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. 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 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 (210g) 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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

  5. 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……

  6. 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.

    1. I’m so happy to read this! Glad these were a hit, Kimberly!!

  7. 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❤

  8. 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

  9. 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?

  10. Swetha Vasantha says:

    Hi Sally,
    Just wondering if there is any easier way to beat the sugar and butter without it getting all over the place. I use a handheld mixer…..Maybe a smaller bowl or a blender?

    1. I don’t recommend a blender for this! A deeper bowl will help – you can also use a paper plate as a “shield” similar to this:

  11. Hi Sally , I love your recipes . I was wondering if I can double or triple this recipe for 36 cup cakes?

    1. If you double the recipe be very careful not to over or under-mix the batter! This will cause you to have dense cupcakes. I recommend against tripling the recipe as it would be too much batter to work with at once.

  12. 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:

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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

  17. 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.

    1. I’m so happy that you enjoyed them, Diane!!

  18. 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 🙂

  19. 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!

  20. aliyah conrad says:

    Can one freeze the cupcakes?

    1. Yes, see the recipe notes for make ahead and freezing instructions!

  21. 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!!!

  22. Cake flour is not available at any of the grocery stores near where I live, but pastry flour is. Would that work, or would it be better to use the cake flour substitute that you linked to?

    1. Hi Sera, I recommend using the DIY cake flour substitute mentioned.

  23. 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:

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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

  27. 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!

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

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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