Essential Vanilla Cupcakes

Oh vanilla cupcakes, you look so sweet and innocent but can be such a bugger sometimes! One would think such a recipe would be easy to conjure but cupcakes come with their own set of challenges. One time I baked close to 10 batches of cupcakes trying to find ones that had the perfect dome (not an easy feat!). These Vanilla Cupcakes are my go-to recipe for birthday parties and class functions.  They are light, moist and flavorful; they have the just-right amount of dome and are sturdy enough to hold up to all types of fillings and toppings. They will quickly become your Essential Vanilla Cupcakes too!


After trying countless cupcake recipes, I happened across this recipe for cupcakes by chance. I was working on developing a scratch cake recipe that acted like a cake mix when doctored and when I baked this recipe as cupcakes it came out almost exactly like what I was looking for. A few more tweaks and it was just right.A-cut-Vanillaweb

 The trouble with cupcakes is that they are a completely different animal than cake. The quick cook time and the tiny baking pan subject them to different forces and therefore call for a differently engineered recipe. Try baking a standard cake recipe in a cupcake tin (especially a rich recipe like mine tend to be) and cupcakes will often end up flat and dense. To me, cupcakes should be light and fluffy and moist. What often happens is that the abundant wall support from the small pan and over leavening cause the cupcakes to rise quickly and then sink flat.  This recipe uses a number of techniques to prevent this.A-Vanilla-top-webHere are some of the features of this recipe that make it work:

  • Low level leavening: I feel that this is one of the most important features of a good cupcake recipe. This recipe has only one teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (mostly to neutralize excessive acidity from the sour cream).  This allows the cupcakes to rise slowly and therefore develop and strong under girding of structure which will prevent post-oven sinking.
  • Minimal mixing: This recipe is mixed all on low speed, not to prevent toughening (which is unlikely in a recipe with this much fat and sugar) but rather to minimize incorporation of air (mechanical leavening).  As stated above, we want a good structure to develop as the cupcake is rising. This cupcake should only dome right before the end of baking time; a sort of harmony of rise and set.
  • Variety of fats: This recipe contains fat from butter, oil, whole milk and sour cream. The hodgepodge of fats gives a lovely balance of flavor, moisture and texture.
  • Egg yolks: The extra egg yolks in these cupcakes adds not only fat and flavor but the extra emulsifiers ensure a nice distribution of fats. This helps with overall moisture and texture as well as shelf life.
  • Flour and starch: This recipe uses a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch which yields a resilient cupcake with a fine delicate texture.
  • Vanilla: I use 2 tablespoons of vanilla in this recipe to give it a full vanilla flavor. If you are really bold you could increase this by another tablespoon or add any other variety of flavorings.


I have filled these cupcakes with pastry cream and key lime pie filling and cheesecake. I have made them with a graham cracker crust on the bottom and doctored them in a myriad of ways. They are very sturdy and hold up well.A-Vanilla-cut-webThe next time you have cupcakes to make give these beauties a try.  You may want to keep a few in the freezer for sugar emergencies as well!

Happy Baking!

Essential Vanilla Cupcakes


  • 16 ounces (454 grams) granulated sugar-2 ¼ cups
  • 2 ounces (57 grams) unsalted butter, softened- ¼ cup
  • 5 ounces (142 grams) vegetable oil- 2/3 cup
  • 3 large eggs plus 2 large yolks
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vanilla extract
  • 14 ounces (397 grams) all- purpose/plain flour- 2 ¾ cup
  • 1 tablespoon (15 milliliters) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 milliliter) baking soda
  • 8 ½ ounces (241 grams) sour cream-1 cup
  • ½ cup (118 milliliters) whole milk


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C) and line cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.
  2. Combine butter, oil and sugar in a mixer bowl and blend on low for about 1 minute until combined but not fluffy or light. Add eggs and yolks one at a time and mix on low until just absorbed by the butter-sugar mixture about 1 minute. Add vanilla extract and mix on low until blended.
  3. Sprinkle in the dry ingredients and mix on low until moistened, about 1 minute. Combine the sour cream and milk in a container with a pour spout. With mixer on low gradually add the milk mixture and then mix for 1 minute on low until blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
  4. Divide batter between the liners using a ¼ cup ice cream scoop filling 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back slightly when gently pressed. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing or store in an airtight container. Can be frozen unfrosted.
  5. Makes about 24 cupcakes


176 thoughts on “Essential Vanilla Cupcakes”

  1. I can’t wait try these! Though my vanilla cake recipe is good, it always frustrated me that as cupcakes, they fell flat. Beautiful just after baking, then sad little flat things after a few minutes. Never had the time to manipulate the recipe for just cupcakes, but knee it needed to be done. Thank you!!!

  2. This sounds lovely, could I use this as a cake recipe? I’m really struggling lately with my vanilla cakes. I’ve tried various recipes but there always seems to be an issue. What’s more frustrating is when the recipe seems to work once or twice and then fails. Thanks for any help you can offer <3

    1. Hi Joyce, Yes this recipe works well for cake too. It’s hard to determine what is causing your cake problems without knowing all that is going on, but I would say that everything in cake matters. So set timers for mix times and try to keep everything as constant as possible. Check your oven temperature with a thermometer too. It makes a big difference to your cake. Good luck!

      1. Thanks so much for your feedback. What oven temp would you suggest for a cake, I usually use 325 to help eliminate doming. Cheers, Joyce

        1. I usually always work at 350 F unless I am having issues with texture. It is a good middle ground temp. If you want a lighter more open crumb go lower or a tighter, finer crumb you can increase 25 degrees. 🙂

      2. Hi Summer, I made these yesterday, both cupcakes and cakes. Sadly, I’m on a special diet and wasn’t able to taste them, but they smell divine and cooked up beautifully. Thank you so much, vanilla cakes have been giving me so much problem over the last year. FYI – I used 1 Tbs of vanilla and 1 Tbs of almond. I love vanilla/almond cakes. I will know how they taste soon enough and I’ll get back to you on that. Thanks again, Joyce

  3. Hi there. I love all the information you give with your recipes. I especially love that you give other measurements too. In NZ our cup measures 250ml so your weight or volume measurements mean I don’t have to convert 🙂 But I wondered if the measurement of the milk is right. You’ve said 1/2 cup 225 ml, even in US measurements 1/2 cup would be around 120ml. I’m trying this recipe next time I’m making cupcakes. They sounds great, they look terrific. You always add a little touch of glamour with your decorations. Thank you so much for all the hard work you do with the testing of recipes, and for educating your readers too. Love it. Cheers, Anita

    1. Woops! Yes you are right. I was probably quickly calculating in my head. Will change it to 118 mL asap. Thank you for noticing this!

