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


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. I have thoroughly enjoyed every recipe I have tried so far and appreciate the detailed steps and additional testing notes. Do you have any suggestions to reduce the amount of sugar in the cupcakes without compromising the texture or fluffiness? I would like to use this recipe to make a small 1st birthday cake and my little one hasn’t had many sweets. I’m also looking for a lite yogurt based frosting.

    1. Hi Susie! You can certainly try reducing the amount of sugar in the cake recipe, but keep in mind that replacing too much will also change the texture of the cake. Here’s my favorite peanut butter yogurt frosting if you’d like to try it, too!

      1. Deborah E Basnec says:

        These were super light and fluffy but not moist. I followed the recipe to a T and even decreased the bake time but I never achieved a fluffy moist cupcake. Just fluffy.

  2. I made these and the flavor is AMAZING! I was just wondering about the it suppose to be angel food cake textured? Or did I do something wrong? Also is there a way for me fix this?

  3. Sally, I wanted to add to my previous comment that I use paper baking cups set on a rimless cookie sheet. Also, the centers are fully cooked and not wet, not to mention delicious. Hope you can help.

  4. Michele Greiman says:

    I did not like my former white cupcake recipe as it was fine the first day but by day 2 the cupcakes were getting a little dry. SALLY TO THE RESCUE!! When I received an order for 3 dz vanilla cupcakes I thought, I’m going to try Sally’s. OMG!!! They are sooo good. I kept one back from the order so I could try it 36 hours after baking. Still so good, and NOT dry at all. Also used Sally’s Raspberry frosting. Super easy and very yummy. Once again, I’m doing a shout out to Sally. Thanks girl!!

  5. Michele Greiman says:

    I did not like my former white cupcake recipe as it was fine the first day but by day 2 the cupcakes were getting a little dry. SALLY TO THE RESCUE!! When I received an order for 3 dz vanilla cupcakes I thought, I’m going to try Sally’s. OMG!!! They are sooo good. I kept one back from the order so I could try it 36 hours after baking. Still so good, and NOT dry at all. Also used Sally’s Raspberry frosting. Super easy and very yummy. Once again, I’m doing a shout out to Sally. Thanks girl!!

  6. I’ve made these twice now, the first time I used a chocolate buttercream frosting. The other day I made the vanilla buttercream, it was fantastic! People at work loved them, said it was like eating a sweet cloud. Both times the cupcakes themselves were light, fluffy, and the vanilla bean gave them wonderful flavor. I’m already thinking about the next batch!

  7. Hi Sally – I love this recipe! I made it with the vanilla buttercream and thought it was wonderful. I would like to try with a chocolate icing for my sons first birthday. Any suggestions?

  8. Debbie Giambrone says:

    These cupcakes were absolutely amazing. I made them fore my college age son and friends and there were none left. They were all raving how good they were. This recipe is definitely a keeper!!

  9. Hi Sally,
    how can I convert this recipe into an 8 inch cake? i’m looking for a soft fluffy vanilla cake recipe.
    Please and thanks

    1. Hi Sandra! You can make the recipe as written, fill your lined and greased 8 inch cake pan halfway with batter, and use any extra batter for cupcakes on the side. I’m unsure of the exact bake time for the cake. Enjoy!

      1. Hi Sally..thanks so much. I will try that.. I have tried so many vanilla cake recipes and they were always dry and dense…I like my cakes soft and moist… hopefully this turns out

  10. Hi Sally,
    I’ve made your Very Vanilla cupcakes before and love them! Just wondering what the difference is between those and your Simply Perfect vanilla cupcakes. Thanks!

    1. These are much lighter and fluffier with the cake flour, egg whites, and creamed butter. 🙂 Both have great flavor!

  11. Kathryn Chicoine says:

    These are the best vanilla cupcakes I have ever eaten! My ten yr. old granddaughter made them for Valentine’s Day while I supervised. Absolutely perfect texture and taste. I will be making these again. I would like to know if I can freeze them with the icing on or should I freeze separately and combine when thawed? Thanks, KC

    1. Hi Kathryn! For absolute best taste and texture, I recommend making the cupcakes and freezing those, then making the frosting fresh and decorating the thawed cupcakes. If that’s not possible, you can freeze the decorated cupcakes with the frosting already on.

  12. Susan Dori Resnick says:

    I used my gluten-free flour & they did not rise as expected. What can be done? The flour brags one for one just like cake flour.

    1. Gluten free flour is much heavier and usually does not rise as well. I know other readers have used the 1:1 substitute for all purpose flour but I have not heard as much success with recipes calling for cake flour like this one. Unfortunately I don’t have much experience baking with gluten free flours so I have not tested this recipe myself.

  13. These cupcakes are to die for! I followed the recipe to a tee and they came out perfectly. I paired with a lemon curd buttercream and the combination is sensational. This will be my go to vanilla cupcake from now on!

