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

Description

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!


Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

  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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194 Comments

  1. Kristin Vance says:

    I only had light sour cream, but then only had half and half and not milk. I assume this balanced out somehow because they still came out very well.

  2. Could I use half and half in place of milk? I’m afraid it would make them dense because it’s heavier.

    1. Hi Barbara, just as you suspected– half-and-half is too heavy for this cupcake batter.

  3. Very easy to follow recipe. I turned my batch into a “funfetti” style cupcake with rainbow jimmies. I don’t know if it was the butter I used or what, but mine didn’t come out very yellow. No matter what color they are they are still very delicious!

  4. Best cupcakes I’ve ever made hands down. Will be using this recipe for years to come!! Thank you, Sally!

  5. I have made this cupcake recipe a few times now. I actually tried it the other day and put some strawberry compote in it. Because I had some lemon left, I put just 1/2 a lemon’s zest in the batter too, and it was pretty good. Not super lemon-y but just a hint. I may put more in next time, or try with a different zest. 🙂 This is my go-to now.

  6. Barry Skinner says:

    just made these and they came out dense and not tasty at all what did i do wrong?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Barry! Happy to help. It could be a few things. First, make sure your baking powder and soda are fresh. We find they lose strength after just 3-4 months. Use proper room temperature butter and other room temperature ingredients. Make sure you spoon and level the cake flour, and be careful not to over-mix the batter! Here’s a helpful blog post about preventing dry, dense cake as well.

  7. Hi! Can this recipe be used for a cake, or do you recommend using your Yellow Cake recipe for cakes?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Theresa, this recipe yields the perfect amount for a 3 layer, 6 inch cake. For larger cake sizes, we recommend following our yellow sheet cake recipe or our layered yellow cake recipe. Happy baking!

  8. What can i substitute if I don’t have sour cream or yogurt?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Uma, sour cream (or yogurt) are crucial in this recipe. Best to not substitute here!

  9. I bake a lot of cupcakes- thousands a year and I’m still in search of the perfect yellow cupcake. I have tried this three times and find it bakes up beautifully but is still slightly dry with little flavor. I have tried an extra egg yolk, substituting some of the sugar with brown sugar. Still no luck.

  10. Did this today as a 3 layer semi naked cake with mixed berries. It was super moist and my husband absolutely loved it and said he didn’t even think his mom’s peanutbutter cake (his lifetime favorite) compared! I only have 2 6 inch rounds, so I ended up using my 6.5 inch Springform pan for the bottom layer since they were so close in size. My 2 – 6 in rounds are 3 inches deep. Would it be possible to use this recipe for those to make two thick layers? If so, how much would the baking time need to be adjusted.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Beth! We don’t see why that wouldn’t work, but aren’t sure of the exact bake time. We find it can be difficult to get thick cakes to bake through evenly. Let us know if you give it a try!

  11. I’m a baking novice. Can I make these as mini cupcakes? How would I change things??

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

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

      1. Thanks – I’m an idiot. This was written right in the recipe. =)
        Baking as we speak!

  12. This is my first time making this recipe, and I’m pretty sure I over mixed because when I finished mixing the batter it came out very thick. I’m not sure if thats why it turned out thick or not…?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Lexa! This is a thicker cupcake batter, but if it’s too thick there may be too much flour measured in. How are you measuring? We always suggest using the spoon and level method to avoid over-measuring. How did the cupcakes turn out?

      1. I measured everything correctly but after the cupcakes were finished baking, I realized that I only put in 1 egg instead of 2. When they were done they came out very white. They tasted good but a bit hard plus difficult to chew.

  13. Janio Quadra says:

    Thinking of making these cupcakes but curious that in your “Total time” it says 3 hours.?? Am I missing something? I didn’t see any time frame like that in recipe or other info. But I could’ve missed it. Thx. I enjoy your recipes.
    Janio

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Janio! The total time for the recipe includes cooling time for the cupcakes before you can frost them. Hope you love them!

  14. Carolyn Elliott says:

    I’ve subbed vegan sour cream before with recipes and have had no issues so I assume that would be OK- but can I sub in almond/soy milk or lactaid milk in place of the whole milk. Hubby is intolerant of dairy…. thank you!!

  15. Ciara Fleming says:

    Tried this tonight with the Strawberry Buttercream Icing and it was a hit! Husband wanted cupcakes for his birthday and I wanted to make something that would be better than from a box. He ate 3 or 4.

    Thanks for both recipes!

  16. Pokie3inSanD says:

    One of my new and very favorite recipes!! As an avid baker, I was surprised to find I didn’t have a tried and true yellow cupcake recipe. Do when I needed some last minute, I made a batch from another recipe and they turned out flat. In need of an emergency replacement, I found this recipe, put my trust in Sally and made them. They were beautifully delicious and moist. Thank you, Sally!

