These are my new & improved yellow birthday cupcakes. Adapted from my original recipe, I use sour cream, cake flour, and extra vanilla to guarantee each cupcake is soft, buttery, and moist. Topped with chocolate buttercream, these updated yellow cupcakes are super flavorful and much easier to prepare than the originals!
I published a yellow cupcake recipe in 2014, a cupcake I found delicious at the time. Fast forward a few years and the recipe is still good, but the cupcakes often taste bland and dry out quickly. The reviews are mixed– bakers report either great results or disappointing results. I knew I could revamp this recipe because yellow birthday cupcakes deserve more than mediocre results.
After playing around with the recipe, I produced an even better version that promises consistent results. In a taste comparison, my taste testers heavily preferred this newer recipe. They’re buttery, moist, and taste even better than they look!
Recipe Fix: Yellow Cupcakes
Old Yellow Cupcakes Recipe:
- Loose & airy crumb
- Too much flour weighed them down
- Too much sugar diluted the flavor
- Beaten egg whites made them fluffy, but dried them out
- Not enough flavor
The original cupcakes were overly sweet, which overpowered the buttery flavor. When compared to the newer version, the originals were pretty squishy and crumbly—often falling apart in the cupcake wrapper after one bite. Simply put, the cupcakes were underwhelming. It wasn’t a recipe I was proud of anymore, so I made a few notable changes.
As soon as I took the first bite, I knew the new yellow cupcakes would be much better than the originals. Here’s a list of everything I did differently.
New Yellow Birthday Cupcakes Recipe:
- Cake flour instead of all-purpose flour
- Reduced the sugar
- 2 full eggs – no need to separate
- Sour cream for moisture
Cake flour produces that bakery-style cakey structure, while sour cream adds plenty of creamy moisture. The yellow birthday cupcakes have a tight crumb like pound cake, but taste super soft with a bouncy light texture. They’re more flavorful than the originals, using more butter and vanilla per ounce of flour. We also skip whipping the egg whites separately—this is something I do with my red velvet cake and even my layered yellow cake too. Why? Well, it helps produce an extra fluffy texture in layer cakes that can otherwise become dense from being squished down. I don’t find that added step necessary for these cupcakes.
The cupcake batter is creamy, silky, and velvet rich. Steal a taste because this batter is divine. You know you’re on the right track even before the cupcakes go into the oven!
Tip: To avoid overflowing, only fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
These Yellow Birthday Cupcakes Are:
- Made with basic baking ingredients
- Moist and buttery like my yellow cake
- Soft with a tight crumb
- Cakey & creamy
- Very simple and straightforward
- Better than the original!
But there’s one thing I’d never change: my favorite chocolate buttercream. The room temperature butter for the pictured frosting was super soft, so I added a little extra cocoa powder to avoid a greasy situation. As a result, the color and flavor were a little deeper but the frosting was just as silky and decadent as the recipe states. This is the perfect chocolate frosting—it literally tastes like a piece of creamy chocolate fudge.
I used the big Ateco 849 piping tip for the pictured cupcakes. You can watch me use it in the video tutorial for my confetti cupcakes—very easy. Start in the center of the cupcake and swirl upward. It’s super simple, even if you’re a piping tip beginner.
Never celebrate another birthday without a batch!
More Birthday Recipes
- Confetti Cupcakes
- Vanilla Cake
- Yellow Sheet Cake and Layered Yellow Cake
- Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Easy Sprinkle Cake
- Piñata Cupcakes and Piñata Cake
Yellow Birthday Cupcakes (Recipe Solved!)
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours
- Yield: 12-14 cupcakes
- Category: Dessert
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
These yellow birthday cupcakes are adapted from my original recipe. In this improved version, use sour cream, cake flour, and extra vanilla to guarantee each cupcake is soft, buttery, and extra moist. Decorate with chocolate buttercream and plenty of sprinkles!
- 1 and 3/4 cups (207g) cake flour (spooned & leveled)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup (80g) sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (180ml) whole milk, at room temperature
- frosting: chocolate buttercream and sprinkles for garnish, or any of these frostings
- 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.
- Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, and salt together. Set aside.
- Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. 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. The batter will be slightly thick.
- 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.
- Frost cooled cupcakes with chocolate buttercream. I used Ateco 849 piping tip. Top with sprinkles, if desired.
- Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days.
- 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. Freeze frosted or unfrosted cupcakes for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 12-cup Muffin Pan | Cupcake Liners | Electric Mixer (Handheld or Stand) | Ateco 849 Piping Tip | Piping Bag (Reusable or Disposable)
- Cake Flour: If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make 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.
- 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.
- Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
- Yellow Cake: I suggest following my yellow sheet cake recipe or my layered yellow cake recipe. I have a vanilla cake recipe as well.
- Chocolate Buttercream: I use and recommend my chocolate buttercream recipe. The room temperature butter for the pictured frosting was super soft, so I added a little extra cocoa powder. As a result, the color and flavor were a little deeper! Avoid over-whipping the chocolate buttercream as that will lighten the texture and color.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
Keywords: birthday, chocolate frosting, sprinkles
Reader Comments & Reviews
As per other comments, I followed the recipe to a T and they came out white and dense instead of yellow – which is the title!