  4. I can’t wait to try this one too. I enjoy so much your explanations, it’s just the research that I’d like to do but don’t find time or focus for it right now.thanks again

  5. Thank you! Have you had any issues with the cupcake liners peeling? Grrrr… Also, Do you have a chocolate version? If so, would you ever marbleize the two?

    1. I have with some cupcakes but these seem to say adhered pretty well. It seems to particularly be a problem with cupcakes with a lot of shrink back.

      I have a double chocolate cupcake coming up soon! Stay tuned 🙂

  6. Love all your recipes, I’ve tried all of the vanilla once and they are perfect! My family loves you! Strawberry was also very good, I would love to see an other chocolate cake, mud chocolate is not my favorite but I will try yours soon I promise.
    Thank you for all the smiles !!!

    1. Thank you! I promise more chocolate is coming soon. There are just so many recipes I get sidetracked sometimes with other varieties 😉

  7. Interesting opening sentence ; I thought Americans weren’t familiar with the colloquial use of bugger only pommies and Aussies . Are you either? Thanks again for a great post and another trustable recipe

    1. I’m not either, but after running through a gamut of other adjectives it just seemed the most appropriate 🙂 Maybe it’s literature or too many movies that familiarized me to it!

  8. Those cupcakes look beautiful especially the texture, thank you for the recipe and for the detailed explanation for better understanding of these beauties 😀

  9. ..”I have made them with a graham cracker crust on the bottom..”.Please could you explain how did you use graham cracker crust in the cupcakes? Love your recipes!! Love your explanations!! Thank you!!

    1. I make a standard graham cracker crust (1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted, 1 3/4 tablespoons sugar mixed) and place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mixture in the bottom of the cupcake liner. I then pat it down firmly. I use an espresso tamper which works perfectly! I then top with the batter and bake as usual. This works great for key lime pie cupcakes. Cook the key lime pie filling in the top of a double boiled until very thick. Then, when cool, fill your baked and cooled cupcakes. Top with whipped cream. Yum!

  10. I made these tonight and they are delicious!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe. I topped them with whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Will definitely make them again.

  11. I tried these today and OMG!!! Loooooooove them! Love that they are hearty as you mentioned. Sort of reminded me of a doctored cake box recipe without the boxy after taste. They rose beautifully with an out-of-this-world domed top! I have them in the freezer for next week’s wedding 🙂 This cupcake delivered on every one of your promises 🙂 Thank you!!

    Quick question on the cornstarch….When I measured out 1 Tbl , it weighed 10g, but your measurements state 15ml. I don’t have the mL on my scale, but it looks like the weight is the same when I’ve toggled between grams and ounces. Should I be using 15g? Either way, this recipe is super awesome! Thank you so much. Can’t wait to try more of your recipes. Love the Foolproof Buttercream–strictly genius!!!! xoxo

    1. Hi Catherine, I was interested that you froze your cupcakes. Would you mind sharing your proceedure? I’ve a very large order due just days after I return home from France and I’d love to get the cupcakes baked and out of the way before I leave. They’d be in the freezer for two weeks. Will I have any concerns with cupcake liners peeling? Thank you, Georganne

    2. Hi Catherine, I am so happy you like the cupcakes! They actually come from a recipe that I developed to be like a cake mix but from scratch 🙂

      Go with the 10 grams on the cornstarch. I was using the 15 mL measurement for volume rather than weight for those that use measuring spoons for this small amount. Smiles!

  12. Hi Summer! A miracle has happened in my kitchen today. After 3 years of searching for the perfect vanilla cupcake, I have found it – at last. These cupcakes are what I have been searching for and they are everything you said and MORE! The absolute best ever. I am happy that you didn’t name them “The Perfect Vanilla Cupcake” because I have tried many of those recipes and all of them were “not so perfect.” Thank you so much for all you do for the cake community. A “modern day baking scientist” is exactly what we need 🙂

  13. hi Summer, can i use yogurt in place of sour cream and semi skimmed milk to replace whole milk? thats really what i have in my fridge

    1. Yes you can but I would increase the oil since you will be losing quite a bit of fat and they will come out much more dry. I don’t know the exact fat differences in your dairy products but I would add 4-6 tablespoons more oil. Good luck!

  14. Hello Georganne! I placed a dozen cupcakes in a disposable (plastic) cupcake box and another 16 cupcakes in a plastic container I bought at the Dollar Store. I brought one cupcake to thaw at room temp in a cardboard box, another to defrost in the fridge in a plastic container and a third cupcake to thaw in a plastic container at room temp. The cupcake that thawed in a box at room temp was a little dry compared to the other two. The liner was attached firmly to the cake that thawed at room temp while the other two liners peeled away very easily. Summer mentioned to keep cupcakes at room temp in an airtight container, and I agree. I hope this information is helpful to you 🙂

  15. Does it work for mini cupcakes too? I can’t wait to try your recipe until I get sour cream from supermarket!

    1. Yes! This works great for mini cupcakes too but they seems to dry out more when frozen (it’s the same concept that I talked about in the Upper Crust post). So I suggest when you do minis you make them close to when you want to use them 🙂

  16. Hi Summer, I happened to find your blog last night. All your recipes look delicious. I want to try these cupcakes and your smb this weekend. Have you ever tried unbleached cake flour in this recipe?

    1. Hi Danielle, I have not tried cake flour of either type in this recipe. I think that it would work well to substitute it for the all-purpose flour and cornstarch but you may want to add a little bit more liquid. The extra starch in cake flour can sometimes make the final product come out drier. Best of luck! 🙂

  17. Hi Summer,

    I tried your recipe today but made only half a batch and reduced the auger amount. The cupcakes were very moist indeed. I found the texture a bit like muffin and rather dense. Is this what they are supposed to be? Or was something wrong with the mixing? Since I made only 12 cupcakes the mixing time was shorter than what you suggested.
    Thanks for your help.

