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

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!

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 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!

2 images of yellow cupcake batter in a glass bowl and a cupcake pan

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 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.



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!

Yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and birthday candle

More Birthday Recipes

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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 (207g) cake flour (spoon & 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


  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 layered yellow cake recipe. 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. Happiest of Birthdays to you sweet Sally 🙂
    These cupcakes look amazing!!!
    I just have a question, it might sound silly, but why are they called yellow cupcakes?
    I am based outside of the USA and I am from what I can see, they look a lot like vanilla cupcakes.
    Is it because of the butter?
    I noticed that the yellow sheet cake which you linked below does indeed look yellow so I was just curious.
    Thank you for sharing your incredible recipes with us all.

    1. Honestly, they’re called “yellow” cupcakes because of their color. They’re also known as butter cupcakes, too. They taste like vanilla cupcakes, but aren’t quite as pristine white and fluffy as my favorite vanilla cupcakes recipe. These taste a tad more buttery, too.

  2. Charlotte Moore says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! You deserve a relaxing day for sure.

    Cupcakes look good!

  3. Are you finding that you are using cake flour more often to update your recipes and when developing new cake recipes? Seems so to me. But have not gone back in your blogs to really check.

    1. YES! Oh my goodness, yes! Cake flour makes all the difference in yellow cake, white cake, and vanilla cake recipes. Not so much for recipes that have another over-powering flavor and require more structure from all-purpose flour.

  4. I see that you recommend using different recipes to make a cake instead of cupcakes which this recipe calls for. Is there a specific reason for that?

    1. Hi Sara! The other recipes use these same ingredients, but in different ratios to make a larger cake. You could also try doubling this recipe for a larger cake, too!

  5. Hi Sally. Was wondering if one could use the reverse creaming method for these cupcakes. I made your one layer strawberry shortcake recipe and it is wonderful!

    1. You sure can! That method will work wonderfully here.

  6. Thank you! I made these today with your chocolate buttercream and they were delicious and easy!

  7. Hi Sally! I’m SO happy that you posted an updated version of these! I had wanted to try them for my own birthday last month, but the extra step of whipping the egg whites wasn’t something I had wanted to do.

    I was wondering- if I wanted to make these into funfetti cupcakes, could I just add some sprinkles to the batter? 1 or 1-1/2 cups? Of course, not the little ball ones, since I know those bleed. 🙂 Would crushed Oreos weigh the batter down if I were to add those?

    Another note- I am obsessed with your chocolate frosting. I made it to top some cupcakes and I had to stop myself from eating it from the bowl with a spoon. Thanks for the great recipes!

    1. Hi Lydia! I’m happy to have an easier recipe for yellow cupcakes now. The others were good, but were a bit inconvenient to make with that extra step!
      For sprinkles, I recommend no more than 2/3 cup. Crushed Oreos would be great! You’d likely need around 1 cup.

  8. Hi! I’m super excited to try this yellow cupcake recipe for my son’s 2nd birthday this weekend. He asked me for “green cupcakes” 🙂 so if I add a bunch of food coloring to try to achieve as deep of a green as possible, would it impact the batter at all (in terms of extra liquid)? Thanks in advance for any advice!

    1. I recommend that you use a gel food color (not the liquid drops). You don’t need as much to achieve a darker color!

  9. I just made these today preparing for a birthday party and the recipe turned out really well as far as texture goes! The cupcakes were so light and fluffy and the finished cupcake was almost like angel food cake but denser… not sure else how to describe it haha. However the cupcakes had a very dominate egg-flavor to them.. like kind of scrambled eggy. I’m hoping that flavor becomes less noticeable with icing on them but I’m confused why the flavor was so strange when I added just the right amount of eggs! Has anyone else had this happen? Otherwise awesome texture!

    1. Hey Alyssa! I’m so glad you tried these cupcakes, thank you for taking the time to share how they went. Did you taste them warm? Because some cupcakes have that egg-y flavor as they cool.

  10. Just tried this recipie and had a lot of fun! This is my first attempt at baking any type of cake. The cake turned out a bit rubbery. They don’t look overbaked though. I’m wondering what might have caused this texture??

    1. Hi Kim! Perhaps over-mixing? Did you substitute any ingredients?

      1. Tiffany Smith says:

        I made these last night and they are seriously the most perfect cupcake ever!! I’m so impressed. Sally is making me look REALLY good.

