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Vanilla Cupcakes (from Scratch)

Learn how to make these easy homemade vanilla cupcakes with a silky-smooth vanilla buttercream frosting. Buttery and light, these classic cupcakes are ready for any occasion!

Vanilla cupcakes with frosting on counter.
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The Best Vanilla Flavor

Making vanilla cupcakes from scratch couldn’t be easier and you probably already have most of the ingredients at home! You start with a few staple ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, and eggs and then add some buttermilk for a tender crumb.

The most important ingredient is, you guessed it, the vanilla! I use two different kinds in this recipe: pure vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste. Similar to when making a homemade vanilla cake with vanilla frosting, you want to use the very best quality you can afford as the flavor of the vanilla really shines through and you want it to be amazing!

This recipe is easy to customize by trying different frostings to suit your mood. Classic buttercream frosting and chocolate buttercream frosting are two of our favorite options. Also, if you’re short on time, I’ve also developed a recipe for making easy vanilla cupcakes from a box mix.

Recipe Ingredients

Vanilla cupcake ingredients on counter

See full printable recipe below.

  • All-purpose flour: This is an all-around good baking flour that makes perfectly tender cupcakes with a soft crumb. Check out my guide on how to measure flour so you get great results every time.
  • Granulated sugar: Adds sweetness and also encourages the cupcakes to brown.
  • Baking powder: Using baking powder in your baking will help the batter to rise. Make sure that it’s fresh. To test it, drop a teaspoon of baking powder into a couple of tablespoons of hot water in a bowl. Active baking powder will fizz. If you don’t see any fizzing action, it’s time to replace your powder!
  • Fine sea salt: Adding salt to your cupcakes helps to enhance all of the other flavors.
  • Unsalted butter: You should soften the butter at room temperature before you start mixing. I use unsalted, but if you only have salted butter, you can just leave out the added salt in the recipe.
  • Buttermilk: This milk will make your cupcakes soft and tender. You can buy it in the dairy section of your local grocery store, or you can learn how to make buttermilk at home with just 2 ingredients.
  • Pure vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste: You’ll want to use good quality vanilla in this recipe as the cupcakes rely heavily on the flavor. I’ve doubled down on the vanilla to give a punch of flavor.
  • Eggs: 1 large whole egg (both the egg white and egg yolk) and 1 large egg white, separated. The extra egg white makes the cupcakes super light and airy.

What Goes Into The Vanilla Frosting?

We keep it very simple with this frosting to let the pure vanilla flavor shine through. I prefer to use salted butter because it enhances the flavor of the vanilla. Powdered sugar easily melts into the butter to keep the frosting silky smooth. 

Then I will use a good quality vanilla extract for the best flavor. If you want pure white frosting, use clear vanilla extract. Finished with heavy cream to give the frosting an extra creamy and luxurious texture. Also helps to thin the frosting out if gets too thick!

How to Make Vanilla Cupcakes

You’ll notice that I use a different method of mixing the batter than you might be used to. 

Typically, cake recipes start by creaming together butter and sugar and then adding the eggs. In this recipe, I mix the butter into the dry ingredients before adding the remaining wet ingredients. 

This is referred to as ‘reverse creaming’. The result is a soft cupcake that’s sturdy enough to hold lots of delicious frosting!

Step by step collage making vanilla cupcakes.
  1. Combine butter with dry ingredients. Use a stand mixer to beat together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter until you reach a coarse sandy texture.
  2. Mix in wet ingredients. On low speed, mix in the buttermilk and vanilla and beat until combined. Then add the egg and additional egg white one at a time into the flour mixture and mix until the batter is smooth.
  3. Scoop into liners. Fill each muffin pan liner ¾ full with the vanilla batter.
  4. Bake. The cupcakes will take 18 – 22 minutes to bake at 350F. Insert a toothpick into the center to make sure they are baked throughout. The toothpick should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing them from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Preparing the Frosting

  • Cream butter. Use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer or a handheld electric mixer to cream the butter until it’s creamy and shiny.
  • Add sugar and vanilla. Slowly add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined. Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of heavy cream as needed if you find the frosting is too thick. Continue beating until the frosting becomes light and airy.
  • Frost cupcakes. Use a 1M or 1A frosting tip to pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes.

How to Decorate Cupcakes

Now here comes the fun part! Putting a personal spin on the vanilla cupcakes with your favorite decorations is the best part. Check out some of my frosting recipes or you might enjoy this fun M&M cupcake version!

Before you begin decorating, make sure your cupcakes are at room temperature. If they’re too warm, the frosting will slide right off the top.

  • Piping: I like to pipe my frosting using a piping bag and either a 1M or 1A pastry tip. If you don’t have a piping bag, you can easily put the frosting into a zip-top plastic bag and snip the corner off to pipe directly onto the cupcakes.
  • Spreading: If piping isn’t your thing, then simply spread the frosting on the vanilla cupcakes with an offset spatula or knife.

