Here you’ll learn how to make the most perfect vanilla cupcakes! These simple to make cupcakes are soft, moist and absolutely delicious. The recipe couldn’t be easier, and the cupcakes are a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!
The only vanilla cupcake recipe you will need for perfect, soft and moist cupcakes!
Why you should make these cupcakes
- So easy!
- This is a foolproof recipe. I’ve tested this many times and they come out perfect, every single time.
- Step by step recipe. I’ve shared step by step pictures, plus tips on how to make sure these cupcakes are perfect every time.
- Soft and delicious. These cupcakes have an incredibly soft, moist texture.
- You can easily upgrade these cupcakes to triple vanilla cupcakes!
- Versatile recipe. These cupcakes can be modified to make different variations.
I have shared a vanilla cake recipe here on the blog before, and you can make cupcakes with that recipe too. However, I prefer these classic, soft vanilla cupcakes better. They have the perfect crumb for a cupcake, and they are lighter in color too. These cupcakes are, hands down, my absolute favorite vanilla cupcakes! 🙂
Ingredients needed for this recipe
Butter – I use unsalted butter for this recipe. If you’re using salted butter, then don’t add the salt that is stated in the recipe. Make sure the butter is at room temperature and is softened.
Sugar – I used granulated white sugar. Sugar is considered a wet ingredient because it’s mixed in with all the wet ingredients.
Eggs – I used large eggs. Make sure the eggs are at room temperature too.
Sour cream – Ideally, the sour cream should be at room temperature too. I like to microwave the sour cream for a few seconds until it’s not cold anymore, but also NOT hot! The reason why I really like sour cream in this recipe is because it helps keep the cake deliciously soft and moist. You can also use Greek yogurt (preferably full fat yogurt, and don’t use 0% fat yogurt), or even pouring cream (18% fat) or half and half.
Vanilla extract – This is what gives these cupcakes the classic vanilla flavor! Make sure to use good quality vanilla extract. PLEASE avoid using imitation vanilla. You can use extract or bean paste, but I prefer extract for the cake base, and vanilla bean paste for the frosting (for the lovely black specks).
Flour – You can use AP flour for this recipe. For an even lighter texture, you can use cake flour which has a lower content of gluten.
Baking powder – Make sure the baking powder is still fresh! To check this, pour about 1/2 cup of boiling or very hot water into a bowl, with 1/2 tsp baking powder. If it actively bubbles up, then the baking powder is fresh.
Salt – You may think it’s not important, but just a touch of salt brings out the sweetness and balances the flavor. If you’re using salted butter, you can leave out the salt, but for unsalted butter, do NOT forget the salt.
How to make these vanilla cupcakes
You can make these cupcakes in your stand mixer or even with a hand mixer. If you’re doubling or tripling the recipe, then I would recommend using a stand mixer.
Measure out all the ingredients you need for these vanilla cupcakes and make sure they are all at room temperature. This makes sure that all the ingredients will mix together smoothly and will be emulsified well.
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C, and prep your muffin tin / cupcake pan. I like to place cupcake liners in the cupcake pan wells. If you don’t have them, you can butter and flour the wells too – but I hate the clean up. Plus, the liners make the cupcakes prettier too.
Make the batter for the vanilla cupcakes
Place the softened butter and salt in the mixer bowl. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until creamy and smooth. Add the sugar and mix further until creamy, light and fluffy.
When the butter and sugar have been creamed together, the eggs are added next. On medium speed, add the eggs and mix them in until just mixed through, but no more. You don’t want to over-beat and add more air to the mix after adding the eggs. The air in the eggs can deflate once the cupcakes are baked, resulting in sunken cupcakes.
Add the sour cream + vanilla extract next and stir them in. You can either do this on low speed with your mixer, or just use a spatula and stir it in by hand.
Your flour and baking powder for the vanilla cupcake batter should be sifted and be set aside by now. You can add and mix the flour using two methods – manually or with the mixer. I prefer to do this manually (even for a double batch). The reason why I prefer to manually fold in the flour is to avoid over-mixing it. Over-mixing can cause the cupcakes to be rubbery and hard in texture, so you need to avoid this as much as possible.
You can use your stand mixer too, just follow what I do (explained below) for best results.
How to mix flour into cupcake batter to avoid rubbery cupcakes.
Add the flour in three additions.
- The first addition will be a little over 1/3 of the flour.
- The second addition will be a little over 1/2 of what is leftover.
- And the last addition will be what’s left.
You’re basically reducing the amount of flour you’re adding with each addition.
If you’re mixing by hand, use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour. Don’t forget to cut through the middle and scrape the bottom of the bowl, to make sure there are no dry spots.