    1. The reduced sugar amount is probably the culprit. Sugar acts as a tenderizer and brings small pockets of air into the batter as it mixes. So when it is reduced you essentially end up with a muffin. If you want to keep the sugar low you may want to use half cake flour and more butter than oil. This will help with the texture loss as the sugar is removed. I doubt the changed mixing time made a big difference. I hope this helps! 🙂

  18. Thanks for your reply Summer! I am from a culture in which cakes with only a hint of sweetness is preferred. Let me try again with half cake flour and more butter. Will let you know the result later!

    1. Hopefully those changes will help. I imagine it is tricky when baking recipes developed from our ultra sweet American palate! Even things that don’t seems very sweet to me are sugar shock to those with a different eating background. Hopefully we can find a solution that will works for you! 🙂

      1. Summer,
        You are a genius! I can empathize with Ling. Every time I bake for family, I need to adjust sweetness or I will hear how sweet it was. I have given up on trying to find a not-so-sweet frosting/cake and usually do chiffon cake with whipped cream and fruit. Thanks for explaining the science of baking to us!

        1. Thank you! I too love chiffon cake with whipped cream and fruit. Sometimes I like super sweet and other times not. 😉

    1. This works beautifully as a layer cake without adjustments (makes 3, 8-inch pans). I am not sure about this as a loaf cake. I would cut the baking powder to maybe half a teaspoon if I baked it in a loaf pan.

      1. This is my new go to receipt for vanilla/almond cake, I add 1 tablespoon of pure vanilla extract and pure almond extract . I love love love this recipe … it’s super easy and bakes up beautifully every time. I’ve only used it once for cupcakes and the feedback was excellent as well. Thank you … thank you … thank you ………. I have been struggling with my vanilla/almond cake for a while now …. I struggle no more <3

        1. Joyce, do you add one Tablespoon of each vanilla and almond? Sounds delicious. I’d like to give this a try.

  19. Summer, you mentioned somewhere (and I cannot find in…) that it is easier to go from a cake recipe to cupcakes than the other way round. I imagine that the same goes for layers of cake, you treat them as cupcakes. Why is that?

  20. Summer, I recently discovered your blog through Jessicakes, and I absolutely love it! I really want to understand the science behind baking cupcakes/cakes, but it seems like there are so many variables! I have a side cupcake business that is a actually doing pretty well. I have some recipes already that I really like, but they never dome like I want them to. I’m excited to try this recipe in particular, but I’m wondering if you could give me any other tips for what to add or take away from an existing recipe to help it create a nicer dome? All of yours look so pretty! Blessings!

    1. Hi Carrie! I’m so glad you found your way here 🙂 That is awesome that you are building a cupcake business. I bet you get to bless lots of people!

      What I have found with cupcakes and the dome factor is that you want to have a slow rise and not to go too rich with your ingredients. So keep your leavening agents on the lower end and don’t go too high on your sugar and butter/oil. There is a fine balance here getting a cupcake that is moist and light and flavorful. Another trick I have found is that if you let the batter sit for 10-15 minutes after it is mixed and then give it a stir before filling your tins the cupcakes take on a nicer shape generally. I picked this up from the Trophy Cupcakes and Parties cookbook. I will be reviewing and giving away a copy of the book here soon but I will say that it is a great asset for cupcake bakers and I have been very pleased with all of her cupcakes that I have tried. You may consider purchasing a copy. 🙂

      1. Hilarious that you say that Summer, as several of my favorite recipes I already use come from that book! I love her chocolate cupcakes. The lemon ones are pretty great too. Her vanilla cupcakes…tasty but too sweet. I reduced the sugar by about 1/4 cup, and they are great flavor-wise, but still never dome. They are either flat or sometimes slightly concave. I’m anxious to try your vanilla ones! They look gorgeous!

        I live in South Texas where is is usually 90 to 100 percent humidity. As stupid as it sounds, I’m wondering if maybe that is playing tricks on my recipes?

        You kinda swayed me into weighing ingredients recently, so I’m a little disappointed she didn’t include ingredients by weight in her book. :/ Thanks so much for your reply Summer! I’m always excited to see a new recipe or post from you!

        1. Yes, her Vanilla Cupcakes are quite sweet. I usually cut back on the sugar and use sour cream in place of half and half and the tangy flavor neutralizes some of the sweetness as well. Have you checked your oven temperature? That can make a big difference in structure. Try reducing by 25 degrees and see if it helps the shape. I don’t think the humidity would make a big difference in the baking outcome. (My sister lived in Corpus Christi for a few years but when I visited I didn’t bake much 😉 ). If the temperature change doesn’t work, try reducing the baking powder a bit.

          I was bummed too she didn’t include weights. I can only imagine that they weigh in their bakery. Once you get the hang of basic ingredient weights it becomes easy to convert though and I just write them inside the cookbook (if you don’t mind that kind of graffiti!). Good luck and I have more cupcakes coming soon!

  21. Can you use 2% milk or heavy whipping cream of you don’t have whole milk? I absolutely love these and was about to make them but just realized I was out of whole milk

    1. Hi Amy, I generally always use a substitute for whole milk since I rarely have it on hand. Use 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream and 7 tablespoons low-fat milk in the recipe. So glad you like them! Enjoy 🙂

    1. Yes, but you will need to add a bit more fat to compensate for that lost in the sour cream or they may end up a tad dry. 🙂

  22. Hi Summer. How would I adjust this recipe if I only wanted to make 12 or 6 cupcakes? I’m stuck as to how I would adjust the quantity of eggs. Thanks in advance! And a great blog – I’ve literally just baked a batch of the chocolate chocolate cupcakes and taken them out of the oven – can’t wait to try one!

