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

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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. Susan Miller says:

    I made the vanilla cupcakes today. So good! Your suggestion on using the whisk at the end of making the cupcakes was great. I didn’t want to keep using the mixer, and the whisk smoothed out some tiny lumps of batter.
    I also used your vanilla buttercream frosting recipe. Using the heavy cream made a big difference in the frosting staying in place after piping. I would usually add non-fat milk, since that is what is in the house, but the piped frosting would soon slide. Heavy cream gave the frosting more substance. Today was a testing day for the recipe, as I am donating cupcakes for a silent auction next week for a local fundraiser. I will be using this cupcake and frosting recipe again next week!

  2. Hi Sally!!!
    I made your vanilla cake and it was amazing!! In this case I wanted to know if I can use the whole eggs instead of the egg whites.
    Thank you for all your good recipes

    1. Hi Maria, The fat in the egg yolks will weigh this batter down. It’s the egg whites that keep them light and fluffy!

      1. Thank you!!!

  3. Crystal Goh says:

    Hi sally, may i know if it will still taste alright without the vanilla bean??

    1. Definitely! They still taste wonderful. See recipe note.

  4. Hi Sally! Thanks for all your yummy recipes!! They were my first that I tried as I started baking!! I wanted to know, so you cool your cupcakes on wire rack or in the cupcake pan?

    Thank you!!

    1. Hi Lindsey! I don’t have a specific method of cooling– I find either way, the cupcakes are great! If it’s more convenient for you to cool in the pan, that’s totally fine. Or you can remove them from the pan a few minutes after they come out of the oven. Sometimes I do that, then place them on a large plate and stick them in the refrigerator so they cool quicker.

  5. Hi Sally, I see you suggested using this recipe to make 6 inch cakes. Can you advise on what the cook time and temperature would be?
    Also, how many cake pans can I bake at the same time ( at this time/temp.)?

    1. Hi Brenda! You can see this recipe being used for a 6 inch 3 layer cake in my 6 Inch Cake Recipe. Use that baking time/temperature.

  6. Hello! These look delicious. Just a question– what is the difference in taste between these and very vanilla cupcakes? Thanks!

    1. These are softer, fluffier, and cakier. They’re definitely my favorite!

  7. Janet Fowler says:

    I have a recipe for Cherry Almond cupcakes that I’d like to adapt. It calls for 1/3 cup maraschino cherry juice. Would I just add it or do I have to adjust the recipe fluids?

    1. Hi Janet! You would need to decrease the amount of milk in this vanilla cupcake recipe if adding another liquid. Let me know how they turn out.

  8. My dad is a diabetic and my sister wants me to make him some sugar free cupcakes to have at her wedding. Would this recipe work if I just swapped out the sugar for a sugar substitute? And do you have a sugar free buttercream frosting? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sara, I wish I could help but I have no experience baking with sugar substitutes!

  9. Hello Sally, I made your chocolate cupcakes over the weekend and they were amazing. You used buttermilk in them and whole milk here. Can I swipe buttermilk instead of whole milk for your vanilla cupcakes?

    1. Absolutely! Same amount.

      1. You can still use a 1/2 cup of each. Enjoy!

    2. Hello Sally. I was wondering if there is something I can replace the egg whites with? Like Ener-G egg replacer? My daughter has an egg allergy. Thanks

      1. Hi Marie! Yes, that’s no problem.

  10. Donna Lynn says:

    Hi! Sally I made the chocolate cupcakes and they were delicious . I want to make the vanilla cupcakes. I have a question for you. Can I use the vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla bean? Will it change the texture of my batter?

    1. Absolutely– there are many ways you can add the vanilla bean paste. You can add 2 teaspoons and leave out the vanilla extract or even add 1 teaspoon and keep the vanilla extract. Lots of ways to play around with the vanilla.

  11. Hi Sally!
    I made these cupcakes for a surprise party I planned for my sisters birthday. They turned out deliciously soft and fluffy, as promised! I tinted the frosting a pale pink and topped with sprinkles. I agree, sprinkles are not optional Great recipe, as usal!

