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. Hi Sally, just wanted to say thank you for your guidance and lovely recipes. I made these cupcakes today for Mother’s Day. I added blueberries and lemon like in your Meyer lemon and blueberry cupcake recipe and it turned out great. All finished off with your favorite cream cheese frosting. Just delicious!! Thanks again 🙂

    1. Miss Sally, wondering if I can substitute King Arthur’s Gluten Free flour for the cake flour in this recipe and also for the “super moist chocolate cupcakes” recipe?

      1. I haven’t personally tested this particular flour in these recipes but I know other readers have made the substitution with success!

  2. Hi Sally!

    I’m so interested in the vanilla bean, but I can’t find it in any store and don’t have enough time to order it online.

    If vanilla bean can’t be used, would you add more vanilla extract?

    Thank you!

  3. Hi Sally,

    I made these cupcakes recently, and the flavor was great but the cake texture came out quite dense and many of them sank while cooling. What should I do differently next time?

    1. Hi Lesley, It’s possible that you over mixed the batter or filled the cupcake liners too full. Check out this blog post with cupcake baking tips and please let me know if you have any more questions!

  4. I’d live to make these cupcakes for my daughter’s baby shower. Do you think your strawberry icing would pair well with these? Thanks!

  5. Have you tried making these with buttermilk, Sally? Think this is a possibility? Love your recipes and tips and suggestions!! TIA!

  6. HI sally. My son is requesting strawberry cupcakes for his birthday. Could i use this recipe as the base and add pureed strawberries into the mix?

  7. I’ve made these cupcakes about 6 times now trying to figure out what the problem is. Every time they come out dense and a little wet inside, almost like pancakey. I mix just enough to incorporate ingredients, everything is room temp, oven temp is spot on. I use bobs red mill cake flour, maybe that’s the problem? I’m afraid to waste anymore ingredients to try a different brand. I love all the other recipes on the blog but this one has been an epic fail for me personally.

  8. I made these as a test batch of cupcakes since I’m trying to decide if I’m brave enough to make the cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday or if I need to order something. I’m an accomplished baker, but not so much a decorator!

    However, these with the buttercream frosting came out perfectly. And piped well, too! I thought they were great, my husband a bit dry, but I don’t know what he was thinking.

    I subbed out the last half teaspoon of vanilla for orange extract — really I should have added more since it was the perfect light note in the batter but so much in the baked cupcake.

  9. Hello sally
    Thank you for sharing your great recipes
    I was wondering if can I subustitute the butter with oil?
    Thank you

    1. Hi Baria! I don’t recommend it. The creamed butter/sugar is the base of this recipe and you can’t cream oil. You could try solid coconut oil though!

  10. Hi there! We have successfully made a few of your cupcake recipes for my daughter’s birthday parties, and she’s requested vanilla for this year. If I have to make 3-4 dozen cupcakes, is it ok to triple or quadruple the recipe to make a giant bowl of batter, or do you recommend making one batch at a time?

    1. Hi Bridget! To avoid over or under-mixing, which could ruin the whole big batch, I strongly recommend making the batter a few different times.

    1. Hi Gina, I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful:

  11. Fantastic! This is my new favourite vanilla cupcake recipe. I’m not a huge fan of vanilla cake but I absoloutley love these! The only thing is that it definitely made more than 14, but it’s possible that I didn’t fill them up as much. I made a double batch and ended up with 36 regular cupcakes and 24 minis (not that anyone in my house is complaining, lol)

  12. These were SUPERB. The only vanilla cake batter I have ever felt compelled to lick out of the bowl–and the baked cupcakes were even more delicious. And that’s without having vanilla bean on hand! I can’t wait to try it with the bean, as I would have loved more profound vanilla flavor.
    I was short on some ingredients so I ended up using 1 1/4c cake flour and 1/2c pastry flour; and instead of the whole milk, I used a mixture of heavy cream and almond milk when I discovered my milk had gone past! XD whoops…but no harm done, even with these haphazard alterations they were SO DELICIOUS. Definitely becoming a staple recipe.

