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.

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

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!

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

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.

Cake flour for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

Ingredients for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

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.

Cupcake batter for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

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!

Cupcake batter for simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

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)

Simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

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

Simply perfect vanilla cupcakes on

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.

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

Favorite Cupcake Recipes

Vanilla cupcakes with vanilla frosting

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 (200g) 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. 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.

  2. “I’m trading my sunglasses for my nerd glasses…” Lololol. Best glasses swap, ever. Like, better than swapping sunglasses for 3-D glasses. 😉 Anyway, of course these cupcakes are beyond gorgeous… and you know I love that beautiful, deep lavender plate. Meanwhile, I took an extra minute (or 10) to brush up on the differences between baking soda v. baking powder on the post you linked to. Bless you for always explaining things in simple, easy to understand terms. Seriously, Sally. Love that you had the sprinkles (ahem) to post that comparison photo. Let me tell you… I’ve had some really interesting comparison baked goods that will probably never see the light of day. 😉 These look so incredible on the inside! Amazing. Simply amazing. Alright, back to baking for me. Smart glasses on, thanks to you. Happy Monday, Sally!

  3. These look amazing! I love everything Funfetti and have tried all of your Funfetti recipes many many times (I wouldn’t be surprised if my pantry rained sprinkles one day). Would this base be appropriate for Funfetti cupcakes if I added sprinkles? Regardless, I’ll be trying these new vanilla cupcakes tonight! Thank you so much for your step by step directions and baking science behind each step! 

  4. Hi Sally! Perfect timing! I need to make a vanilla cake with lemon or orange frosting this weekend. I’m going to make these into a cake. I’m guessing I’ll need to double the recipe and make two round 9″ cakes, agree? Now for the lemon or orange frosting… let me know if you have one. I didn’t find one on the blog and the recipient doesn’t like coconut or else I’d make your lemon coconut cake.
    Thanks for these informative posts. Love reading and learning about baking! Your pictures are great, too. 🙂

      1. Hi Sally! Thank you for your reply and suggestions. I’ll do exactly as you said. Not sure if she likes cream cheese but I hope so and I’ll find out.  Thanks so much! 

      2. Hi Sally! Just wanted to thank you for sending me to your funfetti layer cake. It was a huge hit yesterday! The cake ended up super moist and very vanilla-y. LOVED it! Thank you for your recipes, your tips, your site. And also, i wanted to tell you I appreciate that when I read your posts from feedly but end up coming to your site to finish reading the rest of the post, it brings me to where I left off. A detail, but really nice.

      3. I’m glad you notice and appreciate that feature, Caroline– thanks for letting me know! I appreciate it.

  5. Hello Sally! Just saw this now. I know i messaged you a week or so ago about using the very vanilla recipe in a 9×13 pan. I did read a comment from another person who asked about that for this recipe and you suggested a 9×9 pan. Could you tell me the oven temp and how long to bake this recipe in a 9×9 pan?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jacquelyn! I’d actually use an 11×7 pan for these. Your cake may be a little too tall in a 9×9 square bake pan. I’m unsure of the bake time– but it will be done when you stick a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean. The oven temperature will remain the same (350F).

  6. I can’t wait to make these for my niece’s 1st birthday! Did you test using this recipes as cakes? A pretty little 1 year old MUST have a smash cake, right? What size pan(s), temps, baking times would you suggest? Thank you! 

    1. Hey Sara! I would use a 9×9 square baking pan, though the cake may be a little too tall. Your best bet would be an 11×7 actually. Same oven temperature, though I am unsure of the exact bake time.

  7. Hi Sally- I plan on making these for the very next occasion that comes up!!. Just wondring about buttermilk vs sour creme . Do they have the same acidity? Do they behave exactly the same? what have you noticed?. I make a chocolate sour creme cake by Andi Mitchell that is heaven on earth- but I also love a buttermilk cornbread recipe that is also awesome.

    1. They do behave exactly the same, yes. But using buttermilk in cakes/cupcakes really helps thin out the batter so the baked good wouldn’t taste as heavy if just sour cream was used. That’s my opinion!

