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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: 1214 cupcakes 1x
  • 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 Tip, Reusable Piping Bags or Disposable Piping Bags
  8. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: birthday, chocolate frosting, sprinkles

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Today i tried this recipe: yellow birthday cupcakes and i wanna say thank you and congratulations to you it is one of the best cupcake recipes i‘ve ever made! Thank you for your recipe, you are amazing

  2. I made these for a friend’s birthday and they were a hit. I made sure to weigh out the ingredients instead of using measuring cups because I’ve found if I follow Sally’s recipes to a T they all turn out well. When I’m cooking I’ll deviate from a recipe but when it comes to baking I will destroy a recipe in no time flat if I try to “do my own thing.” The cake and chocolate buttercream frosting were not too sugary (I don’t care for overly sweet treats) and were fairly simple to make.

    P.S. I am new to baking so if I say something is easy to make you can trust that I’m telling the truth. 🙂

  3. Wow. Just ate the cupcake and It was delicious! I used the chocolate ganache frosting and just kind of spooned it on. The cake was very light and airy. I got about 15 cupcakes. I froze about half of then with the frosting. Will definitely make again. Thank you Sally.

  4. Perfect yellow cupcakes… this will be my go-to recipe. Thank you.

  5. I made these cupcakes last night. I didn’t have any sour cream, so tried with mayo instead. It actually worked! Cupcakes are light and fluffy, pleasant tasting, though not overly flavourful. I’m happy to have found a white cupcake recipe that is not dense and stays moist. Thanks!

  6. I’d like to make these into three 6 inch cakes like the other cupcake recipes. Is that possible with the recipe as is?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Yes! Virtually any cupcake batter that produces about 12-15 cupcakes is the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake. Follow the baking directions in the post 6 Inch Cakes.

  7. My cupcakes did not have as tight a crumb as pictured. I’ve been making my own cake flour (from the recipe on this site) and measuring by weight. Is it possible the problem is not enough flour? It is pretty warm here, so I suppose that could be part of it too.

  8. Hi Sally, I made these today and they were delicious. I substituted sour cream with Greek yoghurt as sour cream in Australia is 36% fat and light sour cream is 18% fat, compared to around 6% for the sour cream brand that I think is used in the USA. However, I note in some of your other recipes that you think sour cream achieves a better result than Greek yoghurt. Do you think it would be better to combine light sour cream with milk in order to achieve the same fat content (approximately 1 part light sour cream to 2 parts milk)?

    1. Hi Jackie! You know, I can’t be 100% sure without testing the recipe with the products you have but I would definitely try what you are suggesting first– mixing a little milk with the sour cream you have. (I’d choose the light version.) 1 part sour cream to 2 parts milk would be great, but half sour cream and half milk should be fine too.

      1. Thank you so much Sally. One more quick question if I may. The Upgraded German Cake refers to ‘full fat’ sour cream and I’m wondering if you can confirm what fat % this would be.

  9. I weighed the ingredients as opposed to measuring as I’ve found that makes a difference. Thanks for including that in your recipes. These are the best yellow cupcakes I’ve ever tasted! They were so light and fluffy.

  10. Hi Sally, Iam a beginner in baking and your receipes are excellent, detailed and simple to follow. Tried few. turned out great. Thanks.
    I tried yellow cupcakes. So one batch accidentally went into microwave mode.. they got done in some four minutes. Surprisingly, the cupcake turned out perfect while the ones I baked in convection mode turned out nice and fluffy but the top was crusty and cracked. Any idea why this could be? Iam I baking it all wrong?

    1. Hi Afrin, If you use a convection/fan oven the flow of air can cause uneven baking (crispy on the outside, not fully cooked on the inside). Our recipes are written for conventional settings, but if using convection try turning your oven down by 25 degrees F and the bake time may still be slightly shorter.

  11. Hi Sally
    I made your yellow cupcakes beige and I can’t remember if I made the old recipe or this version. I made them for a graduation and everyone loved them. My question is are these cupcakes light and airy like the older version recipe?

    1. Hi Monica, These cupcakes have a tighter crumb like pound cake, but taste super soft and have a light texture.

  12. I have made these cupcakes several times and love them! I would like to make a “jumbo” cupcake (the pan that would make 6 cupcakes for a size of 12) for my son’s cake smash. Do you think this is doable? Any ideas around bake time?

    Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Hi Allison, Yes you can use this recipe to make jumbo cupcakes. Same oven temperature but I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed, but bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

    2. I made one in a ramiken same temp but it required about ten minutes longer than the suggested time in the recipe. Turned out great, but it stuck to the bottom (possibly my fault for not letting it cool completely)

  13. I made these instead of using a mix for Apple Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Buttercream. They were perfect and oh-so delicious!

  14. hello, sally the cupcakes were fantastic! you are very good at making recipes! thank you for the wonderful recipe!

  15. These cupcakes were moist and delicious! I ended up making 16 cupcakes instead of 14 and I filled the muffin tin 3/4 of the way. More cupcakes are always a good thing!

