Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Tested & Perfected Recipes

Made with buttermilk, these are the most luscious vanilla cupcakes. 

how to make cupcakes

When my kids were babies, I started a home-based baking business specializing in special occasion cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s birthday parties. Before I opened, I spent weeks testing every vanilla and chocolate cake recipe under the sun, often baking into the wee hours. My husband would wake up in the morning to find the countertops covered with cakes and cupcakes. He thought I’d lost my mind—little did he know I was just discovering my passion for creating recipes, which was the impetus for starting my blog. Eventually, I created a few recipes that I loved and could rely on, like these vanilla cupcakes.

If you’d like to make the recipe as a layer cake, it works beautifully; simply divide the batter into two 9-inch cake pans (buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper). The recipe also works in a 9×13-in cake pan. The bake time for both is about 30 minutes.

What you’ll need to make vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by whisking the dry ingredients together in a bowl, then set aside.

whisking dry ingredients for vanilla cupcakes

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

creaming butter and sugar

Beat in the vanilla.

adding vanillaBeat in the eggs one at a time.

adding the eggs

Mix in a third of the flour.

Then mix in half of the buttermilk.

adding the buttermilkContinue alternating the dry ingredients and buttermilk, finishing with the flour.

vanilla cupcake batter

Spoon the batter into paper-lined muffin tins. They will be almost full.

ready-to-bake

Bake for 20-25 minutes, switching the pans from top to bottom and back to front midway through.

baked-cupcakes

Let cool in the pan until just warm, then transfer to rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the frosting.

How To Make The Cream Cheese Frosting

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes.

mixing butter and cream cheese for frostingGradually add the confectioners’ sugar, mixing on low to combine.

adding sugar to cream cheese frostingOnce all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

cream cheese frosting in mixing bowl

When the cupcakes are cool, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to swirl the frosting lavishly over top. The cupcakes are best enjoyed fresh on the day that they are baked.

Buttermilk-Cupcakes

Note: The cake portion of the recipe is adapted from Nick Malgieri’s Perfect Cakes. I’ve mentioned this book before — it’s wonderful and full of reliable, delicious recipes.  

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Made with buttermilk, these are the most luscious vanilla cupcakes. 

Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes, plus time to cool the cupcakes

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk

For the Frosting

  • 12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 cups (1 lb) confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners. Grease the top of the muffin pans with butter so the cupcake tops don't stick.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beaters), beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Reduce the speed to low, then beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining buttermilk. Beat in the remaining flour, then scrape down the bowl and beat again until the batter is just combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling almost to the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, switching the pans from top to bottom and back to front midway through. Remove from the oven when the cupcakes are set, lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (note that one pan may finish cooking before the other). Cool in the pan for about 15 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar; mix on low to combine. Mix in the remaining sugar in two additions, keeping the speed on low. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. When the cupcakes are cool, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to swirl the frosting lavishly over top. The cupcakes are best enjoyed fresh on the day that they are baked. To keep them longer, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature before serving.
  3. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cupcakes can be frozen without the frosting for up to 3 months. Let them cool completely, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and then in foil. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving. (Wait until the cupcakes are defrosted to ice them.)

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 cupcake
  • Calories: 379
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Saturated fat: 12 g
  • Carbohydrates: 49 g
  • Sugar: 37 g
  • Protein: 4 g
  • Sodium: 155 mg
  • Cholesterol: 83 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I’ve made this recipe a couple times before, and this time I was thinking of turning them into lemon cupcakes. How much lemon zest/juice would you recommend adding? I was also thinking of doing a blackberry frosting. Do you think adding strained and reduced blackberry to the cream cheese frosting would work, or better to stick with a buttercream? Thanks! (I love all your recipes, and cook from this site and your book all the time!)

    • — Ilana on March 16, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Ilana, I would not recommend adding lemon juice but you could add up to a tablespoon of lemon zest. And regarding the frosting, yes as long as the blackberries are reduced and puréed, I think you could add some to the cream cheese frosting. If you make them I’d love to see a picture of them! Feel free to send me one at [email protected]. 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 19, 2021
      • Reply
  • Perfect cupcakes!

    • — Laura on March 15, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hello, Jenn! Could I add a strained strawberry purée to the frosting for a bit of color and flavor? Thanks in advance!

    • — Maggy Makowski on March 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Maggie, I wouldn’t recommend it as the extra liquid from the purée may make the frosting too thin. You could pulverize some dehydrated strawberries so that they are the texture of dust and incorporate them into the frosting. That will give it some strawberry flavor and pretty color. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on March 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • Cupcakes were a bit dry. I would suggest cutting the bake time a bit as well. Looked great and great flavor but dry.

    • — Stacy on January 28, 2021
    • Reply
    • These cupcakes were amazing! I only baked for 18 minutes and they were perfect and moist. Thanks for the awesome recipe.

      • — Samantha on February 12, 2021
      • Reply
  • Nice flavor, but these cupcakes are not moist. I’ve made this recipe 3 different times, using different types of flour(cake & all purpose). It is just not a great recipe.

    • — Kenya on December 23, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. Would these cupcakes pair well with your old fashion buttercream icing? Looking forward to trying this one!

    • — Elisha on November 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sure!

      • — Jenn on November 10, 2020
      • Reply
  • I made these and they were great fresh… But I put them in the fridge to store them, and they went rock hard.

    • — Katrina on October 14, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Katrina, Did you store them in an airtight container? If so, once you bring them back to room temperature, they should soften up.

      • — Jenn on October 15, 2020
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    I really enjoy your website and trying new recipes. I want to try your Vanilla Cupcake recipe but make a cake for my son’s birthday. I don’t have two 9″ baking pans and would like to make this in a Bundt pan. Would that work and what would the baking time and oven temp be?

    Thank you!

    • — Joanne on August 22, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Joanne, Glad you like the recipes! I wouldn’t recommend this recipe in a bundt pan as I’m concerned it would stick. While it’s a tiny bit different, I’d recommend this one instead (it’s delicious)!

      • — Jenn on August 25, 2020
      • Reply
  • Does it make 24 cupcakes in jumbo muffin tins or regular sized tins?

    • — Mia on August 15, 2020
    • Reply
    • Regular-sized tins. 🙂

      • — Jenn on August 16, 2020
      • Reply
      • Hi, I made this as a layer cake with nutella frosting for my birthday and it was amazing! Thank you! Is it possible to half the recipe to get half the amount of cupcakes?

        Thanks

        Linda

        • — Linda on October 8, 2020
        • Reply
        • Glad you enjoyed it (and happy birthday)! Yes, it would be fine to halve the recipe/number of cupcakes. 🙂

          • — Jenn on October 9, 2020
          • Reply
  • Hi! These look amazing and I can’t wait to try them out. One question: Can I use vanilla bean instead of extract? I was hoping to make these a little extra fancier for a close friend, but I wasn’t sure if it would change or make the flavor of the cupcakes strange.

    • — Madelyn on August 8, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Madelyn, I haven’t made these with vanilla bean but I think it should work. Hope your friend enjoys!

      • — Jenn on August 8, 2020
      • Reply

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