  12. Hi Sally! This recipe is delicious! I was curious about you thought on butter vs. oil in cupcakes- I have read about this before, and oil seems preferable for a moist cupcake because it coats the flour to better prevent the gluten developments that makes it dry. Both types of cupcakes are good, so I was wondering what you think are the advantages of butter- do you think they have a better taste or crumb? Thanks!

    1. Hi Theresa! I prefer butter in most cupcakes that don’t have another overpowering flour, such as vanilla cupcakes, pistachio cupcakes, or yellow birthday cupcakes. Oil is wonderful for making cupcakes moist and you could definitely use it in combination with butter for a buttery and extra moist cupcake. Both butter and oil have its perks!

  13. Dina Meslovich says:

    I made these for my daughter’s daycare as part of teacher appreciation week. Excellent recipe even though I used reduced fat sour cream and 2% milk. I now have my go to vanilla cupcake recipe. Love you and your blog! I will post about your recipe one of these days. (The blogging part takes time). Oh, I used the 1M Wilton piping tip and followed your tutorial. Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Dina!

    I love all your recipes but after trying tons of vanilla cupcake recipes that were all too dry or too dense or just not right I’ve finally found the perfect recipe! I love that I can change this recipe to flavours like lemon or strawberry or lime very easily! So versatile!

  15. Hello. I am going to make these for my daughter’s first birthday…are they very sweet? Do you think it would be ok if I cut the sugar back a little? Same goes for your “best vanilla cake”. I was planning on making the cupcakes for her actual birthday and then the cake as a smash cake for the party. Can I adjust sugar on both?

    1. You can certainly try to reduce the sugar a bit but keep in mind sugar not only makes things taste good – but it’s also imperative for the correct texture in baked goods.

      1. Thanks so much for responding so quickly. Any suggestions on how much to reduce it by to not affect the texture?

      2. Without actually testing it I can’t say for sure! I test each of my recipes many many times over a long period of time before publishing them – so I wouldn’t want to just guess at a new ratio and have you end up with something that doesn’t work 🙂

  16. HI Sally,

    I have Mexican vanilla bean past, but not actually bean. How can I use this in the recipe?

    1. Hi Jennifer, there are many ways you can add the vanilla bean paste. You can add 2 teaspoons and leave out the vanilla extract or even add 1 teaspoon and keep the vanilla extract. Lots of ways to play around with the vanilla.

      1. Thank you Sally!

  17. Hi Sally! I would like to make these, your chocolate cupcakes, and red velvet cupcakes for a graduation party. One of my friends is gluten free, and I was wondering if these would work gluten free? I don’t have much experience baking gluten free, and the gluten free flour I bought is called Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour, is this the best choice? Are there any other brands you would recommend, and will it work with all the recipes I mentioned? Thank you so much, I love your recipes!

    1. Hi Isabel, I don’t have any experience baking with gluten free flour but other readers have reported back that they use it successfully. Let me know if you try it!

  18. Jessica Mullins says:

    Over the weekend I made this for my son’s birthday and they turned out perfect! I love baking but have avoided making cake or cupcakes from scratch because every time I do, they don’t turn out that well. But this recipe turned out so good! I was really shocked. I followed all of the tips listed and these were perfect vanilla cupcakes. This experience has encouraged me to try making more cake/cupcakes! Thank you for guidance and great recipe!

  19. Do you have any suggestions or alternatives for people with dairy allergies?

    1. Hi Tina! Use dairy-free alternatives such as vegan buttery sticks (I think Earth Balance is a great brand), nondairy milk, and coconut or soy yogurt for the sour cream.