  13. I just pulled my first batch out of the oven and they are divine! Fluffy and light with a beautiful vanilla flavor, I couldn’t be happier. Thank you so much ☺️

  14. Hi Sally,

    This is the first time I’ve tried your recipes as I’m an avid baker myself and usually strive for my own ideas. I was online however and found you and thought “ I’ve been able to make any flavour of cake and cupcakes really, but vanilla has always disappointed me. Not the family, but I’m picky about how my baking turns out” anyways I decided to try your vanilla cupcake recipe and am I ever happy I did. The sour cream and whole milk makes them so devine. I pared it with a strawberry buttercream that I love and they sold out at my daughters first bake sale of the school year. Thanks again and I may have to big you from time to time when what I’m working on doesn’t work.

    Alberta, Canada

  15. Hi sally,

    I’ve been a huge fan of your blog since 2015 n I’m so happy n excited using all of your recipes!!! Please since I’m new to this white vanilla cupcakes, can I use chocolate chips filled in it? Instead of plain. Please I would appreciate your answer soon today. Thank you.

      1. Wowwwww!!!!! Thank u so much! I love all of your recipe especially carrot cake n red velvet are the best of all!!!! Chocolate cupcakes!!!! I’m think which cake shall I do for my brother in law’s baby birthday next month!!!! I did add chocolate chip in vanilla cupcake n turned out perfect! ❤️❤️❤️

  16. Hi Sally,

    When making cakes/cupcakes with egg whites in the batter is it better to use the whisk attachment rather than the paddle? I made these a couple of days ago and I dont believe I overmixed the batter but i did use a paddle attachment and was thinking that may have affected the amount of air that goes into it.


    1. Hi Joshua! I use either the paddle or whisk attachment. I prefer the whisk attachment for these as I find it really whips those whites and rids the batter of tiny lumps.

  17. You use whisk attachment for ” Favorite white layer cake” recipe.
    How about using whisk attachment for this recipe? Is it bad idea?

  18. Sally, I just finished making a batch of these cupcakes and OMGosh, they are so yummy. Light and fluffy and completely white inside with the tops being very lightly tanned in color. Just PERFECTION!! Mine only took 12 mins to bake up and my batter made 15. The only ingredient I didn’t use was the vanilla bean so as you suggested, I added that extra 1/2 tsp. I can’t wait to make them with the bean. Never used them before but I can’t wait to taste these with that stronger vanilla flavor.

    I plan to use your strawberry marshmallow frosting (hubby’s not a fan of cream cheese) and the left over strawberry cream cheese frosting I have from making the cake. Because these were SO easy to make, I plan to make another batch tomorrow.

    Anyone trying to decide whether or not to make these I say… GO FOR IT!! Just make sure to follow the recipe as follows and you too will be successful. I read a few reviews and I have to agree with Sally. Using the whisk was the way to go. Thanks again for another amazing recipe… 😉

  19. Hi sally,

    I was just wondering if I can half some of your recipes? This recipe, the chocolate cupcake, red velvet cupcake, and your spice cupcakes. Sorry if thats an overload but im just wanting to make a smaller quantity of each recipe.

    Thank you

  20. Hi Sally… I’ve made these a number of times and turned out great… I had tried the white layer cake and I failed at it miserably… I then decided to bake an 8inch using this recipe… I made 2 batches of this recipie to fill a 3inch deep pan… cake baked beautifully rose to 2inches deep and looked perfect… today I have cut into the cake and it is very dense and heavy, but i had some batter left over and made cup cakes with the remaining batter… the cup cakes were perfect as always light moist and fluffy… the cake was far from… any idea what has happened???!!!! I did refrigerate the cake but doubt that made the cake crumb dense… any suggestions would help!! X

  21. I made 2 batches of these for my son’s classroom birthday party. I didn’t use the vanilla bean since it would have been wasted on the 1st graders eating them, but regardless these were delicious. I topped them with your vanilla buttercream and sprinkles/jimmies. Thanks for another hit Sally.

    1. Hi Elsy! Here is the same recipe (practically doubled) in 9-inch cake form:

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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