  16. Tried to make this recipe as written using the weight measurement. But the cake flour reached the weight well before the cup measurement. When I mixed in the dry into the wet ingredients, the batter was loose, so I added the remainder of the flour. Also, room temp here is 20 degrees (it’s winter), so my butter maybe was not soft enough. The batter was quite lumpy. I needed to stir it a lot to get rid of the lumps. In the end the cupcake was a bit dry. I don’t know if it’s the extra stirring I had to do?? Any suggestions?? I’m thinking I’ll still give it a second try and maybe sift my dry ingredients and soften the butter more in the microwave.

    I made these for my daughter’s second bday, so I cut back on the sugar to 3/4c. It tasted good I thought, together w the chocolate buttercream 🙂 I don’t usually like my desserts too sweet so this was a good amount for me.


    1. Thank you for trying this recipe! Room temperature butter is actually cooler than most people think, it’s cool to touch and about 65°F (18°C). The post Here’s What Room Temperature Butter Really Means may be helpful! The cupcakes may have been dry because you reduced the sugar. Sugar in baked goods is also responsible for moisture and texture. If you try again, try using the full cup of sugar. For more tips see the post 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes.

  17. Hi Sally, noticed the different recipes for yellow cake vs yellow cupcake where one uses buttermilk and the other uses sour cream and milk. Is there a difference in the outcome and any reason for using different ingredients for the same or similar base? Also, the yellow cake has more sugar. Would it be possible to reduce some? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sophia, the texture of the cake and these cupcakes is pretty similar. I tend to use buttermilk in cake recipes (vs sour cream and milk) because it creates a slightly lighter cake batter, something you’ll definitely want for a layer cake which is easily weighed down once assembled. Feel free to slightly reduce the sugar in the cake, but just know that sugar also helps with stability and structure. I wouldn’t reduce it too much. (Always requires testing though.)

    1. For best results, we recommend making two separate batches. That allows the ingredients to incorporate better and doesn’t overwhelm your mixer.

      1. I’ve made this recipe before & they turned out perfect! However, I decided to double the recipe today & they didn’t turn out right 🙁 they didn’t sink in the middle, the whole cupcake shrunk after pulling them out of the oven & now they look like mini cupcakes. Still tasted good though! Also, I had to use 1/2 cup skim milk & 1 cup heavy cream because my kids drink the rest of the milk!

  18. Hey Sally! Thanks so much for sharing your recipes :). I was about to make these for my sister’s baby shower tomorrow, and I realized I don’t have whole milk, but I do have buttermilk. Do you think it would be ok to substitute?

    1. Hi Hannah, Buttermilk will be just fine. Enjoy!

  19. I make cakes as a side gig and had been using a recipe I purchased years ago from a professional bakery. While the cakes turned out good, albeit a bit dense, I decided to change it up and try one of your recipes (I’ve made other things of yours and you have become a trusted go-to). This recipe did not disappoint! I could tell from the fluffy batter it was going to be amazing. The cupcakes rose nicely and the texture is spot-on. I used vanilla bean paste to give them an extra vanilla boost. Thank you a million for providing this amazing recipe that will be my new vanilla cupcake go-to!

  20. Used this recipe to make cupcakes for my son’s bday. It was my first time attempting homemade cake. They worked out beautifully! Super light, tight crumb, and very tasty. My recipe yielded 17 cupcakes and thank goodness…hubby ate a few straight from the oven!

  21. If I wanted to make these lemon, with the addition of lemon juice and lemon zest, would I substitute some of the milk for lemon juice? Or just add it as an extra?

  22. Can I halve this recipe to make a half dozen cupcakes without a problem?

  23. Do you think it’s possible to use vegetable oil instead of butter? And if so, how much should I use?

    1. Hi José! Unfortunately you won’t be able to cream the sugar with oil as the base of this recipe. We don’t recommend making the swap.

  24. Made these last night for my daughter’s first birthday (used a german frosting though) and it was amazing. the cake is tender and light but most of all tasty. also lowered the baking temperature to make sure they stayed pale so it may take you a few tries to see what temp works.

  25. Made these last night for my daughter’s first birthday (used a german frosting though) and it was amazing. the cake is tender and light but most of all tasty. also lowered the baking temperature to make sure they stayed pale so it may take you a few tries to see what temp works.

  26. I really like all your recipes. I have a problem with these cupcakes, they always sunk in the middle… what do I do wrong? Thank you!

    1. Hi Nicolettea! 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. Hi Sally!!! I’ve been using your recipes and love them!!!
    Thank you so much.
    I even decided to invest in some cake flour and used it in the recipe. They rose well.
    When they came out of the oven and cooled, the top sank and the cupcakes contracted. They tasted great and were moist and a little dense. I’m just wondering if this was supposed to happen.
    I did frost and serve them!!!

  28. I made these tonight and was absolutely blown away. I’ve baked for a long time and these were absolutely the best version of a yellow cupcake I’ve ever had: dense but light, soft, pillowy, and – my personal favorite – not too sweet. I’m obsessed.

    1. 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.