This is my go to cupcake recipe both when baking with wheat flour and gluten free.
When baking gluten free, I use Cup4Cup Multipurpose flour, and make the same adjustment to turn it into cake flour, that I would with a wheat multipurpose flour.
They are always a hit, and no one can tell they are gluten free. It is a recipe that comes across as if made in a bakery!
I think these were some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. Followed the recipe closely and they were so moist, even two days after. The chocolate frosting was so delicious and thick! Great recipe. Will make again!
Can I add sprinkles to this recipe and make them a confetti cupcake? I’m not a fan of separating egg yolks and egg whites as per the confetti recipe
Hi Rita, Sure can! We recommend folding 1/2 cup of sprinkles into the batter. Do not use nonpareils (the little balls) as they quickly bleed their color.
Hi – I haven’t tried these yet, but definitely will. Do you have suggestions for high altitude adjustments for this recipe in particular? Thank you from 6,800 ft.
Hi Cynthia, we wish we could help, but we have no experience baking at high altitude. Some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html
The BEST vanilla cupcake recipe! I’ve been trying to make the perfect vanilla cake for years and it always comes out too dry and dense. This is the only recipe that worked for me! They came out so soft and perfect. I use only your recipes for baking!
Hi, I would like to know if switching out milk for almond milk would be fine?
Hi Brandie, we strongly recommend whole milk for the best taste and texture. Almond milk could work in a pinch, but the cupcakes won’t be nearly as soft and light.
I have baked at least 10 other recipes on your site and they were all fabulous, but I have to mention that these cupcakes had a crumbly texture and flavor akin to cornbread that was not good. I teamed them with vanilla buttercream and the frosting seemed to emphasize how oddly un-yellow-cake-like they were.
So glad you usually enjoy our recipes! Overmixing can often be the culprit here. Sally shares more about why cakes may turn out tasting like cornbread in this recipe testing post (scroll down to the section titled “Why Does My Cake Taste Like Cornbread?”). Hope this post helps for next time and thanks so much for giving these cupcakes a try!
Very tasty but turned out a bit dense. I notice the recipe didn’t call for adding the flour in thirds alternating with the milk in 2 parts, and I wonder if that could have helped. Sally, if you see this I would love to know if you think that makes a difference and why they’re added all at once. Thanks!
Hi Laura, We are happy you enjoyed the taste of these cupcakes. We’ve never found we needed to add the dry ingredients in 3 additions in this small amount of batter but you certainly can. If they are dense, it could be a few things. First, make sure that you are using cake flour (not all purpose) and make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Use proper room temperature butter and other room temperature ingredients. Make sure you spoon and level the cake flour, and be careful not to over-mix the batter! Here’s a helpful blog post about preventing dry or dense cake as well.
Blend a cup of pineapple and mix into batter, homemade cream cheese frosting and add toasted coconut. Can’t beat it
Hi Sally! I need to make 2 dozen cupcakes for a party. Would you recommend I double this recipe, make two batches of it, or use the yellow layer cake recipe? A part of me is drawn to these cupcakes since they no longer require beating the egg whites separately, but I’m sure if I try doubling it, it’d require a different method. But I’d appreciate the input!
Hi Lydia, For best taste and texture, we always recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling it in one bowl. Doubling the recipe can lead to over- or under- mixing of the cupcake batter.
Hi! I have to make 4 dozen cupcakes for a school event (my kids loves these and I am sure they will be a hit!), but I was wondering , when doubling recipes that use baking powder or baking soda, is it necessary to reduce the amount of the rising agent by 1/8? So for example, if you are tripling this recipe you would use 2tsp + 1 & 7/8 tsp + 1 & 7/8tsp… of baking soda rather than using a full 6 teaspoons?
Also, if you make multiple batches at once, can that effect the rising of the cupcakes. What I mean is, obviously, you have more batches to bake and as some of the rising starts outside of the oven and is completed with activation of the heat in the oven, it stand to reason that the last cupcakes to go in might not rise as well, as they have lost some of the gases outside of the oven while waiting to be baked. If this is the case, maybe it’s better just to make multiple single batches and put them in as they are mixed and ready to bake. What are your thoughts? Sorry for being so academic about it, but I really want these to turn out well! Thank you!! 🙂
Hi Fifi! What great questions, multiplying recipes can be quite complicated and for that reason we always recommend making multiple batches instead of doubling/tripling/etc. This way the texture won’t be compromised by mixing a large batch as well.
Thanks for the advice Sally! I Love your recipes.
Just made these today and the family loves them. Thank you for a perfect non fussy vanilla cupcake recipe!
The cake part of this recipe was so bland and flavorless, I wouldn’t categorize this as a yellow cake it was bland and white. Annoyed that this was the top google result for yellow cupcakes. Did not like this recipe at all.