    1. Hi Maya, I would reduce the recipe to 1/3 of the original and use 1 egg plus one yolk. The extra bit of yolk in the reduced portion will not make a big difference. This will give you about 8 cupcakes. You could similarly make 2/3 of the recipe for 16ish cupcakes. Best of luck! I hope the chocolate cupcakes were delicious! 🙂

  23. I made these this weekend and loved how moist they were. That is the most important factor for me when baking cakes. I need them to be moist. What would happen if I used only egg whites for a pure white cake? Have you done that before?

    Thanks for the great recipe! This is now my go-to vanilla cupcake and cake recipe! 🙂

    1. I have not used just whites with this recipe before but I think it would work fine. You may want to add a touch more oil or sour cream to compensate for the loss of fat if you would like to keep the moisture level the same. Best of luck!

  24. Hi!
    I was hoping to make 12 cupcakes and read your response about making the recipe 1/3 or 2/3. If I wanted to make it 2/3 how would I go about measuring the following:
    Eggs and yolks, salt, baking powder and baking soda. What’s the best utensil/ way to measure these amounts?

    1. I would do 2 eggs, 1 yolk and then slightly round a half teaspoon on the baking powder and salt and a right about 1/8 tsp baking soda. Sorry that’s not super precise but very small variations on these will not make a big difference. 🙂

      1. Thank you so much. This is my go to recipe now, but sometimes 24 cupcakes is too much. They do freeze well, but I’m snacking on them too often, so if I can make a dozen or so that would be perfect!

  25. Hi Summer – two questions: 1. Will these work for mini cupcakes? 2. Would it work if I added diced apples to the batter to make “apple pie” cupcakes? As always, love your blog and all that you do! Thanks!

    1. Yes, they do great as minis! I think that you could for sure add diced apple. You may want to eliminate the milk since you will be adding moisture from the apple, or at least reduce the milk to 1/4 cup. Yummy!

  26. Summer,

    You are amazing for answering all of our questions!! Thank you!
    I want to make marble cupcakes using this cupcake recipe as a base for Halloween. I want to dye the vanilla part orange and then have the chocolate part. What do you recommend adding to this recipe for a marble cupcake? Melted Chocolate or Cocoa?

    1. Hi Vanessa, I would use cocoa. It will give you the strongest chocolate flavor. If you really want to have a chocolate delight use the chocolate paste from the Marble Cake recipe and add it to half the batter. The paste recipe will also maintain the moisture and texture of the cupcake. If you add straight cocoa it will dry the chocolate portion out so you will need to add some liquid and perhaps a touch of fat. Those will be sooooo cute! How fun. 🙂

  27. hi! i just made these cupcakes today. they rose very nicely while they were inside the oven but when they started cooling, they started to become flat-topped (as opposed to dome shaped) and eventually fell. All of them looked like souffle! any ideas why?

    1. It could be that the batter was overbeaten or that the oven was too hot. Sometimes letting that batter sit for 10 minutes and stirring before portioning can help with shape as well. Best of luck! 🙂

  28. Hey summer,
    I adore ur blog and the recipes are amazing. I have learnt soon much from u in terms of the structure and all. Hope u come up with great more recipes. Just wanted to know that I’m making here cupcakes and need them for Friday like in 3 days. Should I leave them outside or keep it in the frigid or freeze it?
    If I leave them out will they dry out faster?

  29. I can’t wait to try these as with all your recepies I’m sure they won’t disappoint. I wanted to try making jumbo cupcakes. Would I need to make any adjustments?

  30. Hi Summer!

    Thank you for the cupcake recipe. I have become your instant fan ever since trying your white cake recipe. It has been a life saver.

    I just had a question. If I wanted to make 6 or 12 cupcakes, what changes would you suggest I make to the ingredients and cooking method?

    Thanks so much for your help!

    1. Thank you Rabia! If you would like to make 6 cupcakes just quarter all of the ingredients and use one egg. It will be just fine. For 12 halve everything and use 2 eggs. The cooking method will stay the same since the shape remains the same. Best of luck! 🙂

      1. Summer, I made a batch of 12 and 6 as per your recommendations and both times it turned out perfect. I cannot tell you how long I have been searching for the perfect vanilla cupcake recipe and your post has finally put an end to it. Everyone has praised it and it has become my new favorite. I cannot wait to try your quintessential chocolate cake. I am sure it will be just as much of success as the vanilla cake and cupcakes were.

        Any chance you know of or will be coming up with a good eclair or pâte à choux recipe? Something that gives smooth a smooth top to cover with delicate icing for fancy eclairs.

        1. Thank you! I am so glad it turned out well.

          I don’t have a lot of experience with eclairs but if I have a chance to work on it I will let you know! 🙂

  31. Summer,
    Is there another oil(s) I can use to replace the vegetable oil that won’t compromise the great flavor of the cupcakes?

    1. You can use any oil that is neutral or you like the flavor of. Light olive, corn, canola, peanut, coconut, grapeseed, anything should be fine. 🙂

    1. Hi Tyler, Sorry for my slow Christmas week responses. I have had sick kids and was out of town 😉 I would freeze for 2-4 weeks. I just let them cool fully and then store them unfrosted in an airtight container. The tops will be tacky after they thaw but it is not noticeable after you frost them. 🙂

  32. Can i use this cupcakes recipe for cake under fondant. Which recipe do you have that you recommend the most for tier cakes with fondant? Theres so many cakes recipes but how will i know which works better for tier cakes & fondant. Can you please advise us about that.

  33. After putting all your recipes and descriptions about the cakes in one big spreadsheet and studying it I’ve decided to make this one! I’m wondering if I have to increase the leavning if I want to use a 9×13 pan. I’m also thinking of reducing the sugar to equal the flour weight and compensate for moisture with quarter cup more sour cream. I also plan to torte it depending on how high it is going to be. Please let me now if this is a recipe for disaster 🙂 I’m baking a trial run on Monday and if all went well, I’ll bake 3 of them for my son’s first birthday in February to feed 60 people! It’ll be my first time making a butter cake so wish me luck. Thank you so much for treatng baking as the science it is. I feel like I’m in my favorite lab session when I read your posts.

  34. Thank you for the recipe. I’m going to bake these along with your Swiss buttercream frosting for two of my friends’ birthdays next month. I bet the white on white coloring of the cupcakes and frosting will really make the colored birthday sprinkles pop! Thanks again.

