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Forget the box mix! This easy Vanilla Cupcake recipe really is the best ever. They turn out amazing every time, and the sweet, moist white cupcakes are perfect for everything from birthdays to baby showers, and weekends to weddings!
Easy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
For years my Best Ever Moist Chocolate Cupcakes have been one of the most popular recipes on this site. They have dozens of rave reviews and I often get requests for a vanilla cupcake recipe that can match it in terms of making easy, moist cupcakes that have amazing vanilla flavor all their own.
But it takes me a while to work through cake and cupcake recipes because I only want to share tried-and-true ones that I really consider the best of the best, like my Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting or my Best Red Velvet Cake. I know us food bloggers tend to play fast and loose with terms like “best”, but when it comes to these cake and cupcake recipes, I really mean it.
I’ve tinkered with a bunch of different approaches while coming up with these classic white cupcakes. But I can confidently say that these are the best vanilla cupcakes of my life and I’ve made them multiple times now with the same great results every time.
I have used both cake flour and a hack for making cake flour at home using all-purpose flour and cornstarch and you can’t tell a difference. I also tried a version with oil instead of butter, since I will often use half of each to get truly moist cupcakes. But when the dominant flavor is vanilla, I felt like going the all-butter approach won out because of its supporting buttery flavor.
The batter is thicker than my chocolate cupcake batter, which is normal for a vanilla cupcake, but the top will still be slightly domed instead of flat, provided you use room temperature ingredients and have fresh baking powder to use in the recipe. Those two issues are the usual culprits in flat-topped cupcakes in my experience.
What kind of frosting is best with vanilla cupcakes?
Honestly, these cupcakes are so good you don’t even need frosting. Does anybody else love plain cupcakes like I do or am I a monster?
We also have lots of other fun frosting recipes for you to pick and choose from! I personally love these cupcakes with this amazing guava frosting. Or throw some crushed Oreos in the batter and pair them with my light & fluffy Oreo frosting for a cookies & cream cupcake!
How full should I fill each cupcake liner?
A funny thing about cupcake recipes is that you shouldn’t always just assume that you fill the cupcake liner with the same amount.
For my chocolate cupcakes, I only fill them halfway and the thin batter rises to the top perfectly.
For these easy vanilla cupcakes, you fill each cupcake liner just about 2/3 full for the best results. I like to use a medium cookie scoop to do this because it keeps things consistent and tidier.
If you fill the liners more, there is a good chance the batter will go over the edges of the cupcake liners, giving you a little lip around the edges. You will get 14 perfect little cupcakes every time if you are filling them 2/3 full.
It may be tempting to try to just do 12 cupcakes, but trust me, do the two extra. There is room in most ovens for two muffin tins to fit side by side so you can bake them both at the same time anyway.
How to make vanilla cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin tins with 14 cupcake liners and set aside.
2. Start by creaming room temperature butter and the granulated sugar in a large bowl using an electric or stand mixer. Let it mix for a minute or two until nice and creamy, then scrape down the bottom and side of the bowl.
3. Add the egg whites and beat again, mixing well and scraping the bottom and side of the bowl again to combine.
4. Add the sour cream and vanilla to the mixer and beat until combined.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter in the large bowl, mixing just until combined.
6. Add half of the milk and mix again. Then scrape down the bottom and side of the bowl again, and repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk, mixing just until everything is incorporated but being careful not to overmix.
7. Use a medium scoop to divide the batter between 14 cupcake liners, filling them each about 2/3 full. Bake for 19-22 minutes until done, being careful not to overbake.
How to tell if cupcakes are done
You can tell if the cupcakes are done by tapping the top of them lightly. If they are done it will bounce right back, but you might get a little dent or impression that doesn’t bounce back if the cupcakes need to bake for a minute or two longer.
You can also always use the toothpick approach, although for cupcakes I feel like the tapping method is easier and more reliable.
Tips for making delicious cupcakes
- Don’t pack the flour. Most bakers swear by the “scoop and sweep” approach where you scoop the flour into a measuring cup, then sweep a knife over the top to level it off. If you pack and press the flour into your measuring cup, you will actually end up with denser, drier cupcakes.
- Room temperature ingredients matter! It really does make a difference to let your butter, eggs, milk, and sour cream come up to temperature when making cake from scratch. You can always cheat this a bit by placing your eggs in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes while you gather the other ingredients and microwaving the butter for 5-10 seconds on one side, then flipping and heating it for 5 seconds on the other side just to soften it.
- Funfetti Cupcake Variation: You can add 1/3 cup sprinkles to this vanilla cupcake recipe for funfetti cupcakes.
- Filled Cupcakes: Fill the middle with pastry cream, caramel or dulce de leche, fruit curd, nutella, jam, or other ingredients to make wonderful flavor variations. You can either cut out a plug from the top of each cupcake, then fill and stick the plug back on top before piping frosting over it, or squirt the filling into the center of the cupcake using a piping bag and tip. Just be careful not to overfill and split your cupcakes if using the second approach.
Freezing and storing instructions:
- Frosted cupcakes are best eaten within 3 days. You can store them at room temperature or in the fridge as long as they are in an airtight container.
- Unfrosted cupcakes freeze really well. Just place them in an airtight container and freeze for up to 2 months, then thaw at room temperature and frosting.
- If you want to make this vanilla cupcake recipe for a crowd, you can easily double or triple the recipe (and so on). But I recommend waiting to frost the cupcakes, whether they are fresh or frozen, until just before the event where you plan to serve them.
More cake & cupcake recipes that are tried & true!
- S’mores Cupcakes
- Key Lime Cupcakes
- Gingerbread Cupcakes
- Cranberry Coconut Cake
- German Chocolate Cake
- Homemade Funfetti Cake
- Cherry Chip Cake
- Black Forest Cake
- Blackberry Cupcakes
- Salted Caramel Cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract (or vanilla bean paste)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.
- Beat the butter on high speed in a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer for 1 minute until creamy and light. Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add eggs and vanilla, beating on medium-high speed until combined. Beat in sour cream.
- Add the dry ingredients, mixing on low speed just until combined, then scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- With the mixer running on low speed, add the milk, stirring just until combined. Do not overmix.
- Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with batter, then bake for 19-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
- Cool completely before frosting.
- Vanilla bean paste is wonderful in these cupcakes because it adds little brown flecks of vanilla throughout the cupcakes. But it tastes the same in my opinion and most bakers won't have it in their cupboards so I typically just use real vanilla extract instead. Use an equal amount of vanilla bean paste as you would vanilla extract if you choose to use it.
Recipe lightly adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction.