The Perfect Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

vanilla cupcake recipe by Sugar and Sparrow

Whether you’ve been baking for awhile or you’re new to the game, there are a few go-to recipes I recommend having in your recipe box. I believe one of them should be a fail-proof vanilla cupcake recipe, and this one is just that. These babies come out the same every single time: fluffy, moist, rich vanilla flavor, and perfectly soft structure. And they’re so versatile, you can top them with just about any buttercream flavor and be good to go!

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream recipe

Before inventing this recipe, I was very co-dependant on Betty Crocker box mixes for cupcakes (and cake!). That stuff is just so trustworthy, which was exactly what I was lacking from scratch recipes I’d tried. Usually, I’d try a from-scratch recipe and find that the cupcakes had sunken in the middle, had a weird cornbread-ish taste, were too dry, and just lacked luster. So I spent countless hours concocting the perfect ratio of moisture, fluffiness, flavor, and magic.

perfect vanilla cupcake recipe

vanilla cupcake ingredients

The soft texture of these cupcakes comes from a balance of incorporating cake flour and extra moisture. Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which means the batter is able to retain more moisture (the higher the protein content, the less ability to retain moisture, aka the drier the cake). That being said, the cake flour makes sure that none of the extra moisture from ingredients like sour cream, egg yolks, and whole milk go to waste. The result? A dreamy, melt-in-your mouth texture that’s soft as box mix, only without all the ingredients in a box mix you can’t pronounce. I’ve got all the heart eyes.

fluffy moist vanilla cupcake recipe

You can pair these cupcakes with just about any buttercream flavor, but the buttercream I’ve used in these photos is my go-to vanilla buttercream recipe. Check that recipe out if you have yet to find the perfect American buttercream recipe for topping cakes and cupcakes! I’ve used my Wilton tip 1M to frost a ruffled swirl and topped the cupcakes with Fancy Sprinkles in the Roller Disco mix. I love this look (it’s a classic!) but if you want more inspiration on how to frost cupcakes, here are 10 of my favorite ideas.

vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and sprinkles

However you decorate, they’ll taste amazing. All of my taste testers are unanimous in their love of this recipe. Makes me happy every time!

best vanilla cupcake recipe
5 from 3 votes
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Perfect Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Soft and fluffy vanilla cupcakes that are packed with moisture and flavor. A fail-proof recipe you'll want as a staple in your recipe box. 

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 17 minutes
Total Time 27 minutes
Servings 24 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups (265g) cake flour, sifted before measuring*
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (169.5g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup (358g) granulated white sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (112g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240ml) whole milk, room temperature

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare a muffin pan by lining with cupcake tins. 

  2. Sift the cake flour first, then measure it out by spooning and leveling it in your measuring cup. Add the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. 

  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer (a handheld mixer works fine too!), cream the butter for on high for two minutes until it's light and fluffy. Add in sugar and continue to mix on high for another two minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle as needed. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix for one minute on high, scraping down the bowl and paddle once more.

  4. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the milk slowly and mix until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and give it a few stirs to make sure there are no lumps (without over-mixing). The batter will be slightly thick.

  5. Spoon batter into the cupcake tins until they’re about ⅔ full, then bake for 17 minutes. They're done when they spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for five minutes before removing them from the pan and continuing to cool them for at least an hour. Make sure they're entirely room temperature before applying any frosting. 

Recipe Notes

*DIY Cake Flour Recipe: To make your own cake flour, spoon and level one cup of all-purpose flour and remove 2 Tbsp. Add 2 Tbsp of cornstarch. Repeat per the amount of cake flour you need, then sift the flour and cornstarch mixture 4 times (don't skip that step!)After sifting, spoon and level to re-measure the amount of cake flour you need. 

Make ahead tip: These cupcakes can be baked, cooled, stored in their muffin tin with plastic wrap over the top, and left out at room temperature up to one day ahead of decorating. Unfrosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for up to one month before thawing and frosting.

Disclaimer: this post does contain some affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you click them and purchase items I’ve recommended. Using these links won’t cost you any extra money, but they do help to keep Sugar & Sparrow up and running. Thank you for your support!

Did you make this recipe? Let me know by tagging me on Instagram. I love to see your creations!

16 Comments

  1. Tracy Merlau


    Hi! You have such beautiful cakes!! Could we use your recipe for cakes as well or would it not bake correctly? TFS!!

  2. Hi , I started to follow you recently and I am amazed with your cakes and cupcakes amazing!!!! I made your vanilla cake but unfortunately didn’t come out right, I measure the ingredients in grams and followed your instructions, but when they were inside the oven the middle part sank. Would you be so kind and give me and advice.

    • Oh no, Silvia! I have made this recipe about a hundred times and haven’t ever had the middle sink :/ When a cake sinks in the middle it’s usually due to overmixing. At the very end of the recipe it’s tempting to continue mixing after adding the liquid all at once, but I recommend that you mix on low until the liquid is just incorporated. You can then turn off the mixer and whisk the batter a few times by hand to make sure you don’t overmix. I’ve detailed the exact timing for how long you should mix each portion, so make sure you follow the timing step by step and let me know how it turns out next time!


  3. Hello ¡! I’m making about 90-100 cupcakes in less than 5 days , can i make some now and freeze them ¿?

    • Hi Adriana! You can definitely make some of the cupcakes ahead and freeze them in an airtight container. They freeze just fine and thaw in about 30 minutes!

  4. Hello, i love your blog!
    i was wondering why some recipes call for buttermilk whilst you incorporate sour milk?

    • Hi, HS! Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I’ve spent a lot of time testing recipes and found that some are more moist and tastier with sour cream, while others are better with buttermilk. That’s really the only reason!

  5. Tania Ramirez


    Amazing recipe, i just adjusted sugar to 1 1/2 cups and was still sweet enough. Would love this in chocolate, can you tell me how i can make them into chocolate cupcakes. Also not sure why they didn’t rise much..

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