  35. Hi Summer. I wanted to get some advice. I made these the other day and although they rose beautifully and looked just like the ones in your picture, they were a bit dry and overcooked. Bummed, I slept on it for the night and the next day I decided to check my oven temp. And sure enough it read 375 F when turned on to 350 F. So I made another batch again and pre-heated the oven to 325 F as to reach to 350 F. I checked them at 20 min. but we’re still a little undercooked so I left them for another 2min and they were done. Beautiful in texture and presentation but once again not moist enough. I’ve been having problems with all my caking recipes ever since I moved about six months ago from Florida to Puerto Rico. Humidity level here is a killer and things rot a lot faster than over there. I’ve spoken to a couple of local bakeries and they all tell me the same thing, things dry out fast here and everything melts. Yikes! So my question is I’ve heard of adding instant vanilla pudding to cupcake mixes to make them more moist. Is that something that I can try with this recipe and will it make a difference or should I add or take away something in your recipe to make it more moist? I have made a lot of recipes in my time and I am a firm believer that you have definitely nailed it with this one and I want to give it one more go at it. As they say,”Third times a charm!” Thank you so much for your knowledge.

    1. I am sorry for all of your cupcake woes! The best ways to improve moisture are to increase sugar, increase fat, or increase liquids. You could try the pudding mix, but honestly it is just sugar and a starch predominantly. I would start by increasing the fat a bit. Best of luck and let me know if you have any more questions!

    2. Hi,
      I was wondering did you ever make them again and did you use the pudding? or anything else to help with the moistness?

  36. Hi Summer! What particular brand of all purpose flour were you using for your cakes and cupcakes? thank you and God bless! =)

  37. Good cupcakes. Not the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve had. The texture was a little too coarse for my preferences. They were moist. The flavour was great. Buttery and vanilla-y :). As always, thanks for the recipe! Love what you do

  38. Hello Summer! Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe. I’ve made this recipe twice now and was really happy with it the second time around – I adjusted the amount of cornstarch the second time and found that it really helped with the texture.

    However, I do have a question for you (and it’s quite possibly the dumbest question ever, but I’ll risk it either way :-)). I tend to use King Arthur’s unbleached APF and have noticed that 1/4 cup of flour is 30grams. Based on this information, it seems as though the weight for the flour is off for this recipe. How much does a cup of flour weigh according to your calculations?

  39. I just made these last week and they were the very best vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. I’ve been on a mission to find that one in million vanilla cupcake recipe that is moist, flavorful, soft but not too soft, very vanilla-y, and absolutely luscious. I’ve baked many many recipes, consulted pastry chefs, read about how to achieve this cupcake and your recipe is THE one. It’s perfect, everything I’ve always wanted in a vanilla cupcake. Thank you! I love reading your blog and I’ve learned so much from your site.

  40. Summer, is it 81/2 oz or 1 cup for sour cream? The tub comes in 8 oz or 16 oz and I thought 8 oz made 1cup Help! 🙁

  41. Hi Summer, I was just asked to make mini cupcakes. Ugh- I do cakes, very little cupcake work. Anything I should know or beware of making these mini? Will I dry the heck out of them? Add a little sneaky simple syrup? Thanks.

    1. I make these mini all the time with no problems. You should have no issues with moisture, but keep an eye on your baking time. They bake fast so check them around 15 min.

  42. I love this recipe! I made one batch as cappuccino cupcakes by adding 5 tsp of King Arthur’s espresso powder to the dry ingredients. I also made another batch into peanut butter cupcakes by reducing the oil to 1/3 cup, omitting the butter and adding 2/3 cup organic peanut butter. I am filling those with ganache and topping with swiss meringue buttercream. Thanks for your recipes, I love the science behind it all!

  43. What type/brand of AP flour did you use? If I use White Lily AP flour, should I still add the cornstarch? Can I use potato starch instead of cornstarch? Thank you! Your articles are extremely helpful!

    1. I have used many different brands with great results. I like King Arthur flours or Bob’s Red Mill which is local but widely distributed. Yes, potato starch should sub well for the cornstarch but you can skip it and just add the difference in flour if you like.

  44. These cupcakes had the most beautiful dome I’ve ever seen on a cupcake. Just beautiful! Is it possible to use half cake flour and more butter coupled with less oil? This is the first successful vanilla cupcake recipe I’ve tried…..and I’ve tried a few. The lower level of leavening made for the perfect rise. It is the right sweetness, not too much. Is lowering the leavening in other butter cake recipes (like chocolate) likely to result in such a beautiful dome without the overflow and dreaded muffin top?

    1. I am glad you had success with these! Yes, you should be able to use half cake flour and also to use more butter without foreseeable problems.

      Lowering levening may be able to help but the science is not that simple. There are so many contributing factors to structure that altering leavening will not produce a universally consistent result. Its definitely worth a try though! Good luck!

  45. I am so confused :/
    (14 ounces (397 grams) all- purpose/plain flour- 2 ¾ cup)
    Don’t 8 oz make 1cup? How 14 oz is 2 3/4 cups – which do I use?

  46. Summer,
    So I’ve made this recipe twice now and am loving the results. However, I was wondering how you would adapt this to make a citrus flavored cupcake. I thought that (in a perfect world) you could just add the zest and juice of any citrus and that cake would flavor nicely. Now, realizing just how scientific proportions are, I can see how this may not be the case. I would really love to have go to recipes for a lemon cupcake, blood orange, and orange, but I’m just not sure how much is too much in terms of zest, juice, and/or extracts.
    Thank you very much 🙂

  47. Hi Summer,

    I made the half recipe, and the result was AWESOME. All good things you can say about this recipe are not enough, it´s much more.

    I baked 1 cupcake an 1 cake in a aluminum pan Diameter: 17,5 cm. For text step I´m going to make it lighter as you mention in the Sour Cream Vanilla Bean Cake With French Sour Cream Buttercream Recipe: “For a lighter textured cake remove 2 tablespoons each vegetable oil and sugar and increase the baking soda to ½ teaspoon”.

