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. Diane Puddester says:

    These were sooo good. Moist and flavorful. Made these cupcakes for my great nephew’s birthday, and I received so many compliments. I had some leftover, and after 3 days of being baked, they are still moist and tasty. Tahnk you Sally, this is one recipe I will be making again and again.

  2. Thank you! But I was very careful to only fill the cups 2/3 of the way. I also read the troubleshooting post and found I was doing all the things. These cupcakes taste great — there’s no doubt about that. I’ll probably give them another try, they’re that good! Thank you 🙂

  3. I made mini cupcakes using this recipe. I add 1T of vegetable oil, sprinkles and pieces of Hershey chocolate in some. Overall they cupcakes came out well. I did have a little mishap and after spooning 24 mini cupcakes I noticed my milk have not been added. I one by one added the batter back in to the bowl. Then poured the milk in which cause the batter to be super runny. So I added equal amounts of sugar and flour to batter thickened it to cake batter consistency. About 2.5T of both. It was an adventure but the cupcakes came out very well. Thank you!

  4. I have a recipe for apple pie cupcakes that has homemade apple pie filling in the center topped with a cinnamon buttercream that calls for a yellow cupcake. In fact, the recipe calls for a box of yellow cupcake mix! Ugh. If I am making a treat for my family, I want to know exactly what is in it, hence the search for a yellow cupcake recipe. I followed the recipe exactly, and they are so yummy! They are delicious, and soft yet dense enough to hold up to the apple pie filling in the center. I love the crumb the cake flour gives this cupcake! I use a combination of cake flour and all-purpose flour in my vanilla cupcake go-to recipe, too, and it makes such a big difference in the texture of the cake. This recipe is definitely a keeper. I got 18 cupcakes from it using a 3 TBS scoop (which filled the liner about 2/3 as recommended) and took them out at 20 min. (they could have been taken out at 19 min. and been fine). Thanks for a great recipe!!!

  5. I made these last night and I’m quite happy with them! Just cut into one this morning and it is delicious, moist and super soft (exactly what I wanted, no cupcake bricks for me please!). I followed the recipe very closely, but I’m not an experienced cake baker and I think I overmixed my dough. My cupcakes deflated a bit and look dense, but they still have a really great taste+texture! Will try this recipe again to see if I can get them to not deflate next time by mixing properly

    1. I’m so glad you are happy with these, Julia! I think you will also find this post helpful:

  6. I was wondering If I could make a rainbow cake using the batter? Would the food dye change the recipe at all? If I were to make a rainbow cake how many times should I double the recipe? Love your recipes 🙂

    1. Hi Elizabeth, for a rainbow cake I recommend using a lighter cake such as my favorite white cake or vanilla cake. You can divide the batter into 5 or 6 layers to color and bake– keeping in mind the layers will be thinner and require a shorter bake time.

  7. I happen to have some leftover mascarpone in the house. Any chance I can use that instead of sour cream?

    1. Hi Sarah! That would be fine in this particular recipe.

  8. Sally Golding says:

    Sally, you are becoming a trusted baker to me!! I made the yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting yesterday for a 7 yr old boys party. These turned out to be the best cupcakes I’ve ever made!! So so delicious. Thank you

  9. Jessica Horton says:

    I don’t have any whole milk, I have 2% and I have some heavy whipping cream can I use either of those?

    1. 2% milk would be the next best choice. Enjoy!

      1. Jessica Horton says:

        Thanks so much! I tried 2% with a smidge of heavy cream and they came out fantastic. I made these for my boss’s birthday and he loved them! Thank you!

  10. Hi Sally,

    Can I add sprinkles in this recipe to make them confetti cupcakes?

    1. Sure can! I recommend folding 1/2 cup of sprinkles into the batter. Do not use nonpareils (the little balls) as they quickly bleed their color.

  11. Hi Sally,

    Two questions! First, can I use this recipe for the 3 layer 6 inch cake? In that article you said we could just use your cupcake batter recipes, but this recipe isn’t on the list you provided there – so wanted to double check.

    Also: is yellow cake yellow simply because of including the egg yolks? I just made your vanilla cupcakes yesterday (they were a huge hit!) and looking at this ingredient list, including yolks instead of egg whites only seems to be the main difference. Just curious .

    Thanks so much!!!! Your recipes are turning me into an amazing baker!

    1. Hi Jenna, Yes you can use this to make a 6 inch cake! The list on that post isn’t complete but just remember that any of my cupcakes that yield 12-14 cupcakes are perfect for this size cake 🙂 It is the egg yolks that is the difference between a white and a yellow cake. They change the fat content as well as the color of the finished baked good.

      1. Thank you, Sally! Last question.. promise 🙂 If I wanted to do a 2 layer cake in 9 inch pans, I’d need to increase this recipe, right?

        Basically I have two 9 inch cake pans. I was going to make your two-layer vanilla cake, but yellow cake with chocolate frosting is calling my name. I could buy 3 new 6 inch pans – but just wondering if there’s an easy way to adjust the recipe to use the materials I already have.