  8. I’m a long time lurker (but fan! I’ve tried dozens of your recipes and I have your cookbook!) – I’m so excited to try these out! Whenever I go to a bakery, I ALWAYS get a vanilla cupcake, because it’s SO hard to get it right. I know a bakery is top-notch if they have a good vanilla. I’ll definitely be making these 🙂

    I’ve got to ask, your frosting looks almost Magnoilaesque. Any chance you could create instructions for achieving the swirl?

  9. These cupcakes look amazing! And since you mentioned that champagne works wonders, it got me thinking. Have you tried using club soda as a neutral replacement?

    1. I have– and I love it. I do like to use actual vanilla bean seeds because their flavor is fantastic. Though it’s a tough call because you can’t go wrong with any type of vanilla. I say use whichever you love best. Vanilla, in any form, is all so delicious in baking.

  10. Dear Sally, I’m thinking of Chestnut frosting on top of these lovely cupcakes. Would you be able to advise the amount of chestnut paste/ puree to be incorporated into the frosting recipe? Thank you!!

      1. I think you should start with 2 tablespoons and see how it tastes. Since this is chestnut paste (or puree) its not as potent as extract

    1. I wish I could help! I’ve never had it before so I’m unsure how potent it is. I suggest adding 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you are happy with the flavor.

  11. I actually was looking at a vanilla cupcake recipe the other day but did not print it. This one I’m printing for my recipe file. Definitely will be making this one. Thanks for another great recipe.

  12. There are a lot of vanilla cupcakes in the world, but I seriously believe you when you say these are the perfect ones. They look so light and fluffy and perfectly sweet! YUM!

  13. Hi Sally! These look just wonderful. It’s hard to beat a good vanilla cupcake! They seem to embody memories of every childhood birthday cake.

    Anyhow, the reason I’m commenting is because your mimosa cupcakes – made with champagne – and the super fluffiness the bubbliness brought to the table (try saying that three times fast…) reminded me of a recipe trick of my mom’s: for some lent recipes, she would use soda water to add lightness instead of egg whites. Point being, I bet that any kind of sparkling water would suit admirably in lieu of champagne to make a variety of cupcakes.

    I am suddenly envisioning tonic and lime cupcakes…. gin on the side.

    As always, thank you for your wonderful website and sharing your kitchen adventures and expertise!

    1. Love that tip and the whole concept is just so intriguing, isn’t it? Carbonated water doing wonders in cakes and cupcakes. Love your idea for a tonic and lime cupcake. With gin in the other hand. Ha!

      1. Sally, thank you so much for your reply! Lovely of you. I am sure there is some chemistry at play there. I will definitely geek out with this at some point!

    1. Whole milk is full fat, regular cow’s milk. Buttermilk is something else entirely and changes the chemistry of the recipe. 

  14. I have tried several different recipes for cupcakes & they all have come out too dense, until I found your recipe for the funfetti cupcakes! I really think the difference was the melted butter (I think I end up creaming the butter & sugar too long or not enough!) Would love to try this cupcake recipe whenever I find the courage to cream butter & sugar again!

    Any tips for knowing when it is creamed enough without over creaming it?

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

  16. 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.

  17. Do you think I can use this recipe for a cake? I was looking for a great vanilla cake for my daughters birthday cake. If so how long would you bake it for?
    Thanks! Tanya

  18. Hi Sally! In your opinion, do these taste better than your mini vanilla cupcakes in your cookbook? Are these more moist than the ones in your book? I loved that recipe and can’t wait to try this one out as well!

    1. They taste quite similar actually. I think those minis are so light, mostly because of their size. But try these too. I promise you’ll love these the same, if not more!

  19. 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!

  20. 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?

    1. I’m glad they’re such a hit!! I wouldn’t change the batter at all to make the cake. What a compliment to have this as a wedding cake. 🙂

  21. Coming back to comment since these cupcakes are by far the best thing my husband has said he’s ever had. Get to baking-these are delicious!

1 2 3 4 10

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.

Recipes You’ll Love



Sally's Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

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

View More

Sally's Pie Week

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

View More

My 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