Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Why have I not posted my full batch vanilla cupcakes up until now? To be honest, because vanilla is boring and I didn’t think the internet needed another vanilla cupcake recipe lol. 

However, I know that some of you love my mini cupcakes and my small-batch cupcakes and those recipes were actually just adapted from this one full batch, normal size cupcake recipe. 

This is actually the original recipe I created for my cookbook, Frosted. I spent weeks on this and baked over 20 batches of vanilla cupcakes until I got it just right. Make sure to read all my expert tips on getting these perfect. 

Why I love these vanilla cupcakes

  • They’re fairly simple to make, not complicated but they do require accuracy. 
  • These vanilla cupcakes are super light, fluffy, moist and tender…all of the above.  
  • They don’t brown along the edges which makes them pretty for decorating. 
  • They’re perfectly puffed, not too domed and not flimsy and flat. 

I use these cupcakes as a base for SO MANY of my recipes. Some of my favorites are vanilla latte cupcakes, cinnamon cupcakes, birthday cake cupcakes, strawberries and cream cupcakes, nutella cupcakes and so many more.

Ingredients for vanilla cupcakes

  • Butter: I prefer salted butter here but you can also use unsalted butter. Make sure it’s softened to room temperature so it creams well with the dry ingredients. 
  • Flour: I use all purpose flour in most of my recipes BUT you cannot beat the texture of cake flour in cupcakes so I highly recommend King Arthur’s Cake Flour. It is far superior to some alternatives in the grocery stores.
    • I have used the “homemade cake flour” trick by replacing 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour with cornstarch. The cupcakes will work if you make them this way but they won’t be quite as soft and tender. 
    • I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured. 
  • Baking Powder: to leaven the cupcakes. 
  • Sugar: I used granulated sugar and I don’t recommend cutting any out.  
  • Oil: I always use a combination of butter and oil in my cakes because I like the texture from both. I recommend a neutral oil like vegetable oil, canola oil or sunflower oil here. 
  • Eggs: In the original recipe, I used two large egg whites to keep these cupcakes as pale as possible. I wanted that for aesthetic purposes because I wanted white cupcakes to decorate.
    • However, for this recipe I went with one large egg to eliminate the waste of yolks. The color is still pretty pale but slightly more yellow. Both options work well. 
  • Sour Cream: I’ve used greek yogurt and sour cream in this recipe and they both work well. You can also use plain yogurt. However, if you sub the sour cream for extra milk, the cupcakes might shrivel up a little when cooling. 
  • Milk: I use whole milk or two percent but any milk will work here, even dairy free. 
  • Vanilla: vanilla is a subtle flavor so when I’m making something plain vanilla, I like to really pack a punch but by using at least two forms for a stronger vanilla flavor. My favorite is combining pure vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste.
    • You can also mix artificial vanilla extract with vanilla bean paste or with actual vanilla beans or vanilla bean powder. 
    • If you only have vanilla extract, you can absolutely still make these with just that.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until they’re evenly distributed.

Step 2: Add the room temperature butter and the oil and use an electric mixer to beat them at medium, until they’re crumbly like a streusel. 

Step 3: Add the egg and sour cream and mix just until it’s well combined and the batter looks like paste.

Step 4: Turn the mixer to low speed while streaming in the milk .

Step 5: Scrape the edge of the bowl and give it a good mix. Fill the cupcake liners about ⅔-¾ full. I recommend weighing them so each cupcake has 50-55 grams of batter.  

Step 6: Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the tallest part of the cupcake, in the center, springs back when you press on it. If you’re hesitant, give it another minute or so.

Step 7: Let the cupcakes rest for 10 minutes in the pan, then remove them from the pan. 

Why do I use the reverse creaming method?

The reverse creaming method is where you combine all the dry ingredients including the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, etc. with the butter and oil first. In this step the butter and oil are coating the flour particles. When the flour is coated with fat before any liquid is introduced, it inhibits the development of gluten, making the cupcakes extra tender (over developing the gluten is what can make cakes tough). 

This also provides a ‘tight’ crumb which means you should have large air pockets in the crumb of the cake. The lack of the large air pockets helps the cupcakes rise more evenly so that they’re not lopsided and don’t deflate when you remove them from the oven. 

Expert tips on getting perfect vanilla cupcakes

  • Don’t swap ingredients unless I mentioned them in the ingredient section above.
  • Don’t reduce the sugar. I know a lot of people do that for some recipes but not this one.
  • Weigh your ingredients with a digital scale 
  • Weigh the batter for each cupcake with a digital scale. I just place the cupcake pan on the scale with the liners and measure out 50-55 grams for each cupcake. You will have enough batter for about half a cupcake leftover. DO NOT BE TEMPTED to distribute that among the cupcakes, they will sink if they’re overfilled. 
  • Use a light colored stainless steel muffin tin. 

