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. Hi, could you use vanilla bean paste instead for the vanilla cupcake and icing? how would that impact it? and how much would the subsitute be?

    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Ana! Yes you can use vanilla bean paste instead – same amount. Enjoy!

  2. Hi Sally! These cupcakes are so delicious, I’ve made them several times. When I make them for others, I sometimes get the feedback that the texture is quite dense, and I do agree – it’s not as spongey or airy of a texture as someone might normally expect in a cupcake. What causes that – is it the cake flour? Or how much liquid ingredients go in? And is there a way to make the texture a little more open? One thought I had was to bake an extra minute or two, and another was to add a bit more baking powder. What do you think? Thank you!!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tara! Take a look at this blog post to help you troubleshoot.

  3. Why all purpose flour for this recipe but you use cake flour for your very vanilla cupcakes?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Trish! We call for cake flour in this more recent Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes recipe. Cake flour gives the cupcakes a lighter texture. You can substitute cake flour in the Very Vanilla Cupcakes if desired.

    2. Hi!
      Thank you for the recipe, these are delicious. This is the second time I made them and something happened to the batter, like it curdled. Could it be the baking soda?

      Thank you!

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Stefanie! Batter will look curdled if all ingredients aren’t properly room temperature – the different temperatures keep the ingredients combining correctly. Some curdling is normal with wet ingredients, does it come together once the dry ingredients are added? Thanks for giving this recipe a try!

  4. Can’t I use same recipes for cakes as cupcakes & vice versa for the same flavor, why are they different?

    1. Hi Vanessa, you certainly can. However this amount of cupcake batter will not be enough for a large cake. You could use the white cake recipe to make cupcakes though.

  5. Holy cow! I made these yesterday and by far the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever had! They were so moist and spongey they reminded me of angel food cake! Seriously awesome and my new go-to vanilla cupcake recipe!

  6. Michelle Oelfke says:

    Hello,
    If I want to make 2 to 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes do I double this recipe or just use the white cake recipe ingredient amounts to make the cupcakes?
    Thank you for a reply.
    (*_*)
    Michelle

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle! We recommend using the white cake batter and following these cupcake baking directions. Hope they’re a hit!

  7. Danielle L Collins says:

    I baked these cupcakes and they are scrumptious! However, the liners pulled away from the cakes. They were the stand alone variety and not in a tin. The liners didn’t just partly peel away — nay nay — it looks like someone came along and peeled them all back to the base. Weird. Never had that happen before in my 40+ years of baking! I am assuming because these are a very moist cakes with sour cream and milk?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Danielle, If you try them again you can try putting them in a cupcake pan to help. Also, ever since we make the switch to using grease proof cupcake liners, we’ve never had a problem!

  8. I was just wondering if I make homemade cake flour (cornstarch & cake flour sifted together) will these come out bad since sifting the flour doesn’t work in this recipe? Should I just use all purpose?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Anna, the homemade cake flour substitute will work for these cupcakes – see recipe notes for details!

  9. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

    Hi Michelle, We sift the flour for the cake because 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 them lighter, we recommend sifting the cake flour for the cake version. But it’s not necessary for cupcakes as there is so little batter in each. I hope this helps!

    1. Michelle Oelfke says:

      Thank you! I made them this morning and the tops rose nicely albeit a bit crusted top but I’ll play with the cooking and or temp to figure that out.
      This recipe was super easy better than other vanilla ones. So I give it a 10 and the frosting was spot on in flavor and consistency. I piped roses on my cups. If I could post a picture I would!
      Thank you for the helpful info!
      (*_*)
      Chelle

  10. I just made this recipe and it is tasty but a bit too dense for me. Can I substitute the butter for canola oil?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Thanh, 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 we fear the texture will be greasy (and, of course, lacking butter flavor). Here’s some tips for baking cupcakes that may be helpful for next time!

  11. Sooooo good. Followed recipe exactly, and cupcakes were great! Would it be possible to add rainbow jimmies to make it “funfetti”, or would that hurt the crumb?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Laila, sure can! We’d start with 1/2 cup of sprinkles in the batter. Then add a little more if you think it needs more. Happy baking!

  12. Hi Sally! thank you for sharing
    your amazing recipes 🙂 this is my second time making these cupcakes but the batter turned quite liquidy after adding milk in the last step, meaning it’s not thick at all (though it did not affect the taste). Do you know what could’ve went wrong? I’ve followed your steps thoroughly both times.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Yvonne! Did you happen to make any ingredient substitutions, like a lower fat milk or sour cream? Or, perhaps there was not enough dry ingredients in the batter — did you spoon and level to measure your flour? Slowly adding the milk in the last step also helps the batter to stay thick without becoming too runny. Hope this is helpful for next time!

  13. Hi, anyway of replacing the vanilla bean with regular vanilla?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Liz! 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.

  14. These turned out amazing! Perfectly light and fluffy. Thank you!!

  15. Lori Grevstad says:

    So perfect!! This is my new go-to (and fave) cupcake recipe. Thank you for the tips and detailed instructions. I made them multi-coloured and topped with your Classic Buttercream to celebrate the launch of a tie-dye collection at work (Canadian retailer). They turned out exactly how I had hoped and everyone LOVED them!

  16. Annabelle says:

    I can’t believe that I have forgotten to write a review on this… this has been my go-to recipe for almost a year now. I have not only made beautiful cupcakes with this easy recipe but I have turned this into cake pops, layered cakes, you name it! Thank you so much – this has become a keeper in my family.

  17. Did not like this one at all, you can taste the sour cream and way too much sugar, you can’t even put frosting on it without gagging. flavour reminded me of those sour cream glaze donuts so if you like those this cake is for you. otherwise i recommend halving the sugar. it might change the texture but will taste 100x better. otherwise recipe was easy and worked as promised

  18. I made these last year for my daughter’s first bday and want to make them again this year for her 2nd bday! My question is, if I want to triple the recipe do I just triple the ingredients? Do I need to wait for the muffin tins to cool completely before reloading them with batter? I need 3 dozen of them! Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Molly, you could follow our Vanilla Cake recipe instead, which yields about 3 dozen cupcakes (same great taste!). It’s best to let the muffin tins cool completely before adding more batter — otherwise, they make bake quicker or unevenly. Happy baking!

  19. I have frozen the cupcakes for a couple of weeks. I don’t need them until Saturday afternoon. When would be the best time to put in the refrigerator and then taken out to frost?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lindy, it would be best to take them out and let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator the day before you plan to frost.

  20. Emma Preston says:

    These came out perfect. So pleased with this recipe. I just wish I could share a photo of how perfect these came out.

  21. These cupcakes were way to dense! I made the chocolate cupcakes and loved how light and airy they were and was hoping the vanilla cupcakes would turn out to be the same. Is there anything I can change to make these cupcakes light and airy?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Daltash, Be sure you are using cake flour (not all purpose) and following the recipe closely for the lightest texture. Here are all of our tips for baking the best cupcakes.

  22. Leshaye Moore says:

    Can you add oil instead of the butter? Will it make it softer?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leshaye, 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 we fear the texture will be greasy (and, of course, lacking butter flavor).

  23. Dear Sally, I really enjoy your cupcake recipes! I would like to make cupcake with earl grey tea. I am thinking to use you vanilla cupcake recipe and infuse earl grey tea bags with milk. Do you think it will work? I am thinking using 3 teabags. I usually reduce sugar by 2 tablespoons as I don’t have a very sweet tooth.

    Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and tips!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Johna, that sounds incredible! We haven’t tested any Earl Gray tea desserts but would love to hear what you try.

      1. Trina, I made the earl grey cupcake using Sally’s vanilla cupcake recipe with earl grey infused milk. I added orange zest and put almond slices on top and skipped the frosting. I reduced the amount of sugar.
        It is delicious! Thanks so much for the wonderful recipes!

  24. Would it be possible to use the reverse creaming method for this cupcake recipe?

    1. Hilari @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Julie! We haven’t tested the reverse creaming method for these cupcakes, but you could use our strawberry shortcake cake recipe which uses the reverse creaming method and bake the batter as cupcakes (yields about 12 cupcakes/about 20 minutes bake time). Let us know if you try anything!

  25. Love this recipe! I’ve made it several times now and the cupcakes always taste amazing! However – they always come out really domed rather than flat, which isn’t ideal for decorating… any idea about why this could be happening? My measurements are definitely right.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Patrycja, We are so happy you love this recipe! It’s possible you are simply filling your cupcake liners a bit too full. You want to only fill them 2/3 full (which is about 3 scant Tablespoons). For more troubleshooting you can visit our 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes.

  26. Accidentally used 1 cup of sour cream so I left out the milk. Turned out delicious! If you don’t LOVE vanilla I would cut the extract in half. It’s verrrry vanilla

  27. I personally love the taste of cake flour so I plan on using this base for a cake pop recipe! Do you think I could bake it in an 8×8 circular pan? Or a 9×12 pan? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Annabel! We’d recommend using our homemade cake pops recipe instead, otherwise you’d have to play around with the cake:frosting ratio here. You can swap the all-purpose flour there for cake flour. Let us know if you give it a try!

      1. Thank you! I did end up baking this in a 9×9 pan with 1/4 cup frosting! Worked great

  28. Silly question I know. The recipe above calls for 1/2 of a vanilla bean, does it matter if I cut the bean horizontally or vertically? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amber! It’s easiest to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean when sliced vertically.

  29. These came out so beautifully! I baked them with my five year old and they were absolutely delicious!
    Moist, light, delicious!
    We made a Nutella- buttercream frosting to top them off and the children loved them. Thank you Sally!

  30. I love this recipe. I served these recently for my daughter’s graduation party and they were a hit. The only change I made was cream cheese frosting, because we like it best. I made lemon cream cheese and chocolate cream cheese frosting. These are my go to vanilla cupcakes!

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