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. Can’t wait to try this recipe!! The texture does look perfect! I always need to see a shot of the interior to decide if I want to try the recipe. Your post is so thorough!

    Being a baking nerd (and perfectionist myself), I hate it when the bottoms of vanilla or any light colored cupcakes turn out overly brown, I like even color throughout

  2. I loved the flavour of these cupcakes but they were super dense….like a bundt cake. Any suggestions to a lighter cupcake? I didn’t over mix.

  3. 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.

  4. Dear Sally, this look delicious! But I have no whole milk and have no time to buy them (I’m making these for a party)! Can I use 2% milk? Would it help if I add some heavy cream to the 2% milk? Thank you!

  5. I just made these and they are delicious but I would recommend either halving the frosting recipe or doubling the cupcake recipe because this is waaaaaay too much frosting . I had at least half of it leftover . I put it in the fridge to use on another batch .

  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. Made these tonight, stuffed them with strawberry jam, then made strawberry buttercream. Yum! So sad all but one are reserved for an event tomorrow. Definitely making again. 🙂

  8. Hi Sally,

    This cupcake recipe is quite simply THE BEST vanilla cupcake recipe I have ever tried (I’m a mad baker too and have tried dozens). These were light, fluffy and not too sweet. I filled them with lemon curd and topped with vanilla swiss meringue buttercream. I do have a question though….I loved this vanilla cake so much, I was wondering if you think it would work as a round cake for a layer cake or if you have tried baking it as a large cake??? Thanks Kellie

  9. 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

  10. I love your lemon and raspberry cupcake recipe and wanted to make some plain vanilla, my only problem is my boyfriend is allergic to cows milk so I can’t use sour cream or heavy cream, what would you suguest as a substitute?

  11. Hi Sally,
    I am baking cupcakes for a church event at the end of October. I have been searching everywhere for a good, vanilla cupcake recipe that makes 24 cupcakes. I love your recipe (light and fluffy is always a good thing), and was wondering if you have tried doubling it. Would love to know if you have any tips/tricks for doubling recipes.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Gabrielle! I’m never doubled this cupcake recipe. Rather, I make 2 batches. You avoid risking overmixing that way because you are working with less batter at a time.

  12. Hi Sally 
    I am looking for a good vanilla cake recipe to make a 7 tier naked cake. Would this batter work? I have been researching a recipe that will be the right consistency to withstand and I have not found one yet 

  13. Hi Sally; I was wondering, Can I use vanilla bean paste instead of the extract and the bean pod? If so, how much?  Thank you!

      1. Sally;
        I made these yesterday and they came out beautiful and taste divine. Love the crumb texture! Its a keeper!!!!!!! I also made the chocolate ones and love them too!!!! Thank you so much for your recipes.

  14. Hi Sally! These vanilla cupcakes look soooo delicious! I am planning to make them next week for a bridal shower. I was wondering if you had ever made *gold* frosting? And if so, how did you do it?
    Thank you for your awesome recipes!

  15. Amazing!…I am a proficient home cook/baker (I don’t like the word gourmet)… This is the perfect recipe for an airy light vanilla cupcake…Thank you… And The buttercream on top is much nicer than whipped cream! 

  16. Hi Sally. I want to make these for my daughter’s birthday but I would like to make them into mini cupcakes. How many mini cupcakes do you think this recipe would make? What would the baking time be? Are there any other adjustments you would suggest?

    thank you!

  17. Hi Sally,
    I’ve made these cupcakes and loved them so much, thanks for the recipe. <3 I have a vanilla cake lover friend who is celebrating his birthday this Friday and wanted to bake these in the cake form for him. Do you have any advice for that? Do you think that turns out as fluffy and won't be dry?

    Thanks so much.

    1. Still fluffy and soft as a cake! I would bake in an 11×7 pan. Same oven temperature, though I am unsure of the exact bake time

  18. Hi Sally,
    I’m new to your blog. Does the addition of sour cream make the cupcakes tangy?  Also, I would like to make the cupcakes the night before bringing them to work. Can they be left out at room temperature?

    1. Not tangy at all! You can’t taste your cream’s flavor, you just taste the added moisture and softness. You can leave them out at room temp; just make sure they are covered tightly.

  19. hi sally, i really want to try out this recipe as I’ve been on the hunt for good vanilla cupcake recipes but i can’t take dairy. are there any other alternatives to the sour cream and the whole milk? I’m still hoping to achieve the same texture and consistency as your cupcakes1 they look delicious!

  20.  Hi Sally,
    Is there a way to make this into a normal cake recipe? Can I placed this into a 9 x 13 pan and put it in the oven? Without any problems

    1. Hi Kristy. A 9×13 will be too large. I would bake in an 11×7 pan. Same oven temperature, though I am unsure of the exact bake time

  21. Hello,
    I have made this cake recipe twice and it keeps coming out like your second batch squat but baked inside. I do the recipe exactly like it says. But it comes out small and squat. What can I do to remedy this? 

  22. Hi Sally, 

    I followed the recipe and the taste is good! Just want to know how do you get the inside so fluffy? Mine came out a bit dense with not many bubbles on the inside. I like a happy medium between dense and not too fluffy that it crumbles.

    Any thoughts to help?

    1. Overmixing! That is typically the culprit. Use a light hand and mix only as much as you need to. Make sure you are baking the batter right away and not letting it sit, either. 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for taking the time to respond I will def take this approach. Am also very excited to try your raspberry dark chocolate cream cheese bars from your book! I also made the marshmallow gram fudge bars from your book for Halloween party… people told me to stop making them because they were becoming addictive !!! 🙂 

  23. Hi, I  absolutely love this recipe.  Thank you !Quick question, my cupcakes got stuck to the cupcake wrapper. What did I do wrong? 

  24. These cupcakes were just lovely! I made them in small mason jars, filled them with fresh Meyer lemon curd and topped with the raspberry jam frosting from your other recipe. A light, festive dessert for a buffet table. Thank you! 

  25. I want to make these but do not have vanilla bean. Can I just use vanilla extract? If so, how much extra should I add? Thank you! 

  26. Hi Sally!

    These look delicious! I was wondering if I could make these into a funfetti cupcake just by adding sprinkles? Thanks!

  27. Hi sally I like all your recipes especially the cakes and muffin my son loves sweets but he developed a gluten and dairy sensitivity so he is so upset his 9th birthday will be by the end of the month do you have any recommendations for me to make him muffin or cake so I can make him happy  thanks alot

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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