Simple yet flavorful, these moist vanilla cupcakes are an absolute delight! These light as air cupcakes are topped with a sweet vanilla buttercream frosting, that is not only easy to make but also easy to enjoy. Perfect for birthdays and other celebrations, you will never need another vanilla cupcake recipe again!

A vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and sprinkles in the middle another to the right and one in the back left.

Cupcakes experienced a serious boon in popularity about 10 years ago and boutique cupcake shops started popping up in every neighborhood. Forget about traditional cupcake flavors; things like red velvet, mocha, salted caramel and peanut butter were all the rage. And as good as those cupcakes are (seriously, I love them ALL), is there anything more iconic or nostalgic that a simple vanilla or chocolate cupcake?

My husband will always choose a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting, so I’ve long been tweaking recipes and this recipe is the best yet!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • Buttery and Moist – These cupcakes will totally melt in your mouth, and are exceptionally fluffy.
  • No Oil – A lot of cupcake recipes use oil instead of butter to keep them moist, but for a vanilla cupcake, I much prefer the pronounced butter flavor, which shines through wonderfully.
  • Quick! – These come together in absolutely no time at all, which makes them a quick and easy weeknight or weekend project.

Key Ingredients

Ingredients for vanilla cupcakes on a counter labeled with purple labels.
  • Cake flour: Gives structure to the cupcake while keeping them light and airy.
  • Sugar: Sweetens the batter.
  • Baking powder, baking soda, salt: Helps the cupcakes rise to light and fluffy heights.
  • Butter: Adds moisture and air to the cupcake batter.
  • Vanilla extract: Flavor, flavor, flavor!
  • Whole milk: Gives moisture to the batter while also softening the cake.
  • Sour cream: Activates the baking soda and baking powder while also giving moisture to the cake.
  • Egg + egg white: Binds the batter together.

Step-by-Step Directions

Making these moist vanilla cupcakes comes down to 4 simple steps:

  1. Make the cupcake batter.
  2. Bake vanilla cupcakes.
  3. Make the frosting.
  4. Decorate your cupcakes.

Step #1: Make the Cupcake Batter

  • Prepare for baking: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a standard muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
  • Sift dry ingredients: Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • Whisk wet ingredients together: In a medium bowl whisk together sour cream, egg, egg white, and ¼ cup of the milk. Set aside.
  • Mix dry ingredients: Beat the dry ingredients on low speed for about 15 seconds to combine.
  • Cream in the butter: Add the butter, vanilla, and remaining ¼ cup of milk. Mix on medium speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • Add remaining wet ingredients: With the mixer on medium speed, add the wet ingredients in 3 additions, beating for 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional 15 seconds. It’s okay if there are some lumps, do not overmix!
Three side by side images of bowls with vanilla cupcake batter being made.

Step #2: Bake Cupcakes

  • Scoop into pan: Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.
  • Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Mini Cupcake Directions

  • Make the batter according to the directions listed in Step #1.
  • Line a mini muffin pan with mini cupcake liners.
  • Fill the cups 2/3 full and bake for 9-14 minutes. 
  • Keep an eye on them and check their done-ness at about 9 minutes. 

Frosting Options

I’ve included my very favorite basic vanilla buttercream recipe, which is silky smooth, not too sugary, and pairs beautifully with any cake.

However, if you’re looking for something other than a vanilla frosting to top your cupcakes, here are a few delicious alternatives to try:

A white speckled plate with a vanilla cupcake in the center and other vanilla cupcakes on the counter in the back.

Decorating the Cupcakes

There are many different ways you can decorate your moist vanilla cupcakes, here are three of my favorite ways to top these fluffy cucpakes.

  • Swirl Top: Using a star tip such as the Ateco #828 pipe in a circle starting from the center of the cupcake around to fully frost the base of the cupcake. Then pipe a second layer moving slightly inward followed by a third layer until you finish with a final loop at the top.
  • Buttercream rose: Using a closed star tip (Wilton 2D), start in the center and lift the piping tip up as you pipe from the center in concentric circles to get to the edge of the cupcake.
  • Round dome: Using a plain round pastry tip (Ateco #808) start in the center of the cupcake. Squeeze the pipe a little above the center and allow the frosting to spread outward. Once it’s reached the edges of the cupcake release the pressure and lift up. For an added touch of fun, you can dip the dome in sprinkles or even coat with chocolate ganache!

