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. Oh my sweet goodness, Sally!!!!! I have been looking for a coconut cupcake recipe and thought hmm I wonder what would happen if I replaced the sour cream with coconut yogurt.  So I did. With half vanilla extract and half coconut extract! I Topped these with a mango buttercream! Like Hawaii in my mouth.  soooooo amazing!!  And also all your fault.  Ever since you shared that mango cake.  I don’t know where mango buttercream has been all my life but I am sooo glad I found it!  A thanks for always keeping my kitchen fresh with new ideas! Seriously this recipe is the best!

    1. Wow, that does sound amazing!! I’m going to have to try it! Have you tried these cupcakes (you can use a different frosting)

  2. I’m not an experienced baker but have made a recipe of yours in the past with great success.. I’ve recently taken on the task of making cupcakes for my daughters birthday party and thought this vanilla cupcake would be perfect..My question is- Can this recipe be doubled? is it as simple as that? Just x2 each ingredient? or would adjustments need to be made when making a large batch? Thanks for any advice:)

  3. This is the one! That’s it! This is the one I have been looking for a long time.I made it yesterday and ate one last night. It was fluffy, soft and just right amount of sweetness. So Yummy and… I put the rest in the freezer for over night then frosted with buttercream this morning. It was not same as fresh one BUT I think it gets more moist and so so so GOOD. This is my first time to use your recipe and can’t wait to try more of your recipes. I have one question for you. Which yellow or Vanilla cake or cupcake recipe is good for making 9X13 sheet cake pan?
    Thank you for your all hard work!!

    1. So glad you love these vanilla cupcakes! Thank you for reporting back about them. I would use this yellow sheet cake recipe for a 9×13. See recipe notes 🙂

  4. Hi Sally! This is my absolute favorite cupcake recipe, and I’ve baked it dozens of times to the delight of my friends and family.

    I just have one question: do you have any idea if I could adapt this recipe to make them matcha green tea flavored?

    I need to use up some matcha powder I have left over, so if I were to add it, how much would you recommend? Would I have to take out some flour, and/or add more moisture to compensate? 

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Brenda! I wish I could help, but I don’t want to give any wrong suggestions. I haven’t tried matcha powder in any baking recipes so I really can’t say anything with confidence. Sorry!

  5. Hi sally.!!!! I baked these last night and they were amazing.! I stored them in a container and left on the kitchen counter, however today the cupkaws are very sticky and almost wet.. not sure what’s happened. I’m baking them for my wedding and plan to freeze them once I’ve baked them. Can you help.? So that I have the perfect crumb for my day…xx

  6. Hi Sally! I LOVE all of your delicious recipes! For sone reason, when I made these, mine went flat.(looked more like the pic on the left). I LOVE the volume in your wedding cupcakes! Do you think I could use that technique for these, folding whipped egg whites in at the end? Thanks so much!

  7. Hi Sally,

    I only ever have nondairy milk on hand, do you think using it in place of the whole milk would cause the same issue as skim milk?

    1. I like all different brands of butter– store brand is great too! I use King Arthur flour almost exclusively.

    1. I don’t recommend it– the 3 egg whites are important to the texture and taste. See the post for why! 🙂 You can try another cupcake recipe that uses the whole egg instead if you’d prefer that.

  8. These look delicious! Do you have any idea whether you could use/substitute using vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract and vanilla bean would work?

  9. Hi Sally,

    I have a silly question for you: what on earth is the difference between yellow cake and vanilla cake? I know you have recipes for both on your site, but I could never figure out the difference (besides the slightly different hue).


  10. I made these over the weekend and they were absolutely perfect! Made 2 more cupcakes for me than what you stated in your recipe, but the 2/3 full tip was very helpful in determining that. I LOOOOVE these cupcakes! They are so soft and airy and they remind me of angel food cake! So delicate yet strong enough to hold up to a heaping load of frosting! It’s amazing thank you for sharing!

