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


Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe!
Fluffy, soft, light, and simply perfect vanilla cupcakes. They will be your new go-to homemade vanilla cupcake recipe!


  1. can anything be substituted for vanilla bean? Perhaps vanilla paste?

    1. Hi Debbie, see my recipe note. You can try using 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste instead of the vanilla extract replacement.

  2. Just made these for the first time and they were great! Didn’t have all the right ingredients (quarantine baking struggles) so had to sub plain yogurt in for the sour cream. As it was so much lower in fat (3%), I used cream (10%) in place of the milk to try and even it out. Don’t have the original to compare it to, but they seemed to turn out well and were nice and fluffy! I also had to replace about half of the butter with coconut oil. Just thought I’d share in case anyone else was low on ingredients!

  3. I loved these! When I made them I wanted chocolate cupcakes so I added 1/8 cup of cocoa powder and around 1/4-1/3 cup of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. I added the cocoa with the flour, and the chips after the milk. I also added a little bit more butter. Also, I would note that because we are in quarantine I did not want to use all of my baking ingredients if this didn’t turn out okay so I cut the recipe in half. Finally, because of the shortage of eggs, I used meringue powder instead of egg whites. Turned out fantastic!

  4. Hi Sally! I plan on making these this weekend for my daughter’s 1st birthday (drive-by parade!) If I want to make 4 dozen of them, can I cook more than one cupcake tin in the oven at once, or does that affect cooking time? Would I need to rotate? Thank you!

    1. Hi Molly! You can bake more than 1 batch of cupcakes at a time. Rotate them top to bottom halfway through baking. The bake time will be the same, maybe a minute or 2 more.

  5. Hi. Can anything be substituted for sour cream?

    1. You can use plain yogurt.

      1. I don’t have yogurt or sour cream because I’m using the sour cream I have for a mother’s day vanilla cake using your vanilla cake recipe. Are you sure there’s nothing else I can use to substitute sour cream?

  6. Janine Lis says:

    Hi there,
    What do you recommend to use as far as gluten free flour?

    1. Hi Janine, I have not tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let me know if you try!

  7. Janine Lis says:

    Do you have recommendations on type of gluten free flour that is best for baking? There are several types -blends!

    1. Hi Janine, Unfortunately I don’t have much experience with gluten free flours. All of my Gluten Free recipes are naturally free of flour.

  8. I don’t have yogurt or sour cream because I’m using the sour cream I have for a mother’s day vanilla cake using your vanilla cake recipe. Are you sure there’s nothing else I can use to substitute sour cream?

    1. Hi Rossie, the next best option would be to replace the sour cream AND milk with buttermilk. Use 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk.

  9. I’ll hand it to you for flavor. I did everything as instructed. Ingredients were room temp – and FRESH. They didn’t rise at all. They were like sticky, dense vanilla things. Fully baked in the middle, so I know i left them in long enough. This is the second time this has happened. 🙁 I’m dying to find a good homemade vanilla cupcake recipe.

    1. Hi Jane, I’m concerned the cupcakes didn’t rise with both the baking powder and baking soda. I’ve baked these many times and even have a slew of recipes based on this base cupcake recipe. Feel free to email me if you’d like to troubleshoot. Thanks for the feedback!

  10. So I’ve made these cupcakes a couple of times, and didn’t have the vanilla bean, so just adjust with the extract. They were super tasty. However, today I made them again, this time with The vanilla bean, and oh my gosh… amazing! Such a beautiful full flavor of vanille. Really excellent.
    I enjoy baking your recipes! They are great.

  11. Can you use crème fraîche instead of sour cream? It might be a bit heavier, but I find it less sour. Can this be used? Thank you!

  12. Hi Sally!
    I love your recipes!!! I just wanted to ask,
    I’m planning on making this recipe for a party but will have to refrigerate them. As I’ll make them in the morning and we’ll eat them in the evening, can I leave them in the fridge for a few hours without losing the fluffiness?

    1. Hi Sasha, You can refrigerate them but they will also be fine covered at room temperature for the day!

  13. Hi Sally, I can’t wait to try this recipe for my family.Thank you

  14. Laura Linton says:

    Which Sweetapolita sprinkle blend did you use for these cupcakes? I love the color combo of the various purples and pinks.

    1. Hi Laura, I’m so sorry I don’t remember the name of this exact sprinkle blend. I have an ever rotating supply of Sweetapolita sprinkles and their sprinkle menu is updated often! Here is their menu:

  15. Hi there, I noticed that the flour and sugar are both 200 grams but different volumes if measuring by cup. Are the grams correct for both? Thanks!

  16. Hi Sally,

    What is your favorite cake flour to use for cupcakes & cakes?


