Yellow Birthday Cupcakes (Recipe Solved!)

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!

Yellow birthday cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

Yesterday was my birthday! May 27th usually falls around Memorial Day weekend, so I’m grateful to always enjoy a long birthday weekend. I did some baking, slept in, went to mommy & me gym class with Noelle, we played outside, and our neighbors had a pool party. It was the wonderfully relaxing weekend I craved after a busy spring!

Speaking of birthdays, I have a recipe in need of a major update. 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 (hi friends!) heavily preferred this newer recipe. They’re buttery, moist, and taste even better than they look!

Yellow birthday cupcakes on blue cake stand

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.

Yellow birthday cupcake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

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 to make it extra fluffy, but the added step just isn’t necessary here. Cake flour and sour cream get the job done.

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!

Yellow cupcake batter

Cupcake batter in muffin pan

Tip: To avoid overflowing, only fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

3 yellow cupcakes in a stack

These Yellow Birthday Cupcakes Are:

  • Made with basic baking ingredients
  • Moist and buttery
  • 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.



Chocolate frosting in glass bowl

Yellow birthday cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

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!! PS: I revamped another cupcake recipe lately too. See my new and mega flavorful peanut butter cupcakes. 🙂

Yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and birthday candle

More Birthday Recipes

Yellow birthday cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles

Yellow Birthday Cupcakes (Recipe Solved!)

  • Author: Sally
  • 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 (200g) cake flour
  • 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


  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, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  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 chocolate buttercream. I used Ateco 849 piping tip. Top with sprinkles, if desired.
  6. 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. Freeze frosted or unfrosted cupcakes for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Yellow Cake: I suggest following my yellow sheet cake recipe or my piñata cake recipe (but skip the piñata assembly). I also have a vanilla cake recipe as well.
  6. 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.
  7. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand MixerCupcake PanCupcake Liners, Piping TipPiping Bags
  8. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: birthday, chocolate frosting, sprinkles

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  1. I want to love this recipe! I made two separate batches today because my cupcakes shrunk a lot after I pulled them out of the oven 🙁 I followed the recipe to a T the first time, using a hand mixer, making sure my oven thermometer had the right temp (I have one on the inside to make sure), carefully measuring the amount in each cup to 2/3… totally collapsed. For the last two in that batch, I left them in the oven longer to make sure they weren’t underdone – same thing. I made them again later, but only used the mixer in the beginning and switched to mixing by hand to make sure I wasn’t over mixing, same result. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong – they still taste great, but despite changing tactics, I can’t get them to stay risen 🙁 I used my new silicone liners, but I’ve not heard that those cause this issue. They taste good, so I’ll probably try again, but it was so disappointing. I’m worried it’s just too much moisture at the end with the milk added.

    1. Hi Natalie! I’m happy to help. First, I recommend using regular paper liners. I don’t use silicone liners and haven’t tested this recipe with them. (There could lie the inconsistency.) Likewise, double check that your butter is at the proper room temperature. It should be cool to the touch, not overly softened. (This Proper Room Temperature Butter post will be helpful.) Finally, feel free to slightly reduce the milk. You could even try 2/3 cup of milk instead.

  2. Hi. I made these once and they were very good. I have a question though. Why do you add the milk at the end, after the dry ingredients? My intuition tells me to combine the sour cream and milk together, and add that, alternating with the dry ingredients in two additions. Thoughts? Do you think this would work out ok? The last time when I added the milk at the end, after the flour, it did get lumpy.

    1. Hi Laura! I’ve done that before with other cupcake and cake recipes and it’s definitely a wonderful way to incorporate liquids into cake batter. However I truly find zero difference in the final taste and texture of cake/cupcakes vs doing it this way– all the liquid at once at the end. Use whichever way you prefer!

  3. My cupcakes came out perfect!!! I baked them for a friends birthday and got rave reviews all around!!

    I did though want to comment that my battery was not thick at all, in fact it was very funny. I filled them up to 2/3rds full and they rose nicely to just peaking over the top of the liner when I took them out. They baked up perfectly and did not collapse!


  4. Wow! I just made these for a friend’s birthday and they came out AMAZING! I did substitute the last half teaspoon of vanilla for almond and also added about 5 drops of yellow food coloring to give it more content color. I was so excited to try them i haven’t even added the icing yet

  5. Hi Sally – I just found your blog this week while looking for cupcake ideas. I work with an attorney whose favorite of all is yellow cake with chocolate frosting, so I’m going to do a test run of these asap since his birthday is the end of March. All of your recipes look fabulous so I’ll be camping out a lot here. One quick question – do you have a specific source where you purchase your sprinkles?

    Many thanks and I can’t wait to start baking – and also thanks for the fabulous piping tutorial and video. I’m going to see if my husband can master that part! 🙂

    1. Welcome to the site, Brenda! I hope the cupcakes are a hit and I can’t wait to see what else you make! I really do buy sprinkles from many different sources. A lot of the “fancy” looking sprinkles you see on my site are from Sweetapolita: (and you can use the code SALLYSBAKING15 for 15% off) 🙂

  6. I really wanted to like this recipe as it is much easier to do than the other Yellow cupcake recipe on Sally’s site, but I have 16 bland and tasteless cupcakes. The texture is great; fluffy and a very good crumb for a cupcake and I, somewhat, saved them with the chocolate buttercream frosting, but the actual cupcakes taste like cornbread. I’ll stick with the old recipe even though they are more time/dish intensive

  7. Hi, Hope You Can Answer My Question, Can The Recipe Be 1/2 Or Double With Out Problems, Need 36 Of These Beauties, for My Son’s 2nd Grade Class.

  8. I just made the cupcake part last night (I’ll be frosting with vanilla buttercream). Omg. They are SO GOOD! It seems homemade yellow cake is so hard to master, but you’ve nailed it, Sally! Thank you!!!

  9. Hi Sally, I want to make a yellow sheet cake for this weekend. Pls explain what the differences are between this batter and the sheet cake recipe? I am looking for a slightly tight crumbed yellow cake (will do Ovaltine or nutella frosting with this) that is not overly fluffy or soft that it crumbles easily. But also not looking for a heavy, dense crumb. Looking to keep it simple in a glass pyrex dish – nothing fancy. Which one of your recipes is my best bet? You have so many lovely yellow/vanilla/white cake recipes on your site, it would be lovely for you to do a post explaining the differences 🙂 Thank you in advance Sally.

    1. Hi Faye! If looking for a tighter crumbed yellow cake, I recommend this cupcake recipe. You could also try my Zebra Cake and leave out the part where you add chocolate to some of it. The sheet cake is a little fluffier, not quite as tight of a crumb.

  10. Hi Sally! I absolutely love this recipe. I was going to make it again for my family, but I don’t have any cupcake paper sheet things. I was wondering whether I could make it without them, and if I have to grease the pan. Thank you!

  11. Hi, Sally,

    I don’t have sour cream. What do you think about substituting 0% fat Greek yogurt?

    Thank you!

    Sally D.

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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