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


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 (210g) 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


  1. Hi Sally,

    I just made your Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes they are delicious! I consider myself an experienced baker, I’m 61 and have been baking since I was 12 years old but I had a problem with the cupcakes deflating a bit. They were perfect coming out of the oven, looked just like your #3 cupcake in the photo, tested clean with a toothpick, but after 5 min they lost their rise. Any idea if I did something wrong?
    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    1. Hi Judy! Thank you for trying these vanilla cupcakes! Are your baking soda and baking powder fresh? I always replace mine after 3 months because they begin to lose strength quickly after that. The cupcakes will rise then quickly sink if there is a problem with the leaveners.

      1. Hi Sally, I’m sure my baking powder and baking soda are fresh as I always buy small quantities at the Bulk Barn. I replace them about every 1&1/2 to 2 months because I am always baking, I sell a lot. Maybe the stock at the Bulk Barn is old? What is the best way to test them?
        Thanks for getting back to me.

  2. Hey Sally can i use 3/4 cup butter in this recipe for a more buttery flavor , since i replaced the whole milk and sour cream for buttermilk. I read buttermilk doesnt have as much fat as whole milk ! Let me know thanks.

  3. Thanks sally for the quick reply! Can i use 3/4 cup of butter for a more rich flavor and 2 whole eggs? Im not a fan of egg whites . Let me know please thanks.

    1. Hi Angelica! I recommend following the recipe as written. You can try my yellow cupcakes instead if you’d like.

  4. I have just finished making these cupcakes and they are absolutely delicious.
    I think they are the best cupcakes that I have ever made.
    So very pleased with them.
    Thank you so much for a brilliant recipe. I am very grateful.
    Kind regards

  5. These cupcakes are amazing! Thanks for the recipe! I didn’t have sour cream but had vanilla yogurt and the cupcakes are still so soft and moist, and most importantly delicious. I also used DIY cake flour. I can’t wait to try this again with cake flour and sour cream!

  6. Hi Sally!
    Is there anything I can substitute the sour cream with? We’re dairy free but I’m really wanting to make these cupcakes 🙂

    1. Dairy free yogurt works!

  7. I made these and the chocolate recipe for a church event. Everyone loved them!

    1. I’m thrilled they were a hit, Pam!

  8. I’m wondering if this cupcake is sturdy enough to handle a little bit of apple filling? I’m making my teacher department back to school apple cupcakes, but want to use a vanilla cupcake!

    1. Yes! That would be so delicious! Enjoy 🙂

  9. I LOVE this recipe. Have made the cupcakes and today I’m making the white cake version as I need 24 cupcakes for a party. One thing I need help with…no matter how carefully I follow the recipe my cakes have holes. I tap the pans. My butter is perfect. My mixing is exactly as indicated. Do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Jennifer! Two things that may help prevent the holes next time– sift the dry ingredients together before adding to the wet ingredients. And don’t over-mix. Over-mixing always whips more air than necessary into the cupcakes.

      1. Thanks Sally. I sifted and was careful not to over mix. I think the sifting changed the flour properties as my cupcakes didn’t dome but came out flat. I’ll keep trying as I love the flavour and texture of these.

      2. Hi Sally

        I just made these cupcakes and they came out good. The texture is like angel cake. Is it supposed to be like it?

  10. Hi Sally- was wondering if I could add mini chocolate chips to the batter. Would I have to toss them in flour to keep them from falling to the bottom? Thank you- these look delicious!
    Barb Cattie

    1. Hi Barb, You can! Just very gently fold them into the batter just before baking. You shouldn’t have to toss them in flour as the mini chips shouldn’t sink. Enjoy!

  11. I don’t bake cakes or cupcakes often. In fact, I haven’t baked in a really long time. I chose this recipe for a co-worker who loves vanilla. It’s her birthday. I didn’t have a vanilla bean so I just used extra vanilla as suggested. I followed the directions exactly and the cupcakes came out perfect! They’re soft and fluffy and not dry at all like some cupcakes I’ve had from bakeries. I’m going to make the vanilla buttercream tomorrow morning before work and I’ll post how that goes! Thanks for this recipe!

  12. Hi sally is there a posibility i can use one cup of whole milk instead of 1/2 sour cream ? Im not a fan of sour cream at all!

    1. Hi Angie, that would be too much liquid for this batter. You can try plain yogurt instead.

  13. Hey Sally, if I had sour cream frozen can I use it? For this or other recipes?

    1. I can’t see why not! Just thaw it in the refrigerator the day before you need to use it.

      1. Okay thanks!

  14. 3rd batch was perfect. I measured the flour rather than weighing it and pulsed the mixer when I a added the milk and dry ingredients.

  15. They look AMAZING.
    Can I use yogurt instead of sour cream.
    Or would you prefer sour cream.

  16. Hi there. Cant tell if they are moist or dense… tastes great… just didn’t rise well. (All fresh ingredients)
    I shall try again:)

  17. Tracey Norton says:

    These cupcakes are so delicious, they just melt in your mouth. Simple recipe and just the most perfect cupcake!