If you’re going to use a stand mixer, then set the speed to the lowest speed. Preferably the stir speed.
Add the first addition, and fold / mix it into the batter. When most of the flour is mixed through (with some flour visible in the batter) add the second addition and fold that in. Add the final addition while there is still some dry flour left from the second addition.
If you wait for each addition to be folded through the batter, before adding the next, you risk the flour being over-worked. But with this method, you can avoid hard, rubbery cupcakes (and cakes).
Dividing the cupcakes & baking
When your cupcake batter is ready, it’s time to fill your cupcake liners.
You can fill the cupcakes about 1/2 – 2/3 of the way up for each of your liners. But I prefer using a cookie scoop to get perfect cupcakes. I use my 3 tbsp cookie scoop, and put a generous scoop (about 3 1/2 tbsp) of batter into each cupcake liner.
This will result in perfect vanilla cupcakes with the perfect dome. No overflow, no muffin top, just perfectly domed cupcakes. You should end up with enough batter to make 14 – 15 cupcakes with this recipe.
When the cupcake liners are filled, firmly knock the cupcake pan on your counter twice to knock out any excess air. Transfer the pan into your oven and bake until the cupcakes are cooked through, slightly springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. This can take about 20 – 25 minutes in a conventional oven.
Once baked, the cupcake pan can be removed from the oven. But they will continue to cook in the residual heat. So remove the cupcakes after about 5 – 10 minutes and allow them to cool down completely on a wire rack.
EXTRA STEP – If you want your cupcakes to be EXTRA moist, with more vanilla flavor, drizzle a little vanilla simple syrup over the cakes while they are still warm. This optional step will give you TRIPLE VANILLA CUPCAKES (vanilla cupcake + vanilla syrup + vanilla frosting!).
Buttercream frostings for the cupcakes
Honestly, all you need is a good vanilla buttercream on these cupcakes. You can use a classic American buttercream (which you can whip up while the cupcakes are cooling).
OR for a fancier, smoother frosting, you can make some Swiss meringue buttercream, made with cooked egg whites instead (recipe coming soon!).
You can even color your buttercream and cupcakes to make multicolored cupcakes!
You can even go for a chocolate buttercream, or a cream cheese frosting or any flavor you like!
Just make sure to ONLY frost the cupcakes once they are completely cooled down. Otherwise you will end up with melted frosting on top of your cupcakes. Use a piping bag with a piping tip, or use a spatula. There’s really no wrong way to frost a cupcake. 🙂
Top with your favorite sprinkles and watch these cupcakes disappear before eyes (into your belly).
How to dress up your cupcakes
Triple vanilla cupcakes – To make these into SUPER VANILLA CUPCAKES, make a vanilla simple syrup (with 1 cup water + 1 cup sugar + 3 tsp vanilla), and drizzle a little of the vanilla syrup over the cupcakes. Hollow out the center, and fill it with some vanilla pastry cream. Top it with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce (optional).
Lemon meringue cupcakes – Add lemon zest and lemon extract to the cake batter to make a lemon cupcake. Once baked, hollow out the center a little, and fill it with some lemon curd! Top the cupcakes with some Swiss meringue (not buttercream), and caramelize the meringue with a torch. For some extra ooomph, top the cupcake with a piece of pie crust!
Tiramisu cupcakes – Make the regular cupcakes and drizzle the cupcake with some coffee syrup (or kahlua). Hollow out the center and fill it with a slightly sweetened whipped mascarpone filling. Top it all with a coffee flavored buttercream and chocolate shavings.
Strawberry shortcake cupcakes – Cut up some strawberries into a small dice and let that macerate with sugar and a little lemon juice. Make the vanilla cupcakes and hollow out the center. Fill it with the macerated, cubed strawberries. Frost the cupcakes with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream or with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish with more macerated strawberries OR with fresh strawberries.
Coconut cupcakes – Substitute the sour cream with an equal amount of coconut milk from a can (not the lite coconut) + 1/2 tsp white vinegar. Add 1/4 cup of unsweetened desiccated coconut to the coconut milk and let it stand for a few minutes. Add this mixture instead of the sour cream. Top it with coconut buttercream and flaked toasted coconut on top.
Dairy free cupcakes – Substitute the butter and sour cream with dairy free versions of butter (plant-based butter) and a tofu sour cream or vegan yogurt. Frost it with your favorite dairy free buttercream (my favorite is this recipe, but I use plant-based butter and don’t add cream either).
There are so many combinations and fun ideas that you can do with a great cupcake recipe like this. So go ahead and give these perfect vanilla cupcakes a try! I promise, you won’t ever need a different vanilla cupcake recipe ever again. 🙂
Tips to get the best vanilla cupcakes
Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature.
