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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

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

    1. You can use plain yogurt.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. Hi Sally,
    Can I replace the butter with vegetable oil?
    Thanks!!!

    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).

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

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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!

  14. I made these last night to see if I should try to make cupcakes for our party or buy. My husband REALLY loved them. I didn’t get to the frosting yet. I would highly recommend this recipe. Thank You!

    1. Hi, I’m really hoping someone can help me. I am new at baking from scratch and I can’t seem to get a decent vanilla cupcake/cake. I’ve made amazing chocolate cake and amazing banana bread but I can’t figure out why my vanilla cupcakes are awful! Ive tried different recipes and methods they rise fine are moist but don’t taste great and are very dense. I would really like to try this recipe I only have 2%milk can I use that instead of whole milk or is there a substitute? I’d really appreciate any tips. Thanks!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Kristy, Sticking with whole milk will yield a softer cupcake, but 2% will work in a pinch. Here’s a helpful post about preventing dense cake as well!

  15. Hi, for this cupcake, there is no need to sift the cake flour? Because in the white cake, it is required.

    Is there a reason why it is not needed in this cupcake and it is needed in the white cake? Thanks.

    1. Hi Lou, cakes have the tendency to become dense since there’s a higher quantity of ingredients and the weight of the layers weigh it down. To help keep it lighter, I recommend sifting the cake flour for the cake version.

  16. this is the best cupcake i ever had!

    its so delicious, fluffy, moist, light and airy

    Evreyone go for this recipe!

  17. What if we don’t have sour cream? Is there any replacement of sour cream?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Acca, You can use plain yogurt instead.

  18. So sorry if this has already been asked and/or answered – can I use this cupcake recipe to make one 9″ round cake? Your two layer 9″ cake brought me to this page which said it was halved.
    Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      You could, yes!

  19. Made these delicious cupcakes today and I’m not usually a big cupcake fan but seriously amazing!!!! So incredibly easy and simple yet absolutely yummy

  20. Martha Brown says:

    Hi Sally-I’ve made these cupcakes several times and they always come out amazing! Is it okay to add a cup of dried cranberries? Have some dried cranberries on hand and want to use them. By the way, I just made your banana cream pie and its out of this world delicious!
    Thanks for all your amazing recipes!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Martha, We are so glad you enjoy these! We haven’t tested these with cranberries but you can try adding up to 1 cup of chopped dried cranberries. Let us know if you try it!

      1. Hi Stephanie-I made them with a cup of dried cranberries and they turned out perfect. Can’t wait to try this months recipe, that cinnamon swirl quick bread looks so yummy. Again, thanks for all the amazing recipes!

  21. Hi there, my name is Hailey and you’ve inspired me and I found out that making cakes/sweets for a living is my dream job. Thankyou so much for all you do!

    I’m trying to make a few 6” raspberry cakes. I would really like to use this recipe but dot it with frozen raspberries that have been dusted with flower. Do you think the moisture will screw up the cake? Also, I had the thought of whipping the eggs white to make it fluffier. My last batch with a different recipe came out denser even though I dont believe I over mixed the batter. I wasn’t thinking about the size difference. I didn’t know if you had any thoughts.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Hailey, You can add 1 cup of frozen berries to this vanilla cupcake batter. We recommend tossing the frozen berries (do not thaw) in 1 Tablespoon of flour before adding to the batter. We haven’t tested this, but it is what we would do. Or you can use the recipe for these Strawberry Cupcakes for the batter but swap raspberries for strawberries. Reducing fresh raspberries on the stove may take longer since they have a higher water content and the freeze dried raspberries for the frosting should work beautifully. Let us know if you try it!

  22. Hello! How would we adjust the recipe of we wanted to make 6 or 24 cupcakes??

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Elena, You can cut the recipe in half for fewer cupcakes. For the best texture we do recommend making two separate batches instead of doubling for 28 cupcakes.

  23. Hi Sally,
    I was wondering if this recipe could be cut in half? I would like to make a half a batch of your vanilla cupcakes as well as your chocolate cupcakes. Will halving the recipe have any effects on the baking overall and how it turns out? I have made these vanilla ones before and they’re absolutely delicious and I would like to try and make the chocolate ones. I don’t need that many cupcakes so that’s why I’m asking if it could be halved.
    Thanks 🙂

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi April, You can cut the recipe in half. Happy baking!

  24. These are perfect! Made them for my daughter’s birthday. I’ve made tons of vanilla recipes and this is by far may favorite

  25. Hi Sally,
    Would this batter be thick enough to hold up white chocolate chips?

    Thanks!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can add chocolate chips to the vanilla cupcakes. I’d add about 1 cup.

  26. Sally, you have two recipes for vanilla cupcakes and I’m just wondering what the compare/contrast Is. It seems with the cake flour and higher fat content of these it seems as though it’s just tenderness and structure. Is this one the winning version? Lol

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Gino, This recipe is softer and fluffier than the older recipe for Very Vanilla Cupcakes. We think you will love this one!

  27. Hi! I’d like to use this recipe for a 3 layer 6inch cake (since the other cake recipes are for 9inches). I noticed that for the white cake, it used both whole eggs and additional egg whites. Since I’m making this recipe into a cake, should I still stick with 3 egg whites? Also, just whole milk and not buttermilk? Thank you so much! Excited to make this for my son’s birthday 🙂

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hello! Great questions, Sally answers all of them in this great post on 6 inch cakes. Happy baking!

  28. I made these for my son’s Birthday and they were a huge hit!

  29. Hello Sally,
    I made these cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday. I found they were moist but very heavy. I used parchment paper cups and they ended up pulling away from the cakes.

  30. Hello!!

    You have a similar recipe “Best Vanilla Cake” It IS! but I want to make it in a 6 inch cake. I see you have Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes recipe that is similar, but I am wondering about the difference from 1/2 c sour cream/ 1/2 c whole milk from the cupcakes recipe and the buttermilk from the Cake recipe. Can I use 1 cup of buttermilk to substitute the 1/2 and 1/2 of the cupcake recipe?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jennifer! Yes, you can replace the sour cream and whole milk with buttermilk in this recipe.

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