Storage and Freezing Instructions

  • Cupcake Storing: Keep your frosted vanilla cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.
  • Frosting storage: You can store the frosting in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.
  • Freezing: Wrap unfrosted cupcakes in plastic wrap and keep in a freezer-safe ziplock bag for up to 3 months. Leave wrapped to thaw on the counter. Allow to come to room temperature before unwrapping and frosting.
Moist vanilla cupcakes on a counter with a cupcake on a cake stand in the back.

Cupcake FAQs

Why Are My Vanilla Cupcakes Dense, Crumbly, and Taste Like Cornbread?

One of the biggest complaints about homemade vanilla cupcakes is that they often turn out dense or (horror of horrors) taste like cornbread! So what gives? Why does this happen? How can you prevent it?

  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. This is essential – be sure that the butter is FULLY softened and that the sour cream and eggs are also at room temperature. If the ingredients are not all at the same temperature, they will not incorporate properly or thoroughly, which can cause a dense cupcake.
  • Do not overmix the batter. This goes for most baked goods! Overmixing can cause too much gluten to be developed, which can also cause dense cupcakes.
  • Resist the urge to check on the cupcakes. Opening the oven before the baking time is complete might result in the cupcakes sinking due to a rush in cold air. You also could end up deflating the cupcakes by closing the oven door too hard. Wait until at least 15 minutes before looking in the oven.

How to make more moist cupcakes?

The key to a moist cupcake comes down to a few important steps.

  • Never over-bake the cupcakes.
  • Store in an airtight container so they maintain their moisture.
  • Frost the entire top of the cupcake to trap in the moisture. 
A white speckled plate with a vanilla cupcake with the wrapper down and a bite taken out of it in the middle and vanilla cupcakes in the back.

More Cupcakes Recipes for You to Try Next:

Light and fluffy vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream are a classic dessert combination that is beyond easy to make at home. These moist cupcakes make the perfect treat for birthdays, anniversaries, or just because celebrations! 

If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

A square image of a vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting with another in the back left and one to the right.

Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe

Moist vanilla cupcakes with a creamy, vanilla buttercream frosting are a classic combination that are also easy to make from scratch!
4.54 (26 ratings)

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes

  • cups (168 g) cake flour
  • ¾ cup (149 g) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon (0.25 teaspoon) salt
  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
  • teaspoons (1.5 teaspoons) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk, room temperature and divided
  • 3 tablespoons (43 g) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 egg white, room temperature

For the Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • cups (300 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Make the Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.
  • Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together ¼ cup of the milk, the sour cream, the egg, and the egg white; set aside.
  • Beat the dry ingredients on low speed for 15 seconds to combine.
  • Add the butter, vanilla, and remaining ¼ cup of the milk. Mix on medium speed until the dry ingredients are moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  • With the mixer on medium speed, add the wet ingredients in 3 additions, beating for 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for an additional 15 seconds. It’s okay if there are some lumps, do not overmix!
  • Divide the batter evenly between muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan, then turn out to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Make the Vanilla Frosting: Using the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
  • Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. Frost cupcakes as desired. The cupcakes can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Notes

  • Equipment: Standard 12-cup muffin pan
  • Mini Cupcakes: To make mini cupcakes, follow the directions above and divide the batter evenly into the wells of a 24-cup mini muffin pan. Bake for 9 to 14 minutes.
  • Doubling the Recipe: To make 24 cupcakes, use ⅓ cup sour cream, 3 whole eggs, and double the remaining ingredients.
  • 9×13-inch Cake: Double the recipe per directions above and bake for 28 to 35 minutes.
  • 9-inch Layer Cake: Double the recipe per directions above, divide the batter between two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans, bake for 18 to 22 minutes.
  • Cupcake Storing: Keep your frosted vanilla cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
  • Frosting storage: You can store the frosting in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.
  • Freezing: Wrap unfrosted cupcakes in plastic wrap and keep in a freezer-safe ziplock bag for up to 3 months. Leave wrapped to thaw on the counter. Allow to come to room temperature before unwrapping and frosting.
  • Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Nutritional values are based on one cupcake
Calories: 429kcal, Carbohydrates: 50g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 25g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 77mg, Sodium: 92mg, Potassium: 69mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 38g, Vitamin A: 764IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 34mg, Iron: 1mg

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

Photography by Dee Frances.