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 4 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!

39 Comments

  1. Tracy Merlau

    5 stars
    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. 5 stars
    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

    5 stars
    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..

  6. Hi Whitney, I’m in Australia and would like to make my own cake flour. We don’t have corn starch in Australia. Can I swap it out for corn flour or Arrow root? Thanks!

  7. Hi Kelly! I did some googling and it looks like Corn Flour and Corn Starch are one in the same. Excited for you to try making cake flour!

    • Hi Nicole! I’ve never tried substituting margarine, but after googling it looks like you can sub margarine as long as it’s labeled “good for baking.” If it’s not specifically developed for baking, it might not whip enough air in the creaming process (responsible for giving the cake a nice rise). I’d say give it a try though and let me know how it goes!

  8. Hi Whitney, I just made these cupcakes today and oh my they are fantastic! Best recipe I’ve ever used. Thank you!

  9. Hi Whitney,

    Thank you for sharing your lovely recipe. I just tried it and it tastes amazing!

    I just have a question that I’d appreciate your help with:

    After I creamed the butter and sugar together, I added the 3 eggs 1 at a time (mixing thoroughly after each one), I then added the rest of the ingredients and found that my mix curdled. Do you know how I can prevent this from happening again?
    (I fixed it by putting my bowl in hot water then mixing until it looked like batter again) 🙂

    T.I.A,
    Amy

    • Hi Amy! Did the batter curdle after adding the whole milk at the end? The only thing I can think of is the milk not being room temp. I know that when I add cold milk/dairy to anything (even buttercream!) the shock of the temperature can make the mixture appear curdled. I’m glad you were able to fix it though!

      • 5 stars
        Thank you for your response!
        I noticed it start after the sour cream and eggs ‍♀️
        Maybe the sour cream was too cold.
        I’ll definitely be making them again as this was the favourite recipe out of 3!!
        My family loved them and they’re really picky

        Thanks so much xx

        • No problem, Amy. It’s actually normal for the batter to look like that after adding the sour cream and eggs! Once you add the flour and milk at the end, it all comes together into a nice smooth batter. I’m glad it worked out with your method though!

  10. I was looking at both your perfect vanilla cupcakes and perfect vanilla cake recipes and was wondering why the different ratios of ingredients? Does it change the structure to be better for cupcakes or cake? Do they end up tasting different?

    • Hi Diana. It’s kindof a long story haha! They’re so similar that you truly can’t taste or see a difference. Initially, they were exactly the same recipe with the vanilla cake recipe making enough for two 8 inch pans. Then upon request I tweaked the vanilla cake recipe to fit three 6-inch pans instead of 2 8-inch pans. That’s why the two recipes are just ever so slightly different. Hope that makes sense!

    • Hi Jessica! I’ve never tried it before but I hear that almond milk works well as a dairy-free whole milk substitute. I’d say give it a shot!

  11. Rhianna

    To make Coconut Cupcakes can I use this recipe and swap the milk for Coconut Milk and just add desiccated or shredded coconut?

      • Rhianna

        I just did this. Amazing!! I did forget to get coconut milk and I got to that point in the recipe and had to run to the shops haha. Sooo fluffy. Half the recipe made 16 cupcakes for me.

        • Yay!! I’m so happy the cupcake version of the coconut cake recipe was a hit!! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  12. Hi! Is it possible to make these using a mini muffin pan? Would I just decrease the bake time? I thought I’d make 12 full size cupcakes and then use the rest of the batter for a more bite size version.

    I made your 6 inch 3 layer vanilla cake for my moms birthday in May and it was the best cake we’ve ever had. Can’t wait to make these!

    • I’m so happy you love this recipe, Jasmin! You can definitely make this recipe in a mini muffin pan. Keep the oven temp the same and bake for 10-12 minutes.

  13. Hi! Is it possible to cut the recipe in half to make 12 cupcakes? I’m not sure how to cut 3 eggs in half though.

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