  11. Made them this afternoon!!! Fluffy, moist perfection….❤

  12. Sally, these cupcakes are wonderdul! Certainly a new favourite. The flavour and texture are divine, and I love that these don’t leave me with excess egg yolks like some other vanilla cupcake recipes do! Mine still turned out to be whiter than I had expected, so in truth I found them quite similar to the vanilla cupcakes, but with a more buttery flavour and a yellow-ish hue. All in all, I absolutely love these cupcakes, and will definitely be making them again! Also, your chocolate frosting is delicious! Pairs so well with the cupcakes. Thanks for the wonderful recipe, Sally! 🙂

  13. Jasmine Abarca says:

    Hi, Sally. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I tried it out twice last night. The first batch never browned. They were so soft but very dry. The second also never browned. They were still soft but a little less dry. What am I doing wrong? The first batch, I measured the ingredients. The second batch, I weighed the dry ingredients.

  14. Hi Sally! I made these last week and they were gone in one day! I am wanting to make a three layer cake and I see in your notes that you refer to the sheet cake recipe or piñata cake recipe. I noticed neither includes sour cream like this revamped recipe and the piñata cake is for 4 tiers. Would you recommend doubling this recipe or any other tweaks for the cake ones?

    1. Hi Qua’Aisa! The yellow sheet cake calls for sour cream. 🙂 But that batter wouldn’t be enough for a 3 layer cake. I suggest this zebra cake, but you can skip the marbling of the chocolate batter.

  15. Kristin Bledsoe says:

    About how many mini cupcakes would this recipe yield?

    1. Hi Kristin! For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature.

  16. Hi Sally.
    Hope these turn out as good as everyone says. I have to make some for the weekend. Just a quick question. Should I use castor sugar ( which is finer than normal sugar) or just regular stuff? I am in Australia and thought maybe it was called granulated elsewhere.
    Thanks for the great recipes

    1. Hi Karen! You can use castor sugar in this cupcake recipe.

  17. Hi Sally! I love your recipes. I was wondering if I could substitute cake flour for regular flour in your Yellow sheetcake recipe?

    1. Hi Kathy! You sure can. Should make it even softer.

  18. Can this be made into a 2 layer cake as well?

    1. Hi Amber! Use this yellow sheet cake recipe and divide between two cake pans.

  19. Hi Sally! I’m wanting to try this recipe but was wondering if you could use buttermilk instead of whole milk?? Thanks!

    1. Hi Lyndsay! Buttermilk will be fine.

  20. Hi Sally! I’m thinking of making these for a friends birthday on Friday. What are your thoughts on popping out a little bit of the cupcake top and piping in some whipped cream? Then closing up and piping with chocolate buttercream as suggested. Too much? Thanks!

    1. I think that would be delicious, Amy! Let me know how it goes 🙂

  21. Hi, Sally! I made this recipe and added mini chocolate chips that had been dusted with flour and they were a big hit. I want to make confetti sprinkle cupcakes and when I looked at your recipe, I noticed that it has similar ingredients to this recipe but the measurements are different and that recipe uses baking soda. Just wondering why……

  22. Hi Sally,
    Made these cupcakes yesterday and it was the first time I managed to get my buttercream just right. Great recipe! Will use it again and again and again.

  23. Hello Sally…I made this recipe for my sister’s birthday. This is great recipe for the birthday.. i love them…wish you all the very best Sally❤

  24. These are great! Super light and fluffy. I have found yellow cakes that taste good but are still dense. These had the consistency I was looking for. They will be perfect to decorate for my son’s birthday next month

  25. Mine failed miserably Is it just that I’m a terrible cook?

    Sorry about the rating, I bet it works out for everyone else so it’s still a great recipe it just didn’t workout for me

    1. Hi Payton, Can you tell me what happened to them? Was it the texture, taste, etc?

  26. I have made these twice now and both times they have deflated and almost looked a bit lumpy on the top, and on the inside they almost look like they have tunnels. What am I doing wrong?

    1. It could be a few different things but the culprit for cupcakes with sinking middles is often over-filling your cupcake liners. Hopefully this post can help you troubleshoot:

  27. The centers sunk, not sure why, I’m pretty sure filled to 2/3. Also I found they tasted a bit too eggy. I used the Swan Cake flour (which was the only cake flour at my grocer), which is bleached, thought the batter had a bit of metallic taste. Maybe I’ll try making the cake flour with the cornstarch. Some recipes I’ve seen just add corn scratch the recipes as a separate ingredient.

  28. Sally, I made these cupcakes into a 3 layer 6” cake for my son’s birthday. I added chocolate chips (1 cup of minis) and it turned out perfect. I topped it with your chocolate peanut butter icing. I have never seen my children clean their plates so fast. By the way, the chocolate PB icing is hidden in your cookie cake. That icing should be celebrated a bit more. My family can’t get enough of it.

  29. I love this recipe! I’m sure I’ll make this many more times.

    I ran out of vanilla, so I substituted one teaspoon of almond extract for one teaspoon of vanilla. I also made this as three 6″ cake layers. There are only two of us, so we had one layer as dessert last night, with a basic buttercream frosting. I froze the other two layers so they’re ready when we want more.

  30. These were easy to make and simply amazing! Birthday cupcakes indeed!

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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