    1. Yep! Here it is, with extra batter (practically doubled) for a layer cake.

  11. Hi, Sally! I love this recipe and am using it to make 6 dozen cupcakes for a funeral tomorrow. Is it possible to double it? I know you recommended against it in some comments, but you say that your vanilla cake recipe is basically this recipe – only doubled. Would it hurt anything to double this, or would using the cake recipe yield the same results as these cupcakes? I really want these, but would rather not have to mix up 5 batches if I didn’t have to. Thanks! 

  12. Hi Sally,
    I think my first message went missing :/  I made these yesterday, finally a decent home made vanilla cupcake yay!    Im in Australia so just had a question about the type of sugar you used because sometimes we call things differently!  I do think when you say granulated sugar we are talking about the same thing, the stuff we put in our coffee, the finer grade we call caster sugar, you guys call super-fine I think.  But the reason i need to check is that after beating granulated sugar with butter for only 2 minutes I wouldn’t call it ‘creamed together’, its still extremely grainy. Is it still meant to be really grainy at that point or is my sugar wrong ?
    I went ahead and baked with a grainy cake mix (eek!)  but they still tuned out awesome.
    However if I’ve use the wrong type of sugar and can get an even better result would love to know the answer to that.. 
    Thanks Sally x

    1. Hio Rhonda! It looks like you commented on the frosting recipe I recommend creaming for a bit longer if you find the two aren’t coming together. It will still be slightly grainy, but perfectly incorporated into the butter.

  13. Hi, wondering will the texture of the batter make some difference, if I fold in (the combined mixture of  eye white, vanilla extract and vanilla bean) into this  (butter & sugar mixture) in one go or I should slowly fold in the eye white slowly then follow by the vanilla extract and vanilla bean? How to prevent over mixing? Shall I follow the video in White layer cake as i can’t find any video for the new vanilla cup cake.

    As i had tried my 1st batch. It taste fantastic but the texture is not like what being mentioned in this recipe? The outcome of my baked seem more dense and kinda like uncooked texture. It does not have the bubbly and fluffy texture as it shown. 

  14. hi sally
    I am new baker.I liked your recipe and tips and the way you explained all is awsome.
    please can you explain me what is the difference between cake flour and all purpose flour.

    1. Hey Angela! You can purchase vanilla bean seeds– is that what you see at the store? Vanilla beans are also sold as, literally, a bean pod. And you manually scrape the seeds out.

  15. Hi Sally! I tried your recipe above. My cupcakes did not come out as light and fluffy as yours. I used yoghurt instead of sour cream. Could this be what affected the consistency of the cupcakes?

    I loved the taste but they were too dense for my liking. I’ll try to make them again tonight but I’ll sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda first. I hope it comes out better for me this time.

    I wish I would post the pictures of the results of my trying your recipe. But, I can’t do it here. Hehehe

    1. Hi Leni! Sifting will help– did you use cake flour? Just making sure. The type of flour makes all the difference! Let me know how round #2 is.

      1. Yup! I used cake flour. I tried it again now. I sifted the flour before measuring and then I whisked the other dry ingredients in but it’s still the same consistency. I even added 1/2 tsp baking soda since I read somewhere that, in order to replace sour cream with yogurt, I need to add baking soda following the ratio of 1 C yogurt + 1 tsp baking soda for 1 C sour cream. So, since the recipe only needs 1/2 C sour cream, I halved the amount of yogurt and baking soda.

        This time the cupcakes rose but then after a while they deflated. So the tops were a bit flat. Just like your #2 batch.

        I’m gonna try and figure out. Although I’d appreciate whatever tips you can give me.

  16. How many cups of batter does this make? I’m making a giant cupcake that calls for 6 cups of batter. Thanks!

    And I have made your recipe MANY times, but just as regular cupcakes. They are delicious! My son has a friend who doesn’t really like sweets, but he loves these cupcakes.

    Thank you for sharing!

  17. Hiya love all ur recipes. Wanted to make these but in mini cupcakes instead would that work? How many do u reckon this recipe would yield?

  18. Also I did all-purpose flour and arrowroot powder because I didn’t have cornstarch- so that seems to work too as another option.

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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