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vanilla cupcakes with swirled vanilla buttercream and colorful sprinkles

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Author: Jenna Barnard
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: 15 cupcakes


These are the most perfect vanilla cupcakes with a moist, bouncy, and tender texture, strong vanilla flavor, and silky vanilla bean buttercream on top. My goal was to match the texture of box cake mix and after almost 20 tests, this is the winning vanilla cupcake recipe!


Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups (182g) cake flour* spooned and leveled**
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp dry milk powder***
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water, warm
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (120g) sour cream, room temp
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, room temp
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste****

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  • 1 cup (220g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 cups (660g) powdered sugar
  • 34 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste


Vanilla Cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a cupcake pan with 12 liners and a second pan with 3 liners (this recipe makes 15 cupcakes).
  2. In a large bowl using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, milk powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Add the softened butter and oil and mix on medium-low speed until everything is well combined and no visible lumps of butter remain, although the mixture itself should appear lumpy.
  4. In a 2 cup measuring glass, beat together the water, vinegar, and sour cream until smooth.
  5. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  6. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Pause pouring after about 1/2 cup is added to give the batter a chance to smooth out, then continue pouring.
  7. The batter should appear rather thin and it’s ok if there are a few small lumps. Use a rubber spatula to give the batter one more good mix by hand, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  8. Distributive the batter between the liners, filling each just a hair past halfway. Use a large cookie scoop to make this much easier!
  9. Bake for 15 minutes then test for doneness. A toothpick should come out clean with a few moist crumbs. If they’re not done, bake for 1-2 additional minutes.
  10. Very carefully (since the pan and cupcakes are still hot) immediately transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack. Removing the cakes right away prevents any residual heat from continuing to heat the cupcakes.
  11. Transfer the cupcakes to the refrigerator to cool for about 30 minutes, then make the frosting.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream

  1. Using a hand or stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the butter until smooth.
  2. Mix in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time. To ensure the right amount, spoon the sugar into a measuring cup and level it off. We want light and airy cups of powdered sugar.
  3. When the buttercream starts to become dry and thick, add a tablespoon of milk in between cups.
  4. After all the cups are mixed in and you’ve reached 3 tablespoons of milk, mix in the vanilla bean paste and then assess the consistency.
  5. The buttercream should be glossy and smooth but thick and pipable. If it’s still too thick, add in that last tablespoon of milk. If it’s too thin, mix in a heaping spoonful of powdered sugar at a time until you reach the right consistency.
  6. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, spread or pipe the frosting on top. Sprinkle with any topping of your choice and enjoy!


*DIY CAKE FLOUR – You can also make cake flour from all purpose flour if you can’t find cake flour at your grocery store. Measure out 1 1/2 cups of flour (192g), and then remove three tablespoons. Replace with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and whisk to combine.

**SPOON & LEVEL – Never scoop directly from the flour as this will pack the flour down into the cup. For true, weigh the ingredients with a food scale. If that’s not an option, spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level it off with a flat edge. Don’t shake it or pack it down as we want a light and fluffy cup of flour! 

***MILK POWDER – Milk powder is essentially just pure condensed protein. This provides an extra lift to these cupcakes while also creating a more tender crumb and well rounded flavor. It can be found in most grocery stores usually in the baking aisle. Grab a bag and add a tablespoon to any dessert recipe and watch the magic happen!

****VANILLA BEAN PASTE – Pure vanilla extract can be used instead, but I love the flavor of vanilla beans here!

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cooling Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: vanilla cupcake recipe, vanilla cupcakes, vanilla cupcake, vanilla cupcake recipes, vanilla bean cupcakes, vanilla bean cupcake recipe

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