This recipe makes the best vanilla cupcakes! They’re moist, full of vanilla flavor and topped with fluffy buttercream frosting.
This recipe was originally posted March 2017. It was last updated February 2020.
Let’s talk cupcakes. If you like to bake, knowing how to make classic vanilla cupcakes is a necessity. Today I’m sharing my best vanilla cupcake recipe with homemade buttercream frosting. So what makes these the best? Well, I’ll tell you.
The best vanilla cupcakes are moist, fluffy and filled with vanilla flavor. The moist and fluffy ratio has to be perfect so each bite melts away in your mouth. The vanilla flavor can’t be toothachingly sweet, but sweet enough to keep you coming back for more.
Choosing the right frosting is also crucial. It’s easy to have a rich frosting overwhelm any cupcake, but I find that you can never go wrong with a classic buttercream frosting. It is the perfect compliment for classic vanilla cupcakes.
Vanilla cupcake ingredients
Let’s start from the very beginning. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make vanilla cupcakes
- Cake flour – Is lighter and has less protein than all purpose flour. Thus, resulting in a lighter, fluffier cupcake.
- Baking powder and baking soda – Both aid in making cupcakes rise
- Salt – Activates baking powder and baking soda
- Unsalted butter – Adds richness in flavor to the cupcakes.
- Granulated sugar – Acts as the sweetener for the cupcakes
- Large eggs – Create structure and add stability to the batter.
- Pure vanilla extract – Make sure the vanilla extract is pure and not imitation. It makes a huge difference in flavor.
- Sour cream – Adds moisture and a little density to cupcakes.
- Vegetable oil – Also adds moisture because the fat content is higher than butter.
- Milk – Thins the batter and softens the cupcakes.
How to make vanilla cupcakes
Once you have your ingredients, you can make your cupcakes! Here are the instructions (short and sweet).
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin tin with paper cupcake liners and set aside.
- Whisk together dry ingredients. Flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
- Beat butter and sugar together. Use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat on medium-high speed until fluffy.
- Add eggs. Mix in one at a time until incorporated.
- Add vanilla, sour cream and vegetable oil. Beat just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl if necessary.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and milk. By alternating flour, milk, flour, milk, flour, the batter will mix evenly. Milk on its own will be too liquid-y to combine and adding the flour first will form to much gluten in the mixing process creating a tough cupcake.
- Spoon batter into prepared cupcake tin. Fill each cup two-thirds full. The easiest way to do this is using an ice cream scoop.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Tips for making cupcakes
- Choose high-quality ingredients. Pure vanilla extract is crucial for this recipe. Organic free-range eggs help as well because the yolk is richer.
- Bring ingredients to room temperature. Butter, milk, eggs, sour cream–anything liquid should be room temperature as it helps the ingredients mix together evenly and smoothly.
- Avoid over-mixing the batter. When a recipe says “mix just until combined.” Do just that otherwise the cupcakes will become tough. The air in the batter will not expand as easily leaving you with a dense cupcake.
What to add to cupcakes to make them moist?
Moisture in cupcakes comes from the ingredients. Sour cream adds moisture to cupcakes and makes it denser as well. Vegetable oil helps as well since the fat content is higher than butter. However, I choose to use part vegetable oil and bar butter because the butter flavor really aids in the richness of a vanilla cupcake.
How do you make cupcakes fluffy?
The number one tip for fluffy cupcakes is mixing the batter just until the ingredients are combined, particularly when you add in the flour. This helps create air bubbles in the batter that will expand during the baking process. Over mixing the batter will crush the air bubbles and create dense, tough cupcakes. This is because gluten is formed and it’s more difficult for any air bubbles to expand.
How to store cupcakes
Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Cupcakes will last up to a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze cupcakes (not frosted) for up to a month in an airtight container with parchment paper between layers. Defrosting in the refrigerator before bringing to room temperature and frosting.
How to make vanilla buttercream frosting
The buttercream frosting I used for these cupcakes is my absolute favorite. It’s not too sweet and is buttery smooth (I hate when you can taste the sugar granules in frosting). To get that consistency, I beat the room temperature butter for a while, usually using the whisk attachment for my stand mixer. After about four or five minutes, the butter turns lighter in color and fluffy. Then, all you need to do is add the sugar and vanilla (maybe some milk if you want a thinner consistency) and pipe the cupcakes!
See my buttercream frosting blog post here.
More cupcake recipes…
If you’re just here for the cake, then maybe you should stay a while and check out a few more recipes. Here are some of my favorite from my collection and other bloggers as well!
- Carrot cake cupcakes
- Red velvet cupcakes
- Strawberry cupcakes – recipe I contributed to Spoonful of Flavor blog
- Chocolate cupcakes – Cupcake Project blog
So here’s your chance to bake the best vanilla cupcakes. Master this recipe and your family and friends will consider you a pro!
Best Vanilla Cupcakes
Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients
- 1 3/4 cups (224 g) cake flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup (57 g or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1/3 cup (75 g) sour cream (or plain, low-fat yogurt)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) milk (2% or whole milk is preferred)
- 1 cup (226 g or 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups (300 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, sour cream and vegetable oil.
- Gradually add in the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk (So it goes flour, milk, flour, milk, flour). Mix until batter is uniform and smooth.
- Fill baking cups about 2/3 full and bake for 12-14 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven, transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack, and allow them to cool to room temperature before frosting.
- In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter (with a stand mixer or electric hand mixer) until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the powdered sugar until completely incorporated.
- With the mixer on medium speed, add the vanilla and salt, and beat for a minute, until fluffy. Add milk until desired consistency is reached.
- Transfer to a frosting bag with tip and frost away! See more tips for buttercream frosting here.
- Kitchen scale: Weighing your ingredients is much more accurate than measuring them with a cup. This is especially important for delicate desserts like cupcakes.
- Stand mixer: Helps mix your ingredients thoroughly, however a hand mixer may be used as well.
- Silicone spatula: Aids in scraping the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.
- Cupcake/muffin tin: A standard muffin tin is a kitchen staple. This one that I own acts as a cupcake carrier as well.
- Frosting bag and tips: This set gives you creative control in frosting your cupcakes!
- Use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. The extra protein aids in the structure of the cupcakes.
- Add an extra tablespoon of flour.
- Add an extra tablespoon of milk.
- Decrease baking powder by 1/2 teaspoon.
- Decrease sugar by 1 tablespoon (15 g).
- Increase oven temperature to 365 F. Baking time will remain the same.
Recipe adapted from Pastry Affair.