  12. Has anyone made these as mini cupcakes? Any recommendations on cooking time???

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

  13. 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. Mine shrunk too as mentioned by a previous review. Like, shrunk by half the size. They were perfect coming out of the oven and then within 2 minutes all shrunk. Not collapsed, just shrunk and I did use paper liners and not silicone liners. But even so, they tasted great! Just not sure what could be the cause? I’ve baked many of your recipes and follow every direction to a t.

  14. 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!

  15. 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!


    1. Of course that should say BATTER not BATTERY. And it was RUNNY not FUNNY!!

      1. I just made these and experienced the same things! I also had a thinner batter, not too runny like a chocolate cake, and none collapsed. Bonus was that the cake stayed moist and not at all dense! Hoping for the same results the next time around!

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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.

    1. Hi Carol, For the best texture I recommend making separate batches instead of doubling. But yes, it can be cut in half!

  19. 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!!!

  20. 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.

  21. I was tasked with making cupcakes for my sister in law’s 40th birthday and I must say, in the beginning I was so nervous since this was my first time making cupcakes. This recipe was just what I needed and the cupcakes came out AMAZING!!! Thank you so much Sally for sharing.

  22. Christine Szeglin says:

    Hi Sally,

    I was considering baking these for my daughters’ birthday tomorrow (I have twins), but they would like a layer cake, not cupcakes. Can this recipe be used as a two-layer cake? I see that you recommended other recipes for layer cake, and I was wondering why since this one also looks wonderful. (And I went out and bought cake flour especially for this recipe. ☺️) Your advice would be most appreciated.


    P.s. For last year’s birthday I made your strawberry cupcakes, and they were SO SO SO delicious!!

    1. Hi Christine, Happy birthday to your daughters! If you want to turn these into a cake, this batter fits perfectly into three 6-inch pans. Here is everything you need to know about using cupcake recipes to make 6 inch cakes!

      1. Thanks for getting back to me! Unfortunately, I don’t have 6 inch cake pans, and I can not get them before tomorrow. I do, gowever, have 8ninch cake pans. Would this recipe work with 8 inch pans?

  23. I wanted to try these today but I don’t have cake flour or cornstarch to make my own cake flour. I only have all purpose flour. How much all purpose flour should I use? Thanks! I’ll have to buy cake flour for the next time

    1. Hi Elaina, unfortunately you need cake flour for this cupcake recipe. If using all-purpose flour, the cupcakes will taste overly dense and dry. Feel free to adjust wet ingredients if you’d like, but I recommend cake flour. Here are all of my recipes using all-purpose flour if you want to browse those instead.

  24. I just made these for my daughter’s birthday tomorrow. Followed the recipe very carefully, used paper liners, used good vanilla, used cake flour, everything was room temp. As another reviewer had said, the texture of the cupcake was good but it just tasted like corn cake! Had zero yellow cake flavor. I had some other people try it, and they were all in agreement that it just tasted like corn. Very disappointing and frustrating because I wanted to surprise my daughter with these tomorrow morning. 🙁

    1. Hi Sylvia! I’m sorry these cupcakes tasted like corn. I’m not sure what the culprit could be for that flavor. Was it more the texture? Was it coarse? Thanks so much for your feedback.

  25. I made these yesterday and they turned out wonderfully! Since we didn’t have sour cream, I used FAGE Total 5% yogurt (which I have discovered is full-fat) as you’d recommended. I also followed your recipe for cake flour since we only had all-purpose on hand by mixing it with some corn starch. I cooked them for 20 minutes and they came out very well- fluffy, not too sweet, and with a lovely vanilla flavor. Also, their form held and they did not sink (we live at about 50 meters above sea level for reference). I’ve followed your recipes before and they always come out well. Thank you for the baking substitute tips and for making this second recipe for us to try, Sally! Definitely another keeper!

  26. You are usually dead on the money with perfect recipes, but this one… Meh. These cupcakes tasted like cake flour and they were flat, dense, and flavorless. It’s not obvious that it would be a fail recipe. I think to improve it, use regular AP flour, double the salt, increase the sugar, and change the mixing techniques.

    Sorry to be a Negative Nellie, but this was a disappointment.

  27. Cute little delicious cupcake. You captured all steps nicely. It’s clear and understandable. Thank you for the recipe steps and ingredients.

  28. These were delicious and easy to make. My daughter was thrilled to have them for her birthday. I did not encounter a single problem. We made them with the chocolate frosting which was linked in the recipe. Our frosting did not have the sheen as pictured, but was beyond delicious. My daughter said that they were equal to a bakery cupcake/frosting which would have been impossible to get during the pandemic. I will keep coming back to this site for baking recipes from now on!

  29. Hi Sally! How would you suggest using this recipe to make a layered yellow cake? I saw your yellow sheet cake recipe, but I’m looking to make a 2-layered yellow cake. Thank you!

    1. Hi Miranda! Try my Zebra Cake but skip the chocolate batter portion. (It’s 3 layers.)

  30. A delicious recipe, one which I am sure to keep and make again. Only one small comment – by the end of the process by mixture was runny and had split. I added a few tablespoons of flour to get it back to a sort of regular consistency, too scared to add more flour in case it made the cake tough. I’m not sure if I did something wrong along the way.

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