Vanilla cupcakes are the epitome of classic, understated elegance in the world of desserts. Each cupcake, soft and airy, topped with a swirl of rich vanilla buttercream, is a perfect balance of simplicity and decadence. Ideal for any occasion, these cupcakes are sure to delight anyone looking for a sweet, yet sophisticated treat.

Vanilla cupcakes are more than just a dessert, they are a canvas for creativity and a testament to the beauty of classic flavors. This recipe, with its light, fluffy texture and creamy frosting, is a culmination of my love for baking – a simple pleasure turned into an exquisite treat.

Vanilla cupcakes on a plate

The Chemistry of Cupcakes

The science behind these cupcakes lies in the proper mixing and baking techniques. The creaming of butter and sugar introduces air, contributing to the lightness of the cupcake. Baking powder acts as a leavening agent, helping the cupcakes rise and maintain their shape. The inclusion of sour cream adds moisture and a slight tang, creating a balanced flavor profile.

How can I make my cupcake moist?

The key is not over baking and using ingredients like sour cream for added moisture. When baking, if you watch the cupcakes closely, they will show you signs that they are done baking. First, as soon as the cakes no longer look so glossy and look a little dull, they are probably done. If you tap the pan and the middle of the cakes do not jiggle, that is a good sign they are done. When you want to be extra sure, stick a fork or toothpick in one of the cupcakes, if it comes out with a few moist crumbs, they are done. If the toothpick comes out gooey, it needs a bit more time. Yet, if it comes out clean, they are already over baked!

Can I turn this recipe into a cake?

Yes, this batter can be baked as a cake; adjust the baking time accordingly. I have posted a cake version of this recipe here.

Are these cupcakes freezer-friendly?

Absolutely! Freeze without frosting, then thaw back to room temperature before frosting and serving.

Can I add flavors or colors to the frosting?

Definitely. Vanilla frosting is versatile and can be flavored or colored as desired.

Vanilla Cupcakes on a plate

What is in vanilla cupcakes?

All-purpose Flour

Builds structure as it absorbs liquids and expands. All-purpose flour falls in the middle of bread flour (high in gluten) and cake flour (low in gluten). It’s exactly what it is named, all-purpose, the most universal flour that can be used in most baked goods.

Baking Powder

Puffs up your batter or dough instead of spreading it out. Baking powder contains a little bit of baking soda, an acid & cornstarch. Because of this, it only needs a liquid to react. It also consists of two different acids, so it’s double reacting. It reacts as soon as it’s mixed with a moisture and then again when it’s heated up.

Fine Sea Salt

Enhances flavor, adds balance, masks any bitter flavors. Salt is the most powerful and oldest preservative. Always make sure to use fine sea salt so it melts down at the right speed in the heat of the oven. If you use larger granule salt, it will not melt down fully when baked and will leave salt crystals throughout your treat, making it crunch like you dropped it into sand.

Cornstarch

Helps create a crumbly tender texture to toppings. Softens cookies, brownies and cakes. And it can also thicken sauces and fillings.

Granulated Sugar

Adds sweetness, provides a caramelized flavor and crisp texture. Sugar assists with rising when creamed with butter. It helps add moisture to your treat and helps it evenly spread as it melts into a liquid in the heat of the oven. Sugar also helps with naturally preserving your baked treat.

Unsalted Butter

It is always important to use unsalted butter when baking. If you use salted butter, you have no way of knowing how much salt you are adding to your dough or batter and it will result in an overly salted treat.

Butter adds fats to your dough or batter which helps with moistness, flavor and texture. Butter melts at body temperature, which creates a ‘melt in your mouth’ sensation.

When baking with butter the temperature is important. If the butter is too warm your treat will melt down too fast and overspread in the oven, leaving you with a greasy, flat mess. If your butter is too cold it will have the opposite problem and not melt down enough, leaving your treat too thick.

Eggs

Adds both a protein (egg whites) and fat (egg yolks). The egg whites help with rising because, when foamed, little air pockets get trapped inside the egg white mixture. The water content in egg whites encourages steam while baking, which helps with gluten formation, resulting in nice and thick treats. Egg yolks have emulsifying properties that bring batters and doughs together and help them from collapsing. Unless otherwise specified, always use large eggs.

Milk

Adds moisture to the batter or dough. Milk adds protein and sugar (lactose) to your treat. It encourages browning and adds a bit more sweetness to your baked treat.

Sour Cream

Is a very fatty dairy product. The extra fat will make your treat more moist and rich. It also is acidic so it will help baking soda react, which helps your treat rise.

Vanilla Extract

When using pure vanilla extract, as opposed to imitation flavoring, it will add the deep rich flavor that everybody wants in a treat.

Unsalted butter

Often the main ingredient of frosting, it adds structure to your buttercream. It also adds a smooth and velvety texture. Butter melts at body temperature, so it will make your frosting have a melt-in-your-mouth sensation.

Powdered Sugar

Is just finely ground granulated sugar. It will absorb moisture in your batter or dough. It dissolves easily, ensuring a smooth texture without grittiness. Because it is so fine, it can melt quickly in the oven and spread cookies out more. Powdered sugar also stabilizes and thickens the frosting, thanks to the small amount of cornstarch it contains.

Heavy Whipping Cream

Makes a softer, more spreadable frosting. When melted with chocolate it adds more fat and moisture to the mixture, resulting in a silkier blend.

Vanilla cupcakes on a plate

Storage Tips

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. In the refrigerator, frosted cupcakes last up to a week. Unfrosted, cupcakes can freeze for 2-3 months. Freeze unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container. Thaw back to room temperature and frost before serving.

Making Ahead

To make this dessert stress free, bake the cupcakes a day in advance and frost them on the day of serving.

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Why Make Vanilla Cupcakes?

Vanilla cupcakes are versatile – perfect for birthdays, tea parties, or as a delightful treat for any casual gathering.

Recipes You May Love

Vanilla Cupcakes

Author: Madison Reid
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
This soft and airy vanilla cake is the perfect dessert. So simple and elegant, topped with rich vanilla buttercream.

Ingredients 

Cake

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 2 cups unsalted butter
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

Cake

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
  • In a standing mixer add the butter and sugar and mix until combined. Once combined, whip on high for 2 minutes, pausing to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl every 30 seconds. The mixture should be lighter in color and texture when finished.
  • Add the eggs, milk, sour cream and vanilla. Stir until combined.
  • In a separate mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and cornstarch.
  • Turn the standing mixer on low and slowly pour in the dry ingredients. Mix until the batter is all combined.
  • Once combined, turn the mixer on medium speed for about 20 seconds until the batter is smooth.
  • Spoon batter into a cupcake pan with 24 cupcakes lined with baking cups.
  • Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, remove and let cool in the pan before removing.

Frosting

  • In a standing mixer add the butter and whip until it is softened
  • Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined
  • Add the cream and vanilla extract, whip the frosting for 2 full minutes until light and fluffy
  • Frost the cupcakes once cooled.

Nutrition

Calories: 438kcal Carbohydrates: 51g Protein: 2g Fat: 26g Saturated Fat: 16g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 88mg Sodium: 166mg Potassium: 42mg Fiber: 0.3g Sugar: 42g Vitamin A: 813IU Vitamin C: 0.1mg Calcium: 54mg Iron: 1mg

Have you tried this recipe?

I’d love to see it! Follow @_mrs.madi_ on Instagram and tag your photos with #mrsmadi.

vanilla cupcakes titled