    Have you try this recipe replacing the milk by orange juice and use orange zest? I know you have a recipe Orange Cake With Passion Fruit Buttercream but it too rich, I´d prefer a lighter version with butter-oil instead all butter. What if I use orange juice with orange yogurt and increase the baking soda? I´d like to use a bundt pan and an orange glaze.

    Best regards,


    (I apologize for my English, It´s not my mother language)

  48. Hi Summer. Love your recipes! Haveare several and have never been disappointed. You are my go to for all things cake! A quick question on freezing. Would you wrap them individually in plastic wrap before storing in an airtight container or just store unwrapped in airtight container? Thanks!

    1. Hi Sue! I’m glad you are enjoying the recipes. I don’t wrap the cupcakes in plastic. I just line them up in the bottom of an air tight container and seal them up. 🙂

  49. Hi Summer,
    I tried these cupcakes and they are delicious and the shape is beautiful. While moist, the texture is a little coarser than I prefer. I have read through the comments and haven’t seen anyone report back about their experiences with using cake flour instead of AP flour – have you tried this or heard from anyone as to whether the cupcakes turned out ok? If so, did they replace all of the flour and cornstarch with cake flour or just half? And then, if they replaced only half of the AP flour with cake flour, did they remove all or some of the cornstarch? Pease advise!

    1. I would replace half the flour with cake flour and remove the cornstarch. All cake flour cupcakes stale quickly and tend toward the drier end of the spectrum because of the high starch content. Half cake flour should alter the texture without substantial side effects. Good luck!

  50. Reporting back for anyone interested – I really liked the 1/2 AP flour, 1/2 cake flour adjustment. I did add 1.5 tsp of cornstarch for the AP flour part, just because I wasn’t sure what to do and I had to make the cupcakes before Summer had a chance to reply. They turned out great and the people I made them for loved them! Next time I’ll leave out the cornstarch and see what happens.

  51. Hi Summer, I’m so glad that I stumbled upon your blog a few months back. This vanilla cupcake recipe is my go to recipe now!! I have tried a few of your recipes with great success.. I love the way you explain and reason out “why u have or have not” so well. I am looking for a go to eggless vanilla and chocolate cake recipe.. So far haven’t had much luck with many of my trials.. Hoping you will be able to help me.

    1. Hi Savitha, Thank you! I’m glad you like the cupcakes. Eggless cakes are a bit tricky because eggs add a great deal of flavor that we normally don’t recognize until it’s gone. Vanilla is particularly tricky to replicate well. I have had pretty good luck using the cookbook “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World”. Their chocolate is tasty but a little undersweetened for my taste. The vanilla is a little lacking to me though. I like to add a bit of citrus to stand in for some of the flavor missing from the eggs. If I experiment and have good eggless results I will post them.

  52. Can I use buttermilk in place of the milk? If so, do I need to alter the leavening at all? What would you recommend. I have been trying to find a buttermilk vanilla cupcake recipe and thought this might work if I could alter it a bit. Thank you for all your help! We miss you on here and look forward to more recipes, hopefully!

  53. Hi Summer, thanks for your wonderful recipe! It is my go to for all my vanilla, lemon and orange wedding cakes now! I’ve been asked to make 100 mini cupcakes for a wedding next weekend and I saw you’ve made these as minis -approximately how many minis does this recipe make? Ruth 🙂

  54. Hi, I came across your site while looking for an awesome vanilla cake and cupcakes recipe 🙂
    This cupcake recipe looks divine! Can I also use it for cake, or do you have any recommendation for a vanilla cake?
    Thank you so much!
    Warm regards from AB, Canada

  55. Hello Summer, I love this recipe! I made cupcakes and everybody loved them and got lots of compliments. Now I want this recipe to be my go-to vanilla cake. I tried making it into cake and used an 8×2 and 8×3 cake pans. I baked them for 30 minutes at 350 and 6 extra minutes at 325 for the 8×2 and 15 extra at 325 for the 8×3. The 8×2 came out looking great with a smallish dome. The 8×3 came out quite ‘dark’ on the outside and with a huge dome. I’m thinking of getting another 8×2 so that I can make 3 as you suggested. My question is, can I have the batter wait out while I cook the first 2 8×2? My oven is quite small and can only fit 2 pans at a time. Also, are the temperature and time I’m using right or is there a better option?

    Thanks so much for your time and work coming up with all these recipes.

    I wish you a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

    1. Hi Maria, Yes, you can hold the third cake while the first two bake. I would refrigerate it if possible to slow any reactions that might occur at room temperature and alter the cake. Your time temperature on the 8×2’s sound right. I hope that answers your questions. If not let me know!

      1. Hello yet again Summer, I’m sorry I’m still pestering you. I’m practicing for my upcoming friend’s birthday and testing recipes and making sure I’ll have no baking surprises once I start working on the final product. Now that I solved the issue with baking in the 8″ pans, I’m wondering if you’d be able to tell me how to approach baking the same recipe in a 7×11 sheet pan (this I need for a carved cake I’m making for her as well) Should I put the whole batch in? I always use heat cores so I’m thinking maybe I need two here? Should I do the 350 first and then lower to 325?

        Once more I thank you for your time and willingness to help.

        Best regards.

  56. I would use 2/3 of the recipe in a 7×11 pan. I don’t think you should need a heat core at all, but one would be plenty sufficient. Rectangles have better wall stability. You can bake this at 350 F the whole time. It isn’t large enough to need a reduced time. Good luck! You have a lucky friend. And you’re smart to do a trial run. Last minute cake surprises are a nightmare! 😉

    1. Thanks again! I realized I needed to use the 9×12 pan so I went with the full batch and it turned out great! I LOVE this recipe!!! The bad thing of doing test runs is all the cake that needs to get eaten!
      I’m a stay at home mom of two little munchkins (4 and 6) and since I can only have 3 hrs. to myself three times a week I have to make sure whatever serious caking needs to take place goes smoothly. Whenever I have a new recipe to work with I make sure I get to the day of knowing how to make it and how it will turn out. I’m that much of a control freak I guess.
      You are awesome and it’s so kind of you to help. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

  57. hi there, i was just wondering what the reason behind leaving the cupcakes in the tin for 10 mins. I was also wondering if it is ok to take them out straight away or not? i always worry about them over cooking. thanks heaps