  18. What baking time would you recommend for mini cupcakes?

  19. Alaine Sanderson says:

    I have a question. I couldnt find cake flour but found pastry flour, is that ok? Could I use vanilla paste instead of a vanilla bean?
    Thank you

    1. You could use pastry flour, yes, but for best results I recommend my cake flour substitution.

  20. These cupcakes are amazing! I added an Oreo truffle in the middle and did a cookies and cream frosting. These are truly the perfect vanilla cupcake!

  21. Hi sally,
    I’m having trouble with the cupcakes pulling away from the cupcake liners. I’ve had it happen a couple of times with the pistachio cupcake recipe as well. I’ve tried different liners and still. I’m bummed because they are so delicious but it bugs me that the paper pulls away (they’re for a shower, so cuteness factor is important). Any tips?!

    1. Hi Agnes, There are two things that I can think of which might cause this problem! The first is to make sure you are using a high quality grease-proof liner! Second, it could be from too much moisture getting trapped. As soon as they come out of the oven remove them from the pan so that they cool on a wire rack instead of in the pan which allows steam and moisture to get trapped inside. I hope this helps!

  22. Can I make these into mini cupcakes? If so, how long should I bake them for?

    1. Hi Ali! This recipe makes 32ish mini cupcakes. For the bake time, I’d say about 11-13 minutes give or take.

      1. Thanks Sally!

  23. These turned out awesome.
    I’ve been using a few of your recipes over the holidays (The Great Pumpkin Pie, mini cheesecakes, holiday drop cookies) and have had so much success with each. Your site has become my baking go-to-stop. Thanks for all the awesome recipes!

  24. I made these using Sally’s cake flour substitute as it’s not available in the UK. I swapped the whole milk for double cream (heavy cream) as we only had skimmed milk in. I baked at 140′ fan for 20 minutes as I didn’t want too much of a rise as it hampers decorating.
    They were possibly a little less light due to the cream, but as they had shedloads of buttercream piped on top, that’s probably a good thing! They’re off to A&E (the ER in the US) tomorrow (Christmas Day) to say thank you for all they do!
    Thanks yet again, Sally, for another idiot proof recipe! x

  25. I’ve made these before and they were fine, however they didn’t work out this time and I’m not sure why. The batter wasn’t as thick as I was expecting. My first batch came out pretty undercooked and doughy even though the toothpick came out clean when I checked. I cooked the next batch for longer at a higher temp (I initially lowered the temp because I have a convection oven) but they still weren’t great, really dense. They also cracked at the tops and deflated after being out of then oven. I followed the recipe exactly, weighing all my ingredients. The only thing I changed was I used 1tsp baking powder and omitted the baking soda because they don’t sell it at any shops where I live. Is that the issue? I really didn’t think that would cause this many problems..

    1. Hi Grace! Thanks so much for trying these. I strongly recommend following the leavening ingredients and amounts this recipe calls for. After careful testing, the 3/4 baking powder with 1/4 baking soda works like a charm to lift these. Baking soda is 4x stronger than baking powder, so I’m not surprised yours tasted dense and deflated. Let me know if you try these again!

      1. Thanks Sally, I read your other post about the leaveners but I was hoping I could get away with it haha. I will try to hunt down some baking soda!

  26. They turned out really tasty.

    I only used 1/2 the sugar that the recipe called for and the sweetness was perfect.

    The only thing is that they don’t rise as much as your super moist chocolate cupcakes. Next time
    I need to fill close to the top.

  27. Can we substitute lactose milk for the whole milk? My family can’t really tolerate the whole milk so we all drink lactose instead.

  28. I don’t have any vanilla beans but thinking I can substitute equally vanilla bean paste for the extract. Will this work?

    1. Hi Linda, Yes you can use vanilla bean paste instead. Enjoy!

    2. Hi sally I was told to comment on your blogs for my request. I requested that I may be emailed more easy and few ingredient recipe. I ask this because of my lack of ingredients and not being able to go buy since covid 19 lockdown. Thank you!

      1. Hi Arianna, I recommend that you check out my post What You Can Bake with Minimal Ingredients for lots of ideas.

  29. Christal Wilson says:

    These cupcakes are amazing!!! They are literally the best vanilla cupcakes that I have ever tasted!!!

    Can I replace the vanilla extract with almond flavoring to make almond cupcakes?

    1. Hi, Christal! I don’t see why not. I would recommend doing one teaspoon of vanilla extract and one teaspoon of almond extract. Let me know how they turn out!

  30. Walden Kennedy says:

    What would happen if you just used all purposed flour?

    1. Hi, Walden! Cake flour is much lighter than all-purpose flour and helps to produce soft, light cakes. All-purpose flour would create a denser crumb. I’d recommend using cake flour or making your own with my Homemade Cake Flour Substitute!

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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