The best vanilla frosting for vanilla cupcakes

This is pretty much a personal preference. In my funfetti cupcakes, I used two egg whites instead of one large egg so I opted for French buttercream since I already had the egg yolks.

If I had leftover egg white lying around or if I wanted a white buttercream that was stable and easy to color and decorate with, I would use Swiss meringue buttercream.

Here I used a combination of French buttercream and Italian buttercream. I call it the ‘whole egg buttercream’ because it uses whole eggs instead of egg whites or egg yolks. It’s my new favorite buttercream because it’s almost as rich as french buttercream but it’s not quite as soft so it’s easier to pipe with like Italian or Swiss meringue buttercream. It does have a slightly more yellow hue though. 

The recipe is in the recipe card but you can also read more about it in my Frosted 2.0 downloadable guide (download below). It’s a continuation to my cookbook, Frosted.

If you’re looking for something sweeter and more traditional, you can also use American Buttercream or cream cheese frosting (you can skip the brown butter).

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use all-purpose flour?

I have used the “homemade cake flour” trick by replacing 1 tablespoon of all-purpose flour with cornstarch. The cupcakes will work if you make them this way but they won’t be quite as soft and tender. 
I HIGHLY recommend using a digital scale, as flour is so often over measured. 

Can I make this ahead of time?

This cake holds on to moisture really well so you can make it 1-2 days in advance before serving. 

What if I only have one pan?

If you only have one muffin pan, the batter for the 13th cupcake can just wait on the counter until the first 12 are done baking. 

How do I know when it’s done baking?

Just like all the rest of my cakes, test if it’s done baking by pressing gently on the tallest part of the cake. The cake will spring back if it’s done baking. If it stays indented, give it a few minutes in the oven, before testing again. 

Can I use this as a vanilla cake recipe?

I have not tested this cupcake recipe as a cake recipe because I don’t find the need to. This recipe was made to slightly dome and my vanilla cake recipe was made to bake more flat. I also have a white cake recipe that’s more similar in flavor and texture to this one.

What do my cupcakes shrivel after baking?

The only time my cupcakes shrivel after baking is if the tins are overfilled. This recipe is simple to make but kind of particular with that part so I recommend weighing each cupcake to be 50-55 grams of batter.
If you’re already doing that and it’s still shriveling, it is possible that it’s not baking evenly so I recommend getting an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is at the right temperature.

How to store these vanilla cupcakes

I usually just cover them with a cake dome or place them in an airtight container and store them at room temperature for 2-3 days. You can store them in the refrigerator for an additional 2-3 days but if it’s any longer, I recommend freezing them.

To freeze the cupcakes, place them in an airtight container and then place the container in a freezer bag, squeezing out all the excess air. Bring them back to room temperature by thawing at room temperature for a few hours before serving. 

Thanks so much for reading today’s post, if you have any questions just comment down below. Make sure to leave it in the comment section because I can’t answer in the rating section.

If you make these vanilla cupcakes, I’d love it if you left a star rating for me. If it’s less than five stars, please leave a comment with the rating so I know why! 🙂

As always, have a blessed day and happy baking!

Love, B

vanilla cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Recipe

Bernice Baran
Super moist and tender vanilla cupcakes that I use as a base for all my cupcake recipes. Frosted with my favorite vanilla buttercream (not too sweet and no egg yolks or egg whites wasted)!
4.82 from 70 votes
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 33 minutes
Course Cupcakes
Cuisine American
Servings 13 cupcakes
Calories 433 kcal

Ingredients
  

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cup (172g) cake flour spooned and leveled
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) canola oil
  • 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 large egg 60g, room temperature (or 2 large egg whites if you want whiter cupcakes)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 cup (113g) sour cream
  • 1/3 cup (80mL) whole milk room temperature

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60mL) water
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 cup (227g) unsalted butter room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt

Instructions
 

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350F/177C convection (325F/163C conventional) and line 13 muffin tins with cupcake liners (preferably a light colored pan).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, salt and sugar until they're evenly distributed (whisk well).
    1 1/2 cup (172g) cake flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • Add the oil and butter to the dry ingredients and beat together until they're combined.
    1/4 cup (60mL) canola oil, 1/4 cup (56g) unsalted butter
  • Add the egg and vanilla extract and paste and mix until they're fully combined.
    1 large egg, 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • Add the sour cream and turn the mixer to low speed, while streaming the milk in. Scrape the edge of the bowl and mix just until the cupcake batter is smooth.
    1/2 cup (113g) sour cream, 1/3 cup (80mL) whole milk
  • Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3-3/4 full, about 50-55 grams of batter per cupcake.* You will have enough batter for about half a cupcake leftover. DO NOT BE TEMPTED to distribute that among the cupcakes, they will sink if they’re overfilled.
  • Bake for 16-18 minutes. They are done when you press on the center of the cupcake and it springs back or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove them from the oven and let them cool in the cupcake pan for 10 minutes, then move them to a cooling rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream

  • Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and swirl the pan until the sugar is fully immersed in water.
    1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, 1/4 cup (60mL) water
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and comes to a gentle simmer.
  • Reduce the heat to low and place the lid on the pan and allow the mixture to simmer for a couple minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and turn the mixer up to high speed. Let it whip while the sugar is cooking.
    2 large eggs
  • Use a candy thermometer to see when the sugar reaches 240F (116C), then lower the mixer to medium speed and slowly drizzle the hot sugar syrup into the thick and foamy eggs, while they are whipping.
  • Turn the mixer back up to high speed and let it whip for 5-10 minutes, until the mixture is very pale and fluffy and is cool to the touch or no longer warm.
  • Turn the mixer back down to medium speed and add in the butter, 2 Tbsp of butter at a time, mixing until each chunk is fully combined and the buttercream looks smooth and creamy.
    1 cup (227g) unsalted butter
  • Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, add in the vanilla and salt and turn the mixer up to high speed for 1-2 minutes.
    2 tsp vanilla bean paste, 2 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • To get rid of the excess air bubbles (for smoother piping), switch to a paddle attachment and turn the mixer to low speed for 5-10 minutes.
  • Once the cupcakes have cooled, use a piping bag to frost the cupcakes. Top with sprinkles, gold luster dust, and/or edible gold foil.

Notes

  • *I weigh 55g of batter for each cupcake. If it's less, they'll be short and if it's too much, they may sink.
  • The vanilla cupcake recipe was designed to stay pale so don't look for a golden brown color when it's finished baking. Just gently press on the cake and it should spring back.
  • I recommend a light colored metal cupcake pan if you want them more uniform in color.
  • Store in an airtight container, at room temperature for 2-3 days or refrigerated for 7-10 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 433kcalCarbohydrates: 45gProtein: 5gFat: 26gSaturated Fat: 13gPolyunsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 125mgSodium: 136mgSugar: 32g
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Recipe Rating




  1. I think this is perfect! I have to admit I am VERY impressed when the icing recipe actually makes enough to generously cover ALL the cupcakes! Thank you! They are delicious.

  2. I don’t know why these aren’t turning out right for me. Followed the recipe as written and baking them at 350F. They’re undercooked at 18 minutes so I bake it for another 5 minutes. It ends up expanding up more and then collapsing. Tried it 3 times.

  3. 5 stars
    I was looking for a good vanilla bean cupcake recipe and I found it! This recipe is the perfect amount of vanilla. So fluffy and moist, unlike some recipes that the cupcakes comes out dry. It’s easy to make, the instructions are easy to follow. I highly recommend!!!

  4. 5 stars
    These are so delicious! Rich vanilla flavor. Tender and moist. Everything that a vanilla cupcake should be! I followed the recipe exactly except I used whole milk Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Cupcake-licious perfection!

  5. 5 stars
    These are delicious!!!!!! I did not have the vanilla bean paste so usI just used the pure vanilla and did the amount for all and wow!!!! This is a keeper..thank you so much for sharing your recipe…I will be making these again!!!!!

    • Hi Fatima, the only time my cupcakes shrivel after baking is if I overfilled the cupcake tins. I recommend weighing 50-55 grams of batter for each cupcake if you’re having issues with that 🙂

  6. Hello Bernice,
    I just wanted to leave a note to say just how phenomenal these cupcakes are. I am have tried many different base cake recipes and none come close to this one – it is perfectly light and fluffy and flavourful. My parents (my #1 tasters) keep comparing every new cupcake recipe I make to these ones. Thank you for your efforts in experimenting to find this yummy combo. You have generated many lip-licking smiles this side of the world (South Africa), including 20+ nurses for International Nurses Day :-). Happy baking! Best, Simone

  7. Hi 😀 I just love this recipe, use it all the time 🙏 I have to make 60 Cupcakes, and was wondering if I could double the recipe successfully?

    • Hi Jules, I can’t remember if I’ve ever doubled it but I don’t see why I wouldn’t work. I would make sure to use a scale to be as accurate as possible just in case though! So glad you like these cupcakes 🥰

    • Wow 👏🏽 👏🏽 thank you for this easy to follow recipes. I tried it and I came up with 14 cupcakes 🧁. They were so soft and yummy. I was wondering how it worked out for Jules with 60 cupcakes.