    1. Hi Ashley, I love King Arthur Flour and Swans Down brands.

  17. I have not yet tried the recipe but I was wondering if you could substitute vanilla bean for anything? I normally have it but because of quarantine, I ran out! Thanks, Sally!

    1. Hi Mina, if you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, simply leave it out or replace with an extra 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

  18. Making this as a 9×5 Loaf (for the shape more than anything). It took 55 mins at 350* in case anybody else is looking to do the same : )

  19. Could you make this in small muffin pan (24 per pan)? What adjustments would you recommend to make mini cupcakes instead?

  20. Hey Sally, do I use plain or self raising cake flour in your recipes?! I’ve found both and don’t know which one to use! Thank you, Deb

    1. Hi Deb, Use plain flour (not self rising!). You can then see my post on Cake Flour Substitute to turn plain flour into cake flour. I hope this helps!

  21. Hi Sally, I want to make these for a birthday party today. I’m struggling to find plain flour or cake flour due to the current circumstances. Is there anything I can do to incorporate self raising flour? I also have some corn flour.
    Sarah xxx

    1. Hi Sarah, The use of self rising flour would require additional recipe testing so I can’t confidently recommend how to use it. If you can find plain/all purpose flour you can make your own cake flour substitute.

  22. Paula Adkins says:

    Hi Sally,
    I love all the recipes I tried from your website ! I’m ready to make the Vanilla Cupcakes with egg whites and wanted to make sure if the whites are unbeatened before adding to the mix .
    Thanks, Paula

    1. Hi Paula, No need to beat them separately first. They just get added into the mix in step 3. Enjoy!

  23. Annabelle Ink says:

    I love this recipe! I just made it, it came out beautiful and very fluffy. I was wondering if it’s possible to use egg whites from a carton, rather than egg whites that I separated from egg yolks? Do you think that this will affect the cupcake? Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Annabelle, so glad you enjoy these cupcakes! You can use carton egg whites in this recipe if needed.

  24. Hi Sally,
    Can I replace the butter with vegetable oil?

    1. Hi Casey, it’s not possible to cream oil. The creaming step is crucial to this cupcake’s texture. You’ll also lose a lot of flavor. You could try solid coconut oil instead, but I fear the texture will be greasy (and, of course, lacking butter flavor).

  25. ABSOLUTELY LOVED THESE! Light, not too sweet….but still sweet enough for my two fussy boys and all their friends!!!! 🙂

  26. Hi Sally,
    I would like to make your chocolate cupcakes, and these delicious looking vanilla cupcakes, tomorrow. I was just wondering why there are a few differences between the 2 recipes (i would have thought the only difference would be adding cocoa/vanilla)? For ex: oil for chocolate, only egg whites for vanilla, sour cream and whole milk for vanilla, buttermilk for chocolate.
    Thank you for the amazing recipes, can’t wait to try them ! =)

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Debbie, Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just swap in come cocoa powder?! 🙂 Baking is all about science and the chemistry of how ingredients react to each other. For example, the cocoa reacts to the acid in the buttermilk, and for vanilla cupcakes the yolks weigh down the batter so we take them out but add the fat and moisture back in with sour cream. If you are interested in learning more, Sally recommends Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book if you want to purchase it. It’s the best cookbook for teaching!

  27. Hi! You mentioned with your batch # 3 of these cupcakes you didn’t sift the cake flour. But if I use cake flour substitute (AP flour + cornstarch) should I sift this twice as written in your instructions on how to make the cake flour sub? Hope you can clarify. Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi JC, Yes you will need to sift the all purpose flour and cornstarch together to make cake flour as described in the Homemade Cake Flour Substitute post. You just don’t need to sift it an additional time before measuring and adding to your cupcakes!

  28. Hi sally! I’ve made you recipe before and love it! I’ve run out of milk, can I substitute almond milk for it? I also have powdered buttermilk.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Magaly, Almond milk should be ok in a pinch. Or you can use buttermilk to replace both the whole milk AND the sour cream (so you would use 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk).

  29. Hi Sally,
    I’m making these cupcakes for a baby shower and was asked to add a filling. I’ve never made this recipe before. Would these cupcakes turn soggy with a filling or should they be ok?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jen, Yes you can fill these cupcakes! You can see how to fill them in the post for Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes, and scroll down to the video. Enjoy!

  30. I am making 3 layer – 6 inch cakes using ur vanilla cupcake recipe . How long
    Should I bake the cakes ? Should I turn the pans in the middle of
    Baking ? I always get a domed and cracked top why is that ? I only have a hand mixer may be over mixing it

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vindhya, You can use the baking instructions on the post 6 Inch Cakes. When a cake domes it is usually because the edges of the cake bake first and set, while the interior of the cake continues to rise. This can be due to many factors including what type of pan you use. A lot of bakers use cake strips, which are strips of material that you wet and fasten around the outside of the pan which helps cakes to bake more evenly.

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