  14. Thanks. I actually found that chart myself, made the cupcakes with the changes it recommended, and they came out perfect! Plus my granddaughters spent hours decorating them!

  15. If I only have salted butter do I omit the salt?

    1. Hi Katie, you can cut the added salt in half with salted butter.

  16. I’m not sure what happened but since most people love these I’m assuming I did something wrong. I followed the recipe and all the tips to ensure they were perfect, however, the cupcakes were somewhat dry, chewy, stick to the roof of your mouth rather than melt in your mouth. I’ll be back in the kitchen today trying a different recipe cause I can’t use these for my friends birthday.

    1. Hi Lori, I would love to help! I recommend that you check out my post 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes to help try to figure out what might have gone wrong.

  17. Are there specific instructions to double the recipe?

    1. Hi Katie! For best taste and texture, I recommend making two separate batches.

  18. If I don’t have enough butter, can use a combination of butter and vegetable oil for the cupcakes?

    1. Hi Anu, no it’s best to stick to the exact recipe. Don’t substitute vegetable oil for the softened butter.

  19. Hi, Sally! Your recipes sound so easy and wonderful. Can’t wait to try them! I just have a quick question though. Is an electric mixer absolutely necessary to cream the butter? Or can I use a normal whisk?

    1. Hi Aishwarya, It’s not impossible to cream butter by hand but it is very difficult. It takes a lot of arm muscle!

  20. Mary Jo Ruck says:

    So I just made these today, and the flavor was awesome! I did not let my ingredients come to room temperature and now know (after reading your post of the issue), that is why they had a denser texture.

    However, one question. What if I used two eggs instead of three egg whites? I know it would turn my cake yellow, but would it do anything else? Would it affect the texture (I assume so since baking is science after all). I would love your feedback.

    1. Hi Mary Jo! For best taste and texture, I recommend sticking with 3 egg whites. Two eggs will make these a bit too heavy and taste eggy. (Trust me, I’ve tested many times with this recipe and all of its flavor variations!)

  21. Jennifer Wodetzki says:

    These are the first cupcakes I have ever made from scratch and they turned out absolutely perfect.
    I used the cornstarch / flour sub and baked them for 19 mins and they are moist and delicious.
    Thank you!

  22. I need to make 5 dozen of these, does the recipe double well?

    1. For best taste and texture (and to prevent a ruined batch!) I recommend making separate batches.

  23. Can you substitute butter milk for sour cream and milk?

    1. Hi Kim, Yes you can use 1 cup of buttermilk in place of both the sour cream and whole milk.

  24. Easy 5 stars.
    Made them with the vanilla buttercream icing.
    So light and fluffy!

  25. Hi,
    With the pandemic all I have in the house is light sour cream do you think it will ruin the recipe?

    1. Hi Susan, You can try it just keep in mind that the lower the fat, the less “rich” the baked good will taste.

  26. Hey Sally,
    I adore every cake recipe you have! I have been trying to get the perfect fluffy vanilla cupcake and I wanted to try yours. I have baked them twice now and they seemed a little dense/not real fluffy. I was wondering how long are you mixing the egg whites in? I was doing two minutes. I think that may be what I was doing wrong. Is that too long ?

    1. Hi Kenzie, Thank you so much! When you add in the egg whites and vanilla you can mix just until they are incorporated. Use your eyes more than a timer. Here are my 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes that you might find helpful.

  27. Hi
    Love your books love your recipes . First time I had a fail. Don’t know what I did . Made these vanilla cupcakes and wasn’t fluffy or light . Looked beautiful but when I took a bite .. thick and dense. Can’t think as I follow to tee all your recipes. I am a baker
    Any advice as I will be remaking these !

    1. Hi Rita, I’d love to help! Since I don’t know exactly what went wrong I have a post 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes that you can use to help troubleshoot.

  28. Hi Sally! Newbie baker here. I’m talking 26 years old “didn’t bake my first from scratch cupcake until this quarantine”-newbie. Since then I’ve tried 3 recipes. A banana one from another site, your chocolate one.. and this. The texture is wonderful and they’re so easy to throw together. They take a wannabe baker and give them confidence! Thank you so much for providing such tasty, easy to follow recipes. I will definitely be using your site in my baking adventures.

    1. Hi Kay, Welcome to the wonderful world of from scratch baking 🙂 Thank you so much for trying my recipes, I’m thrilled you have been enjoying them!

  29. Melissa Wright says:

    Question do you have a good basic recipe for cupcake batter for add ins?

    1. This one is my go-to. I have several flavor variations from this base recipe including Strawberry Cupcakes, Mimosa Cupcakes, Sprinkle Cupcakes, Coconut Cupcakes, and more.

  30. This cupcake recipe is sooooo good!! Its the best! They came out super soft and tasty. Also i used sallys cake flour substitute, it worked i guess!

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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