  20. Ramona Robuck says:

    Hi! I am so impressed with these cupcakes! I doubled the recipe and got 3 dozen minis and 2 dozen full size cupcakes. My family loves them, but they are going into deep freeze for a wedding reception which will be in 3 weeks. I cooled & stored them overnight in a sealed cake carrier. When I took them out to transfer to freezer bags, some “bloomed” out of the foil cupcake liners, especially the minis. I’m not sure how to display them without liners. Any suggestions??

  21. Father’s Day is coming up and I saw your Margarita cupcake recipe and it is used AP flour. What if I use this recipe and add Lime zest and fresh juice instead of Vanilla? Bad idea?

    1. Not a bad idea at all! Feel free to flavor this cupcake recipe with the lime.

  22. Hello! If I want to make these a few days ahead of time and freeze, any specific tips on how to freeze? Will the texture truly be the same?

    1. Hi Felicia! Texture will be almost as good as fresh. Bake and cool cupcakes completely, then freeze in a freezer container. After they are relatively frozen, you can stack them without risking any sticking. Stack between sheets of parchment.

  23. Is it ok to use fat spread or margarine instead of butter?

    1. I don’t recommend it– stick with butter.

  24. Can this cupcake recipe be adapted to almond cupcakes? If so, would I just sub almond extract for vanilla?

    1. Hi Charleen! Absolutely. I recommend using 1 and 1/2 teaspoons almond extract and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. You can leave out the vanilla beans.

      1. Thank you for responding so quickly . My daughter in law turned me on to your site last month when she made your Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake. It was amazing , probabaly one of the best home baked cakes I’ve ever had and that being said by someone who is not usually a lemon cake fan. Anyway hubby loves almond cake so for his birthday I want to try cupcakes since he needs to limit his sugar. I saw these and thanks to your quick response I’ll get to make them almond.

  25. Hi Sally..I just enjoy baking most of your recipes..They are always a hit in our home..Just one question is it ok to use self raising flour for the vanilla cupcakes…I haven’t tried it, but would like to know…Thanks Charmaine..

    1. I don’t recommend it. Stick with this recipe using cake flour, baking powder, & baking soda.

  26. Sally, these cupcakes are SO SO SO good! The texture and flavor are both unequaled in any other vanilla cupcakes I have tried. These are by far the best recipe I have used! I’ve made them before, but this time, I tinted around 1/3 of the batter pink, and layered both the pink and white batters in the cupcake liners (filling them only 2/3 of the way as instructed). I just used a small cookie scoop and a spoon, and alternated between vanilla and pink batters, then swirled them lightly together with a toothpick. They looked SO pretty once they were baked, like pink and white marble cupcakes! I frosted them with your vanilla buttercream, tinted pastel pink, and piped tall swirls using a Wilton 4B piping tip. I topped them with pink and white jimmies and rainbow nonpariels and star quins. They looked so pretty! They were a gift for a friend who had a baby recently, and she and her family were immensely pleased. Their little three year-old’s face just lighted up in delight when she saw them, and it was perfect, because it happens that her favorite kind of cake is “pink cake” 😉 So, thank you for this faaaaabulous recipe, Sally!

  27. Hi Sally! Could I use lowfat buttermilk instead of regular whole milk in this recipe or do you think that wouldn’t work? I ran out of whole milk and have buttermilk on hand. 🙂

    1. Hi Jen! Yes, you can use low fat buttermilk in place of the whole milk in this vanilla cupcake recipe.

  28. Hey sally will try this recipe soon? Can i leave out the sour cream and just use 1 cup of buttermilk? Instead of 1/2 milk 1/2 sour cream?

    1. Yep, that’s totally fine! Results will be similar. 🙂

  29. thank you for the reply! Can u add 2- 3 Tbsp of oil just to make it extra moist? Along with the sour cream and whole milk? Please let me know.

    1. I can’t see why not! I would stick with 1-2 Tablespoons of oil, not 3.

  30. Can I* sorry!

    1. Is there anything I should worry about if I double the recipe or will that work fine?

      1. I recommend making the recipe twice instead of doubling it – working with too much batter at once can lead to over or under-mixing with dense cupcakes as the result!

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