yoghurt instead of sour cream. Could this be what affected the consistency of the cupcakes?

    I loved the taste but they were too dense for my liking. I’ll try to make them again tonight but I’ll sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda first. I hope it comes out better for me this time.

    I wish I would post the pictures of the results of my trying your recipe. But, I can’t do it here. Hehehe

    1. Hi Leni! Sifting will help– did you use cake flour? Just making sure. The type of flour makes all the difference! Let me know how round #2 is.

      1. Yup! I used cake flour. I tried it again now. I sifted the flour before measuring and then I whisked the other dry ingredients in but it’s still the same consistency. I even added 1/2 tsp baking soda since I read somewhere that, in order to replace sour cream with yogurt, I need to add baking soda following the ratio of 1 C yogurt + 1 tsp baking soda for 1 C sour cream. So, since the recipe only needs 1/2 C sour cream, I halved the amount of yogurt and baking soda.

        This time the cupcakes rose but then after a while they deflated. So the tops were a bit flat. Just like your #2 batch.

        I’m gonna try and figure out. Although I’d appreciate whatever tips you can give me.

  18. OMG!!! This recipe is AMAZING!!!! Made my first batch just now and they turned out perfect!!

  19. Hi Sally

    Could I use this recipe to make a 8 or 9 inch one layer cake? Which would be better?

    Thanks Nancy

    1. Yes, you can use this to make a layer cake! Either 8 or 9 inch is fine!

  20. I made these as a test batch of cupcakes since I’m trying to decide if I’m brave enough to make the cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday or if I need to order something. I’m an accomplished baker, but not so much a decorator!

    However, these with the buttercream frosting came out perfectly. And piped well, too! I thought they were great, my husband a bit dry, but I don’t know what he was thinking.

    I subbed out the last half teaspoon of vanilla for orange extract — really I should have added more since it was the perfect light note in the batter but so much in the baked cupcake.

  21. Hi there! We have successfully made a few of your cupcake recipes for my daughter’s birthday parties, and she’s requested vanilla for this year. If I have to make 3-4 dozen cupcakes, is it ok to triple or quadruple the recipe to make a giant bowl of batter, or do you recommend making one batch at a time?

    1. Hi Bridget! To avoid over or under-mixing, which could ruin the whole big batch, I strongly recommend making the batter a few different times.

  22. These sound great, but I was wondering if you are able to put a filling inside of these?

    1. Yes, absolutely!

  23. Fantastic! This is my new favourite vanilla cupcake recipe. I’m not a huge fan of vanilla cake but I absoloutley love these! The only thing is that it definitely made more than 14, but it’s possible that I didn’t fill them up as much. I made a double batch and ended up with 36 regular cupcakes and 24 minis (not that anyone in my house is complaining, lol)

  24. These were SUPERB. The only vanilla cake batter I have ever felt compelled to lick out of the bowl–and the baked cupcakes were even more delicious. And that’s without having vanilla bean on hand! I can’t wait to try it with the bean, as I would have loved more profound vanilla flavor.
    I was short on some ingredients so I ended up using 1 1/4c cake flour and 1/2c pastry flour; and instead of the whole milk, I used a mixture of heavy cream and almond milk when I discovered my milk had gone past! XD whoops…but no harm done, even with these haphazard alterations they were SO DELICIOUS. Definitely becoming a staple recipe.

  25. I just pulled my first batch out of the oven and they are divine! Fluffy and light with a beautiful vanilla flavor, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you so much ☺️

  26. Joshua Hadwiger says:

    Can i use coconut milk instead of regular milk?

    1. Coconut milk would be just fine, as long as it’s not the super thick coconut milk from a can.

  27. Veronique Guay says:

    Hi Sally,

    This is the first time I’ve tried your recipes as I’m an avid baker myself and usually strive for my own ideas. I was online however and found you and thought “ I’ve been able to make any flavour of cake and cupcakes really, but vanilla has always disappointed me. Not the family, but I’m picky about how my baking turns out” anyways I decided to try your vanilla cupcake recipe and am I ever happy I did. The sour cream and whole milk makes them so devine. I pared it with a strawberry buttercream that I love and they sold out at my daughters first bake sale of the school year. Thanks again and I may have to big you from time to time when what I’m working on doesn’t work.

    Véronique
    Alberta, Canada

    1. Thank you for trusting my recipe, Veronique! I’m so happy that you were pleased with how they turned out!

  28. Sally, I just finished making a batch of these cupcakes and OMGosh, they are so yummy. Light and fluffy and completely white inside with the tops being very lightly tanned in color. Just PERFECTION!! Mine only took 12 mins to bake up and my batter made 15. The only ingredient I didn’t use was the vanilla bean so as you suggested, I added that extra 1/2 tsp. I can’t wait to make them with the bean. Never used them before but I can’t wait to taste these with that stronger vanilla flavor.

    I plan to use your strawberry marshmallow frosting (hubby’s not a fan of cream cheese) and the left over strawberry cream cheese frosting I have from making the cake. Because these were SO easy to make, I plan to make another batch tomorrow.

    Anyone trying to decide whether or not to make these I say… GO FOR IT!! Just make sure to follow the recipe as follows and you too will be successful. I read a few reviews and I have to agree with Sally. Using the whisk was the way to go. Thanks again for another amazing recipe… 😉

  29. Could you use this recipe for making a cake instead of cupcakes? Looks so good!

    1. Sure can! I did it here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/new-favorite-white-layer-cake/

  30. would this work to make (1) 9″ round layer cake rather than cupcakes? Im trying to do a two layer cake, one with vanilla, one with chocolate. thanks!

    1. Hi Diana! This batter will be a little too much for 1 single layer 9-inch cake. You can use any extra batter for cupcakes though.

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