I’ll be the first to admit, that while I love to bake cakes and cupcakes, they have never been my forte. I have a favorite chocolate cake recipe, but a really good vanilla cake recipe has eluded me for quite some time.
I’ve tried my fair share, but I really wanted something fluffy and light while still moist and delicious, and this vanilla cupcake recipe definitely fits the bill. So moist, so tender, and so easy, this is a simple treat you’ll want to make over and over again.
What makes cupcakes light and fluffy?
The key to a light and fluffy cupcake is all about the mixing. Overmix your batter and you’ll wind up with a dense cupcake. Always mix at a low speed and mix just until all the ingredients are incorporated.
Ingredients for vanilla cupcakes
This is a basic cake recipe with common ingredients like all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda and sugar, plus melted butter, an egg, milk and sour cream to keep it moist. Most cake recipes will call for 1 tablespoon of vanilla, but for moist vanilla cupcakes you’re going to double that, and use the best quality real vanilla extract you can find. Ir you can make your own vanilla extract from scratch.
How to Make Vanilla Cupcakes
The key to a good cake or muffin batter is combining the ingredients just right. You don’t want to overmix the flour into the batter as it can result in a dense and chewy cake rather that something light and fluffy.
Have your ingredients ready at room temperature. The butter may take longer, but the egg, sour cream and milk can sit on the counter for 15-20 minutes or so. Room temperature ingredients bond together very easily since they’re warmer, creating a seamless and evenly textured batter.
Mix your dry and wet ingredients separately. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder/soda together in a separate bowl and then adding them to the wet batter ensure that everything is evenly mixed and incorporated without the risk of overmixing. We’ve already determined that’s not a good thing.
Always use cupcake liners for cupcakes. This isn’t a necessity; you can easily make cupcakes without liners . But get yourself some good quality, grease proof liners and you have to worry about your cake sticking to the paper ever again. Plus, if you’re feeding a crowd they are much easier to serve. Set the liners in your cupcake pan before making the batter so they’re ready to go.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill them. This is my favorite tool and favorite tip when making cupcakes. If you want evenly sized cupcakes, do yourself a favor and grab one of these spring release ice cream scoops. They are the perfect size to fill about 2/3 – ¾ of the cups which is exactly what you need.
Bake. Once you’ve scooped your batter into the pretty little liners, it’s time to bake them. Set a timer, set two if you have to, and make sure to check on your cupcakes. You want them to be domed and slightly sunken in the center rather than peaked at the top. If you’re unsure, use the toothpick test and if no batter clings to your toothpicks, the cupcakes are done.
How to decorate cupcakes
You can really put any kind of topping you like on your cupcakes, I won’t judge. Cool the cupcakes completely, and make my favorite simple buttercream frosting. But you can go with chocolate, or peanut frosting, or even just a dollop of cool whip. Chocolate ganache is always nice or maybe a dip in some creamy Nutella. Oh the possibilities!
How to Make Buttercream Frosting
Unlike baking, which can feel like a complicated math problem sometimes, making the perfect frosting is pretty simple. It requires heavy mixing on high speed, and the recipes are typically pretty forgiving. If you feel it’s too sweet, add a pinch of salt and maybe a little more butter. Too thin? Add more powdered sugar. On the flip side if it’s too thick, add more milk. As long as you follow the basic guidelines of the recipe, you’ll be rewarded with a fluffy, creamy vanilla buttercream to ice your vanilla cupcakes.
You can choose to just spread on the frosting, or if you’re feeling fancy, use a piping bag and tips.
Pro Tips for the best Vanilla Cupcakes
I’ve made these quite a few times now, and I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Measure your flour properly. Rather than scooping your flour, use a spoon to sprinkle the flour into the measuring cup, then level off the top with the flat side of a knife.
Buy good quality vanilla. I recommend getting high quality ingredients always when you can, but the vanilla for your vanilla cupcakes recipe is especially important. Make sure you are getting real vanilla extra and not imitation.
Match the occasion. The great thing about vanilla buttercream is it’s a blank canvas. Try adding food coloring to it to match your party decor.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 liners.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a large mixing bowl whisk the sugar and melted butter until smooth (mixture will be gritty). Whisk in eggs, then sour cream, milk and vanilla extract until combined.
Slowly add in dry ingredients and stir until completely incorporated. Batter will be thick.
Fill cupcake lines ⅔ of the way full (about ¼ cup of batter). Bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely before frosting.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or a large mixing bowl and a handheld mixer), beat butter at medium speed until smooth and creamy; 2-3 minutes.
Add confectioners sugar, vanilla and milk. Turn mixer up to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. If mixture is too thick, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time. If too thin, add more confectioners sugar, a little at a time.
Frost cooled cupcakes using a spreader or a piping bag. Depending on how much frosting you use on each cupcake, there may be some leftover.
This recipe will make about a dozen cupcakes, depending on how full you fill the cups.Depending on how much frosting you use per cupcake, there may be some leftover.
Let us know how it was by leaving a review or sharing on Instagram with the tag #yellowblissroad
This post was first published in 2018 and updated in 2021 to include some tried and tested pro tips that we hope you find useful.
Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.