We love all your recipes and are on the hunt for a good cupcake recipe that isn’t dense (like so many others we’ve found in an attempt to skip sour cream….so we’re finally giving in and trying sour cream). BUT, we’re in Maui, and non-fat organic Greek Yogurt is what’s available at costco and doesn’t cost like $9 for a small tub of sour cream everywhere else. Are we delusion to try non fat Greek Yogurt, or would you say it’s similar enough in baking to try without making a mess of your awesome recipe?
Hi Sarah, plain greek yogurt should work just fine in a pinch!
Used all purpose flour and skim/almond milk- with a vanilla buttercream and a bit less baking time… Turned out great!
Were the ideal texture & taste. so perfect. Making again for sure
This review made me want to make it! I love it. I will not be using almond milk! But I will try how long do I bake it Kristen
I’m not overly fond of cupcakes, but I made these today as gifts for some neighbors on a snowy Chicago day. They are excellent and will be my go-to recipe when I make cupcakes again. Mine cooked perfectly at 20 minutes, and the batter made exactly 14 cakes as the recipe said it would.
I made these cupcakes for my sister’s birthday on 2/16/22. I left the butter out to soften, evidently not long enough. Could this be why the cupcakes came out dense?
Hi Claudia, Happy to help. It could be a few things. First, make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Use proper room temperature butter and other room temperature ingredients. Make sure you spoon and level the cake flour, and be careful not to over-mix the batter! Here’s a helpful blog post about preventing dry, dense cake as well.
Can this recipe be doubled?
Hi Janis! For best taste and texture, we always recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling it in one bowl. Doubling the recipe can lead to over- or under- mixing of the cupcake batter.
Hi Sally..I just made this and hubby just enjoyed it to the core..I wa wondering can this same recipe be turned into lamingtons?
Hi Safiyyah, We haven’t tried it but we don’t see why not. Let us know if you give it a try!
Good morning Sally,
I would like to know if I can use this yellow cupcake recipe to make a 6 inch 3 layer cake?
Hi Jessica, You can! Cupcake batter like this one that produces about 12-15 cupcakes is the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake. You can read all about it in our post on 6 Inch Cakes.
Hi! Just wondering. Would this recipe work well to make rainbow cupcakes if I add gel food coloring?
Hi Abby, you can definitely add gel food coloring to these. Enjoy!
For the first time, a recipe from this site completely failed me. The batter came together really nicely and tasted good before baking, and they appeared to bake well, but they became a bit flat and very eggy once they cooled. Texturally it was more like an underbaked pancake, and the dominant flavor was egg.
Hi Mike! So sorry these cupcakes didn’t turn out for you. Could they have been under-baked? Under baked cupcakes can collapse after baking, leading to a dense and rubbery texture.
Testers came out clean and I temped them to 205 – 210, so I don’t think underbaking was an issue here.
I LOVE every other recipe I’ve ever tried from this site, but I had a texture debacle with this recipe too. My cupcakes weren’t flat—they actually LOOK perfect, but the texture is definitely off. The batter tastes great. But after they cool, mine are kinda spongy and they lose the rich, buttery flavor. I’ve tried twice and no luck 🙁 For some reason I always end up with a lot of batter too. It made 19 cupcakes the first time and 18 the second time.
I’m going to try a different flour next time. They don’t sell cake flour where I live, so I used the flour + cornstarch hack from this site. That’s the only thing I did that deviated in some way from the recipe. I’m going to order some cake flour online to see if that makes a difference.
I hope it works, because yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing are my favorite!
Could I still use buttermilk for this recipe rather than whole milk? I’m trying to use what’s in my fridge.
Hi Natasha, buttermilk will be just fine. Enjoy!
I’ve used gf flour but reduced to 1 2/3 cup with a homemade blend. Different color same taste.
Would you recommend using this recipe for a 6-inch layer cake, or scaling down the yellow layer cake recipe?
Hi Bryn, this batter is the perfect amount for a three layer, six inch cake. You can follow the baking time and directions in the 6 inch cakes post. Enjoy!
Hi there. So, I accidentally mixed the milk before the dry ingredients and I think I overmixed a little. Will this cause any big problems?
Hi Johana, over mixing can often lead to a denser texture. It’s worth still baking them up and then making adjustments for next time. Hope you enjoy them!
Hi Sally, I’m going to try this recipe for my mom’s birthday. I saw that you recommended the Ateco 849 piping tip for the buttercream. Unfortunately, I don’t have it and it won’t get here in time for her birthday. What are some other alternatives for piping tips that will work well for this recipe?
Hi Sarah, you can really use any frosting tip you’d like. Here are some of our favorite piping tips and a how-to on making each design. Hope the cupcakes are a hit!
I am wondering if anyone has subbed Gluten Free Flour in this one? I adore the regular and have made it many times, but need to do some GF treats.
Hi Rose, we haven’t tried it ourselves, but perhaps other readers can chime in. Let us know if you give them a try!
I’ve used gf flour but reduced to 1 2/3 cup with a homemade blend. Different color same taste.