  58. sorry one more question. my cupcakes looked great in the oven with nice domes but when i took them out they sunk a bit and no longer have domes. do you know why this may be? thanks so much

  59. Hi Summer
    I have just made a batch of this vanilla cupcake. I have a 5 years old birthday coming up for my daughter. I find the recipe is a little bit sweet. Do you think I can reduce the sugar ? Will take affect the texture of the cake?
    Also, I am getting really high domes for the cupcakes, do you think this is due to over mixing? Thanks Summer 🙂

    1. Hi Gigi! You can definitely reduce the sugar by as much as a half cup. That change will likely help your doming as well, but you can also try reducing the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon. I doubt that over mixing caused the domes. It usually has the opposite effect. Here is a post on the effects of sugar on cake if you are interested:
      Sugar’s Impact on Cake

  60. Summer, this recipe ROCKS! I am an avid fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum, who does extensive food chemistry tests with her recipes, but even her vanilla cupcake recipe in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes didn’t work in my tulip cupcake liners. Your recipe totally changed my cupcake game. This recipe is delicious and the cupcakes keep their shape. Yay!! I can’t wait to try several more of your recipes. Your SMButtercream using carton egg whites has totally transformed my SMB game too. I haven’t tried your method of mixing yet, but that will happen too.

    1. Hi Melissa! I love Rose Levy Beranbaum too! I studied her Cake Bible like a text book when my sister asked me to make her wedding cake almost 20 years ago. I had no experience with large, tiered cake baking.
      I’m so glad these cupcakes work well for you! I have tried oodles of cupcake recipes and I always come back to these. I hope you enjoy other recipes too. Smiles!

  61. Hi Summer,
    I love all your cupcake recipes! I have to make strawberry cupcakes and I was going to use your cupcake recipe and add some ground freeze dried strawberries, but from looking at other recipes, it looks like I need to add strawberry puree as well. Since this is acidic, I thought I would use some strawberry puree to replace some of the sour cream – thinking a 1/2 cup puree and a 1/2 cup sour cream. Wondering if you think I could do that while leaving the rest of the recipe the same, or would I then have to adjust the leavening? Thanks for any advice!

    1. Hi Ami! You would be fine replacing either 1/2 cup of the sour cream or the milk with an equivalent amount of strawberry puree. However, if you replace the milk with puree, add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. You may need a couple of drops of red food coloring to get a pretty pink color. I don’t know if the freeze dried powder will add enough color to keep them from going grayish. I hope they come out fabulously for you! Please let me know about your results. 🙂

  62. 4 years later this is still my go to recipe for vanilla cakes. Everyone loves it, never a complaint. The only thing I change is the flavor … I use 1 T vanilla extract and 1 t almond extract. I bake at 325. I can’t begin to tell you how many compliments I get on this ecipe as a cake. It pairs good with all fillings and icings, carves beautifully when required. It is a great all round cake for every occasion and style of cake, with a moist lovely texture/crumb. Thank you ❣

    1. Thank you Joyce! I truly appreciate you shaing this with me. My highest hope in creating a recipe is that others can use it to bless the people they share it with. This makes my heart happy!

    1. Hi Tanya, I’m not sure of the specific size I used here. Right now I’m using a Wilton “standard” cupcake liner and it is comparable to what was used here. Sorry I cannot be exact!

      1. Thanks Summer – I made them using “big” cases … as compared to the “small” ones (not mini) and it made approx 24, so I guess I got the same ones as you used! I made 50 of these for a birthday party and had the most wonderful compliments from so many people. Everyone was super impressed with the texture and flavour (I actually used almond flavour instead of vanilla, and topped them with vanilla buttercream). They were decorated as little aliens (Americolor electric green paste and black fondant eyes and mouth). Thanks again for this recipe it’s clearly a winner.

  63. Hello again Summer! Sorry, baking frenzy going on right now so lots of questions 🙂 If I wanted to half this recipe to only make a dozen, how would I divide the quantity of eggs? Full recipe is for 3 whole eggs plus 2 yolks. Would I be better off doing 2 whole eggs plus 1 yolk, or 1 whole egg plus 1 yolk?

    Also, I think I messed up since I did try this yesterday. They seem flatter than they should. I used my Kitchenaid on lowest speed. Do you think it better to do the mixing by hand? Maybe it was too much with the big machine?

    1. Hello! I would just go with two whole eggs. You’ll be fine without the additional yolk.

      I always mix these in my Kitchen Aid, so that shouldn’t be the problem. Little, unpredictable things can sometimes matter from ingredients to room temperature. Try letting the batter sit for 5 min then give it a stir by hand before pouring into cups. It seems like my last, scraping-the-batter-bowl cupcakes always have the best shape. Best wishes!

  64. Your cupcakes were great! Thank you! I was wondering if I could turn these into lemon cupcakes with additional lemon extract and lemon zest? What are your recommendations? Thanks again!

    1. Hi Jen! Thank you! Yes, you can easily turn these into lemon cupcakes. I like a combination of lemon zest and either lemon oil or lemon extract. The zest gives the freshest lemon flavor and the oil or extract help boost the lemon potency. I would use 1-2 tablespoons of zest and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of oil or extract depending on how strong you want the flavors.

  65. Hi Summer! This is my go to vanilla cupcake recipe. I was wondering if I could swirl a fruit jam with the batter and would I need to adjust anything with the recipe to do so. Thank you for all your awesome recipes and the science behind them!

    1. Hi Michelle! Yes, you can swirl in some jam for fruity flavor. You may want to cut back on sugar a little if you add much jam. If you add 1\2 cup jam, cut back 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar. If you really want the fruit flavor to stand out, I recommend adding a complimentary extract. Fruit flavors often come across very muted when added in an appropriate level to cupcakes or cake. I like to mimic the cake flavor in the buttercream too. It is easier to get a pronounced fruit flavor in buttercream than it is in cake. I hope that helps!

  66. I love this recipe! I was interested in possibly making a peanut butter variation and wanted to know your recommendations for achieving this.