  17. Can I replace the AP flour with Gluten-free baking flour without an issue?

  18. Can I use plain flour instead of cake flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Nish, unfortunately you need cake flour for this cupcake recipe. If using all-purpose flour or plain flour, the cupcakes will taste overly dense and dry. See recipe notes for details on making your own cake flour substitute at home.

  19. Barbara Martin says:

    Does it matter the brand of cake flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Barbara, we love to use Swans Down brand cake flour, but any cake flour should work well. Enjoy!

  20. Michelle HooSang says:

    These cupcakes are awesome. I used 5% Greek yogurt because I didn’t have sour cream. I used the chocolate buttercream recipe as well.

  21. Kovach Kitchen says:

    I have a professional recipe that I purchased once which is great for making regular cakes, but the cupcakes fail every. single. time. I tried this one because I have come to trust Sally’s Baking Addiction and the ingredients were nearly identical to those used in my other recipe (just different ratios). They came out perfect! I am super happy with the results and I am so thankful there are bakers like Sally who like to share their perfected recipes!

  22. Barbara L. Stoneback says:

    I reviewed all the ingredients and tips before I started the revised yellow birthday cupcakes which I wanted for a special occasion. I am an experienced baker and I measured everything exactly. I was very careful not to make them too full. As it turned out, they didn’t even come close to running over – the only thing I changed was to make a double batch because I needed at least two dozen cupcakes. I ended up with 40!

    The first ones sank in the middle so I thought even though they tested done with the toothpick, I didn’t bake them long enough. I baked the rest for the full time and they still sank in the center. I tested my oven afterwards and it is fine. Yes, the icing will cover the sunken center, but they don’t suit me at all. The baking powder is good until December of this year. I love your recipes and have come to trust them but I will never make this one again. So disappointed.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Barbara! For best taste and texture, we always recommend making the batter twice instead of doubling it in one bowl. Doubling the recipe can lead to over- or under- mixing of the cupcake batter. Thanks so much for giving these cupcakes a try!

  23. Midwest Baker says:

    Sally is my go to and several of her recipes are tried and true for me. I often go here first when I need a recipe for something classic that I know will turn out great. Some of my favorites are her strawberry cake, cranberry walnut bread, and dinner rolls.

    This yellow cake however was a miss for me. I’m a practiced baker who always measures in grams, and I did not make any substitutes here. The cake baked up fine but was nearly flavorless (I did not miss any ingredients). I give the recipe 2 stars with an extra star for linking to the 5-star worthy chocolate buttercream. Will be looking for a yellow cake recipe elsewhere but will know I’ll happily be back for more of Sally’s other recipes!

  24. I love this recipe! I would love to stuff these cupcakes with lemon curd, would this work or are the cupcakes too soft? Should i use a denser cupcake recipe to hold the curd? Thanks for the advice 🙂

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kayla, you can definitely fill these cupcakes with lemon curd — enjoy!

  25. These cupcakes are epic! Hands down the best I’ve ever made. Like a Magnolia bakery crumb — but at home! Will be making these again and again. Went with Sally’s reco on the Choco buttercream frosting and it was the perfect combo.

  26. Hi Sally, the recipe for the chocolate buttercream yields 2.5 cups. Would that be too much frosting for 12-14 cupcakes? If I split the frosting in half, would that be enough for the cupcakes?

    1. Hi Sarah, it depends how much frosting you want on your cupcakes– a tall swirl as shown or a thin layer? For a thin layer, you can definitely halve the frosting recipe.

  27. The flavor of these were okay, and they looked perfect coming out of the oven. But within minutes they shrank down and half of the cupcakes pulled away from their wrappers. I had to scrap the batch and revert to my old standby:( still on the hunt for the perfect vanilla cupcake!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Dana, If cupcakes shrink around the edges they may have been over-baked. Next time try checking the cake for doneness a few minutes earlier!

  28. A little surprised at all the positive comments – I am very disappointed, not much flavor at all (and I used an additional 1/2 tsp vanilla) Easy to make but what’s the point if the flavor isnt there. Made them for a party so now I’ll have to go back to my usual recipe and repeat the whole thing.

  29. Yum! I’ll definitely be using this recipe again! Paired these cupcakes with your Swiss Meringue Buttercream and it was a perfect match!
    I doubled the recipe and came out with 32 cupcakes. I found this recipe to be perfectly moist, not too crumbly and not too sweet. Made these for a birthday party and my guests were big fans!
    Thank you!

  30. Wow! That pretty much sums it up. These cupcakes are PERFECT. I made chocolate cream cheese frosting for them and they are amazing. This will be my go to yellow cupcake recipe from now on.

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