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. This has been my go-to vanilla cupcake recipe for over a year which is when I ran across it. Absolutely the best! The sour cream and cake flour is what it’s all about.

  2. Do you any suggestions for baking as mini cupcakes? I need to make mini vanilla cupcakes for preschool in a couple weeks.

    1. Hi Melissa! Split the bean in half lengthwise, then scrape the beans out of the pod using a sharp knife. Use a spoon to get them off of the knife and add to the batter. I hope this helps!

      (You can use 1/2 – 1 teaspoon extra vanilla extract if you aren’t using or don’t have vanilla beans.)

  3. Hi sally,

    I made these and for some reason they came out a little dense. I dont believe i overmixed it. Could there be any other areas i could mess up to make them dense.

  4. Do you have any recipes specifically for egg yolks?
    More specifically, that require 1-3 yolks
    I hate wasting yolks (which often happens when using egg whites)

    1. Hi Meg, I have a couple but by favorite thing to do is to use leftover egg yolks for lemon curd!

  5. The lemon curd sounds delicious!
    I think I could split it half and make a lemon tart for 2 people

    BTW do you know if yolks can be frozen for later use and to mix in when i have enough yolks
    Sally you are wonderful—thank you so much for all your time and bearing w such trivial questions
    Have a wonderful holiday and get some down time for all the hard work you do

  6. would this work to make (1) 9″ round layer cake rather than cupcakes? Im trying to do a two layer cake, one with vanilla, one with chocolate. thanks!

  7. Hi! I have to make 48 cupcakes for a baby shower. Can I just quadruple the recipe, or do I need to mix each batch separate? Thank you!

    1. Hi Allison! For the absolute best results, I strongly recommend making separate batches. Working with extra cupcake batter almost guarantees over or under-mixing.

  8. Hi Sally!
    The only cake flour I can find at my grocery store is self-rising. Do I have to add any extra leavening at all? Thank you so much!

  9. Hi Sally!
    I have made these cupcakes and really loved them. Now I am wanting to do a bit of experimenting. Have you ever tried those white chocolate candy cane Lindt chocolate balls? We got some after Christmas and they’re so good! So I decided to sorta replicate them but in cupcake form. I was gonna swap out some of the vanilla in these cupcakes for peppermint extract (just a little), make a white chocolate buttercream with crushed candy canes in it, and then try and create a smooth, creamy filling. I was thinking a white chocolate ganache as a starter, then go from there. Do you think it could work? Thanks!

  10. Do you know if it’s possible to add some frozen berries? Should I then add more flour? Or…? I would like to make raspberry cupcakes but I can’t find a plain recipe with only berries. It’s for my twin sons’ 6th birthday where I would make banana cupcakes and raspberry cupcakes. And have the guests (kids) decorate them I considered muffins but you write that muffins should be made and eaten the same day and I would like to make them the day before. And I prefer to use one of your recipes – they are always great

    1. Hi Tanja! I’m happy to help. You can add 1 cup of frozen berries to this vanilla cupcake batter. I recommend tossing the frozen berries (do not thaw) in 1 Tablespoon of flour before adding to the batter. I haven’t tested this, but it is what I would personally do. Let me know how they turn out!

  11. This recipe is simply amazing!. I turns you into a cupcake master just overnight.
    I followed the exact recipe for the first batch, and I found that my cupcakes were a bit dense. I think many of us have this problem with overmixing if we use a machine, so for my second batch I discovered that integrating dry ingredients to batter mixing only by hand helps A LOT. It is very difficult to overmix/undermix when you do it with a spatula, because you are constantly following the texture of your batter. The result of my second batch was incredible, fluffy and airy. I had never made cupcakes like those before. Thanks

  12. I made these cupcakes this weekend for a birthday party and they were a huge hit! I also filled them with a strawberry sauce and piped them with silky smooth swiss buttercream frosting. They were absolutely perfect. This is now my go-to, ride or die recipe for vanilla cupcakes!

  13. Hello, your cupcakes and frosting look amazing. I noticed you have a few different vanilla cupcake recipies, which is your favorite? Also, if I do not have vanilla beans how much extra vanilla extract do I add?

    1. Hi Brynne! This vanilla cupcake recipe is my latest and my favorite. So soft, so fluffy! See my recipe note about the vanilla.

  14. these are the most delicious cupcakes I have ever made, perfect consistency and frosting perfection! I did spring for the vanilla beans at whole foods, not sure if that made the difference but I’d be afraid to try them again with out it! they were a huge hit! can’t wait to try your best vanilla cake recipe!

  15. Hey Sally, is there any way to incorporate some coconut flavoring/coconut milk powder into these cupcakes (maybe subbing out some of the flour for the milk powder?) to make a coconut cupcake? I love coconut and wanted to find a good recipe for coconut cupcakes; I was thinking of using the coconut frosting from your pina colada cupcakes for them! And maybe fill them with a kind of coconut cream pie filling…

  16. Hi Sally. I love your recipes and your cookbooks. I have a question…can you tell me how you can bake up cupcakes with a dome? Although the cupcakes are great as far as texture and taste, I prefer cupcakes with a dome. Why do the most cupcakes bake up fairly flat? I know some like this and it is preferred with their cakes, however, I like the cupcakes to have a dome. In one of your books for bluberry streusel muffins, you start your oven temperature high, then lower it. Those muffins have a beautiful dome on them when baked. Would this be the same for cupcakes? Thank you!

    1. Hi Stefanie! This is a great question. Cupcake batter is much thinner than muffin batter, so cupcakes bake up flat and fluffy as opposed to muffins which are taller with a dome and on the denser side. Thickness of batter has everything to do with it. You can try the higher oven temperature trick that I apply to all of my muffin recipes. Cupcakes are also flatter on top so they can hold frosting without it looking lop-sided or falling off! 🙂

  17. Sally, what do you think about pairing these cupcakes with a strawberry cream cheese frosting? And maybe some fresh strawberry whipped cream filling… 😀 I have to try that as soon as strawberries are in season! And naturally colored pink frosting is a welcome bonus 😉

  18. Hi Sally! Could I add sprinkles to these cupcakes like your funfetti ones? I want to make funfetti but with a vanilla cupcake.

    Thank you!

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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