    1. Hi Rica! I’m so glad you enjoy this recipe. Peanut butter is a little bit of a funny ingredient because it acts a bit like a fat and a bit like a starch. Without playing around with the recipe with peanut butter, I can’t be sure how exactly to proceed, but I can give you my best guess. I would eliminate the butter, scale the flour back to 12 1/2 ounces (or 2 1/2 cups), reduce the sour cream to 1/2 cup and add 1 cup of creamy peanut butter to the sugar-oil mixture. Best of luck! If you try it out, please let me know. If I get a chance to make a batch this way, I will get back to you. 🙂

  67. Hi Summer,

    Thank you for this recipe. What can I use to sub corn starch? Can I use just cake flour of half and half of AP bleached or unbleached and Cake flour?
    Will I have to change any other thing in the ingredients? Thank you

    1. Hi Kemi! Yes, you can definitely use half cake flour and half AP flour (bleached or unbleached) and skip the cornstarch. I would add the lost volume of cornstarch in cake flour. Meaning, add an additional tablespoon cake flour to your flour volume. Enjoy!

      1. Thank you. Or is this recipe the best with cornstarch? So I don’t alter it if it will bring about some changes. Like was cornstarch used in place of cake flour or so.. just want to understand the use of cornstarch. Thanks

        1. I think the cupcake texture is overall better a portion of cake flour. Adding cornstarch is a way to mimic cake flour without actually using it. When I originally developed this recipe, I was looking for a recipe that acted like a cake mix and could be similarly doctored. This recipe is essentially a wasc cake made from scratch. I followed cake mix proportions and included the corn starch like a cake mix does. If I were you, and you have the time, I would try it both ways and just see which one you prefer. Smiles!

  68. I’ve used this recipe for several years. The texture is sublime. I prefer to substitute cake flour for the all-purpose, as they taste like sweet cornbread muffins with the all-purpose. I just read the comments and am glad I can reduce the sugar by a 1/2 c. This recipe is a tad too sweet for my taste. Would it be possible to adjust the oil/butter ratio for more butter flavor?

    1. Tammy! Goodness me, this message slipped through a crack. I agree, that using cake flour refines the texture of these cupcakes. I often will use at least a portion of cake or pastry flour when I make these. And yes, you can definitely reduce the sugar. Sugar does, oddly enough, give lift to your baked goods. So, if you reduce the sugar the cupcakes may become slightly more dense, but the bit of variation may be worth the reduction in sweetness. You can absolutely reduce the oil ratio in this recipe. It should be fine to do a direct swap of ingredients. If you do notice changes, you can increase the amount of butter by a tablespoon or so to compensate for some loss of fat when switching to butter. The butter should refine the texture of your cupcakes as well. I’m so glad that this recipe has worked well for you and thank you for sharing your experiences, insights and suggestions! It helps readers make adjustments to suit their individual tastes and preferences and that is my ultimate goal! Best wishes!

  69. Hi Summer,
    Can I use Reverse creaming method for this recipe as a cake ? If so how will I go about it? I have experienced big tunnel or holes in the cake and I slammed the pan on the counter top quite a number of time before baking to pop bubbles.

    1. Interesting! I think the reverse creaming method may be a good option to try. I wonder if slamming the cake beforehand may be having the opposite of the desired effect? It could be that you are collapsing your tiny fragile bubbles that form an even sponge and what is remaining creates larger air pockets. Just a theory. To reverse cream, mix your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt) and stir to blend. Add in the oil, soft butter and half the room temperature sour cream. Blend and beat this mixture until smooth and uniform, about a minute. Combine the remaining sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla and whisk to blend. Slowly add this liquid mixture to your flour-fats mix with the mixer on low. Once it is all added, increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes until smooth and lightened. Bake as directed. Let me know how it goes!

      1. Oh wow Summer you are right.. I see some bubbles so am thinking slamming will help pop them but boy they hard to pop so I give up and place them in the oven.
        Now I know so next time I won’t bother about slamming and will try the reverse method and let you know when I do. Thank you

  70. Hi Summer,
    I hope you doing great.
    I will like to bake your cupcake recipe as a cake. I do have bleached AP flour and bleached cake flour.
    What would you suggest I use or the ratio between both? Or just use AP? Looking for what will give me the best similar result to yours. I know you use unbleached flour. If I can get my hand on that what would the ratio be to fir unbleached to cake flour ?
    Thank you so much.
    Also do you have any summer new cake flavors?

  71. Hi Summer,
    Trust you doing well. I have a question about the flours. If I am using AP Bleached do I skip on using the cake flour? I want to use this recipe as a cake.
    For all your recipes on your blog are they all used with AP unbleached?
    Any new summer recipes coming up?

    1. Hello! I usually use unbleached but either works fine. I would use the cake flour even with bleached flour. While bleached flours are lower in protein than unbleached, they are still higher than cake flour. Sometimes you still need those extra starches.

  72. I love love your blog! I have had this recipe marked for 6 years! I finally made it and the cupcakes were so dry I bake quite a bit. I have a scale. I measured , checked temp and when they came out they looked beautiful and soft and as they cooled the tops were hard and cupcakes were dry. But there were crumbs on the toothpick when I took them out. Was it the cornstarch?

    1. Hi Shirin! Sorry for the delay. I have had a crazy work/life schedule as of recent times. That is very interesting that your cupcakes came out dry. These are consistently moist for me. Since you measured, the only thing that I could figure would be a difference of ingredients. The cornstarch could play a role, but at only 1 tablespoon, I would not think it would be much. One consistent way to add moisture without disrupting structure is to add more liquid. You could likely add 1/4 cup of milk to increase the moisture. Sorry for you dry experience! I wish you better baking luck in the future.

    1. Hi Tyler, I have not made these cupcakes egg and dairy free but it is definitely worth a try. I would use dairy free versions of sour cream, milk and butter. There are many options available that should work. I have had success in substituting half palm oil and half coconut oil in baking for butter as well. For the egg, substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder for each egg. If you have it on hand, 1 teaspoon xanthan gum may help with structure as well. Please let me know if you give this a try. For egg and dairy free cupcakes, I have often used recipes from the Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World cookbook. That’s another resource you could tap into. Best of luck!

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