Measure the ingredients using a scale. You know I’m a big advocate of using a kitchen scale, especially for baking. It ensures perfect results, every time. HOWEVER, if you want to use cup measurements, I have provided those too. Just make sure to spoon and level the dry ingredients into your measuring cup.
The butter needs to be soft enough so that you can press and leave a smooth indentation in the butter with your finger, with just the tiniest bit of resistance.
Do not over-mix the batter once you’ve added the eggs or when you’re adding the flour.
Fold in the flour gently (preferably using the method I explained above), to avoid rubbery cupcakes.
All purpose flour is perfectly fine for this recipe, but you can use cake flour (low gluten flour) for an even lighter result.
Use full fat sour cream for the recipe, as it does give the best results. Don’t use low fat, because it’s the fat content that keeps these vanilla cupcakes soft and moist. If you don’t have sour cream, use full fat yogurt or 15 – 35% cream instead. Buttermilk is also acceptable (even though it’s lower in fat than these other choices).
Use good quality vanilla extract. This is the key flavor in this recipe, so it’s important that you use good vanilla. Avoid imitation vanilla at all costs!
Bake the cupcakes until they are just baked through. The tops of the cupcakes will be slightly springy to the touch, and they will have just the smallest amount of color. Don’t wait until the cupcakes are completely golden in color because this will result in drier cupcakes.
Let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack. Otherwise you will have water condensation inside the cupcake pan that could make your cupcakes soggy.
These will be the best vanilla cupcakes ever! You can whip them up easily and quickly. I’ve often been guilty of getting cake cravings and then making a batch of these cupcakes..
Vanilla Cupcakes (Or Triple Vanilla Cupcakes)
- 6 oz AP flour 1 ⅓ cup, spoon and level method (can use cake flour too)
- 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
- 4 oz unsalted butter softened (½ cup)
- 7 oz white sugar 1 cup
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6.3 oz sour cream ¾ cup
Vanilla simple syrup (for triple vanilla cupcakes)
- 3.5 oz white sugar ½ cup
- ½ cup water
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- 1 recipe for vanilla buttercream American buttercream
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- Note on baking cupcakes - You will get 14 - 15 cupcakes with this recipe, so you can either use two standard cupcake pans OR you can cover the extra batter while the first batch is baking, and bake the remaining 2 - 3 cupcakes separately in the same pan after removing the baked ones.
- Optional - Make the vanilla simple syrup ahead of time and let it cool down.
- Sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl and set aside.
- Place the softened butter and salt in a bowl, and cream the butter until creamy. You can use a hand mixer for this. For a larger batch, use a stand mixer.
- Add the sugar, and cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add the 2 eggs and mix them into the batter until the eggs are just mixed through. Avoid over-beating the batter with the added eggs.
- Add the vanilla extract and sour cream, and stir them in on low speed (or by hand).
- Now, add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and fold them in gently until mixed through. Please see the post for tips on how to fold in the flour while avoiding over-mixing the batter.
- When folding in the final addition of dry ingredients, make sure there are no dry spots, and scrape the bottom of the bowl as you fold to ensure all the flour is mixed through well.
- Using a 3 tbsp cookie scoop, generously scoop batter into the prepared cupcake liners (about 3 ½ tbsp each). The cupcake liners should be about half full, and you should get 14 - 15 cupcakes.
- Knock the pan firmly on a counter twice to remove excess air bubbles.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 - 25 minutes. The cupcakes should just start to color on the surface and be slightly springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted should come out clean.
- Remove the cupcake pan from the oven and let it sit for about 3 - 5 minutes to cool down slightly. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool down completely.
- FOR TRIPLE VANILLA CUPCAKES - Dizzle some of the vanilla simple syrup on the cupcakes while they are cooling down on the wire rack. Warmer cupcakes will absorb the syrup better, so make sure the cupcakes are still very warm.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled down, frost with your choice of buttercream frosting - Vanilla flavored American buttercream or vanilla swiss meringue buttercream (recipe coming soon).
- Top with sprinkles (optional) and serve.
Vanilla simple syrup for triple vanilla cupcakes (optional)
- Place the sugar, salt, water and vanilla in a saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the syrup starts to boil, you can remove it from the heat and let it cool down to room temperature. You can transfer the syrup into a plastic squeeze/squirt bottle, so that it's easier to drizzle. You can also use a spoon to carefully drizzle the syrup over the cupcakes.
- Follow the recipe for this vanilla flavored American buttercream OR Swiss meringue buttercream (recipe coming soon).
- Spread or pipe the frosting over the cupcakes when the cupcakes have cooled down.