Feel free to keep it classy and elegant or have some extra fun and add some sprinkles! Check out how to frost the perfect cupcakes for more tips and tricks when decorating.

Expert Tips

  • Start with room temperature ingredients. Allow the eggs, buttermilk, and butter to come to room temperature before you start mixing. This will ensure a smooth batter.
  • Don’t overfill cupcake liners. Any more than ¾ full and the liners could overflow as the batter rises
  • Mix lightly. Be careful not to overmix the batter or your vanilla cupcakes could turn out dense.

Make Ahead

It’s so easy to measure out the dry ingredients and keep them stored in a sealed jar in your pantry to make a quick cake or a batch of cupcakes whenever the mood strikes!

Make planning for birthday parties even easier!

You could also put the dry ingredients into a pretty jar and print out the recipe to give to someone as a gift. I think anyone would love to receive that!

FAQs

Why are my cupcakes dry?

Too much flour in your batter will cause dry cupcakes. Make sure you are measuring accurately and not over mixing the batter.

Why did my cupcakes sink in the middle?

Your baking powder could be expired. Test to see if it still fizzes when you add it to some hot water. If it doesn’t, you know it’s time to buy new powder.

My frosting is runny, how do I fix it?

Add a couple of tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar and mix the frosting until it has thickened. Continue to add sugar until you have the desired texture.

My frosting is thick, how do I fix it?

Add a teaspoon of heavy cream to the frosting and mix. Continue to add a teaspoon of heavy cream at a time until you have the desired texture.

Storage Instructions

Unfrosted cupcakes will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Make sure the container is tall enough, so the lid doesn’t touch the top of your cupcake domes. You could risk tearing off the top of the cupcakes when you remove the lid.

Also, don’t stack the cupcakes on top of one another when you’re storing them as they could stick together and the tops could tear when you separate them.

Frosted cupcakes can also be kept at room temperature for up to 4 days in an airtight container.

Leftover frosting: The frosting recipe makes enough for 12-18 cupcakes when piping and 24 cupcakes when using a knife. Store any leftovers in an airtight container (I prefer freezer bags) and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Bite taken from vanilla cupcake.

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Vanilla Cupcakes

5 from 6 votes
Author: Jamielyn Nye
Learn how to make these easy homemade vanilla cupcakes with a silky-smooth vanilla buttercream frosting. Buttery and light, these classic cupcakes are ready for any occasion!
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 18 mins
Cool Time: 40 mins
Total Time: 1 hr 16 mins
Servings: 12

Equipment

Ingredients 

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter , at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups (175 grams) buttermilk , at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
  • 1 large egg , at room temperature
  • 1 large egg white , at room temperature

Vanilla Frosting

  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar , plus more if needed
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract , use clear if you want it pure white
  • 1-3 Tablespoons heavy cream , plus more or less as needed

Instructions

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  • Turn the mixer to low and beat in the butter for 1 minute. Turn speed to medium and beat 30 seconds, or until the butter is combined and the mixture is coarse in texture.
  • Reduce the speed to low, and mix in the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean paste for 1 minute, or until combined. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
  • Turn the mixer to low and add egg. Once combined, pour in the egg white and mix on medium-high for 30 seconds, or until the batter is smooth. Scoop the batter evenly into the cupcake liners, about 3/4 full.
  • Bake 18 to 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes in the pan before transferring cupcakes to a rack to cool completely, about 40 minutes).

Vanilla Frosting

  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, whip the butter for about 2 to 3 minutes. You want the butter to be nice and creamy with a slight shine.
  • Slowly add in 2 cups powdered sugar. Mix until it combined. 
  • Mix in the vanilla and remaining 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar. At this point you may need to add 1 to 2 Tablespoons heavy cream to thin the frosting. You want the frosting to be thick, creamy, and able to hold a point.
  • Beat frosting for a couple more minutes to help it become light and airy. Stir with a spatula to remove any air bubbles and frost as desired.
  • Frost cooled cupcakes using a 1M or 1A frosting tip.

Video


Notes

Make ahead: Measure out all of the dry ingredients and keep them stored in a sealed jar as a great gift or to make a quick cake or cupcakes when the mood strikes. 
Vanilla: Use a really good vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste, since these cupcakes rely heavily on its flavor. 
Frosting options: Two of my other favorite frostings for these cupcakes are Classic buttercream frosting and Chocolate buttercream frosting.
Leftover frosting: The frosting recipe makes enough for 18 cupcakes when piping and 24 cupcakes when using a knife. Store any leftover in an airtight container (I prefer freezer bags) and freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, stick in the refrigerator overnight.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 625kcal | Carbohydrates: 91g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 207mg | Potassium: 140mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 65g | Vitamin A: 837IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 62mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

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