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Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

5 stars based on 28 votes

cupcakes

Here’s another tried n’ true recipe from my cake baking days. It’s my go-to when I need to whip up a quick batch of birthday cupcakes. The buttermilk adds a subtle, pleasant tang and also keeps the cupcakes very moist. If you’d like to make the recipe as a layer cake, it works beautifully: just divide the batter into two 9-inch cake pans (buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper) and bake for 30-35 minutes.

ingredients

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

dry-ingredients

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, then beat in the eggs one at a time.

beating-in-eggs

Add the flour, alternating with the buttermilk, in three separate additions, finishing with the flour.

adding-flour-and-buttermilk

The batter will look like this.

cake-batter

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

ready-to-bake

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden.

baked-cupcakes

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

frosting-ingredients

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. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, mixing on low to combine. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

making-frosting

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.  

My Recipe Videos

Buttermilk Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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 (1/2 pound) 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

  • 1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 cups 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, until 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.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Would this recipe work with two 13x9in pans? I want to make a double layer sheet cake for a party

    - Gretchen on December 26, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Gretchen, It will work but you might want to increase the recipe by 1.5. I’d love to know how it turns out!

      - Jenn on December 27, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    First of all, this recipe is incredible as both layer cake and cupcakes. Someone asked about piping–I successfully piped the frosting for cupcakes and it looked great. The key was to make the frosting and fill the piping bags, then chill, bring back to cool room temp, and pipe before it got too warm. I frosted them generously but still only used about 60% of it. Extra cream cheese frosting in a piping bag is a dangerous thing to have around…

    I’m planning a birthday party and need to serve about 36 people. I would like to 1.5x the recipe and bake it in two 9×13 pans to make a double layer sheet cake. Do you think this would work and, if so, how long would you recommend baking it?

    - Erika on September 30, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Erika, I do think it’d work but it’s hard to say on the cook time as I’ve never tried it. My guess is 35-40 minutes. Hope that helps, and please lmk how it turns out.

      - Jenn on October 1, 2017 Reply
      • Thanks, I will!

        - Erika on October 1, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made the chocolate and vanilla cupcakes for my husband to take to work as a thank you for all the help he received on a project and they turned out great. Thank you for the recipes!

    - Donna B. on September 28, 2017 Reply
  • Hi- love your recipes. I am making a 4 layer cake using 9 inch pans. Can i double this recipe or should I make 2 batches? Thanks. About how high will a layer be using 9 inch pan?

    - Chithra on September 22, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Chithra,

      I think you could safely double it. A 9-inch pan will make a 1.5-inch high cake. Would love to see a photo when it’s done!

      - Jenn on September 24, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Just made these they are amazing. Thank You for sharing….

    - Debbie Avakian on September 21, 2017 Reply
  • Hi, does 2-3/4 cups mean 2 cups and 3/4 of a cup? As in almost 3 cups? Thanks 🙂

    - Ana on September 12, 2017 Reply
    • Correct– hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on September 12, 2017 Reply
  • Do you have a chocolate cream cheese recipe?
    The cupcake reviews are FABULOUS. I will be baking the cupcakes next Sat for my son-in-law’s 43rd birthday party.
    #goddessbuzz Tampa Bay

    - Richardene #goddessbuzz on August 30, 2017 Reply
    • Hi, Are you referring to chocolate frosting?

      - Jenn on August 30, 2017 Reply
      • Yes, do you have a recipe for chocolate creme cheese frosting? Thank you

        - Richardene on August 30, 2017 Reply
        • Hi Richardene, I don’t have one that contains cream cheese. Feel free to take a peek at this one though to see if it appeals to you.

          - Jenn on September 1, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made these cupcakes (as 48 mini cupcakes) and they were a perfectly light and tasty birthday treat for a 7yr old’s party. I followed the directions almost exactly and found it was so easy to make – and also there wasn’t too much to wash in terms of utensils/bowls which was a nice plus.
    I used whole wheat flour (to try and convince myself it was healthier that way) and it turned out fine.
    The icing was a good workout as I mixed it by hand and the cream cheese was a little hard to manipulate….but perseverance paid off and it became light and fluffy….and delicious! I found I could have easily halved the ingredients to ice all 48 mini cupcakes.
    Thank you for another great recipe!

    - Ponyo on August 27, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    HI i have another question.
    Can i use 4 medium eggs instead of 4 large or do i use more medium eggs.
    Thanks once again
    DV

    - DV on July 26, 2017 Reply
    • Medium eggs should be fine– no need to use an additional egg.

      - Jenn on July 28, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi, God, I’m such a fan of your recipes. By far all have been fabulous.I had a few a questions, it would be great if you would help.
    1. Can I substitute the butter with oil?
    2. Can I enjoy these darlings without the icing?
    3. I have fresh pineapple at home can i add it into the cake mix and bake it, do you think i need to alter anything?
    4. Can I reduce the sugar, as i don’t like very sweet cakes?
    Thanks a ton.
    DV

    - DV on July 26, 2017 Reply
    • Hi DV, I’m glad you like the recipes and am happy to help! I’ve answered your questions in the order you asked: 1. No- you won’t achieve the right texture with oil. 2. Yes! 3. Yes- just make sure to drain any juice from it and, because it will add some liquid to the mix, reduce the buttermilk by 1/4 cup. 4. Yes, you could reduce the sugar by up to 1/2 cup. (Keep in mind that sugar does help keep the cake moist.) Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on July 28, 2017 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Thank you for your reply

        - DV on August 2, 2017 Reply
  • Can cake flour be used instead of all purpose flour?

    - Krystal on June 4, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Krystal, I would stick with the all-purpose flour here– sorry!

      - Jenn on June 5, 2017 Reply
  • This is an awesome recipe, thank you!!

    - Ck on May 26, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    About high altitude baking. I live at 7000 feet in Park City, UT. As a former Californian I had to re-learn baking at this altitude. 🙂 I did make slight changes to the recipe: I didn’t change the baking soda amount, but did reduce the sugar by 1/4 cup (you won’t notice) plenty sweet. I also changed the temperature to 375 degrees, it helps set the batter faster, but I reduced the baking time by 5 minutes. Check your oven, they often differ. Mine came out great. Hope this helps.

    - Maria Roberts on May 11, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These cupcakes were delicious and the instructions were super easy and straightforward. no one could believe i made them from scratch! i cant wait to make them again

    - Raquel on May 11, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi,
    Is the cream cheese frosting sturdy enough to pipe out and hold its shape?

    - Reva on May 10, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Reva, I don’t recommend this recipe for piping. Sorry!

      - Jenn on May 11, 2017 Reply
  • My daughter is requesting yellow cake with chocolate frosting for her birthday. I’ve been searching and reviewing recipes online but know I can rely on your recipes. Loved your vanilla birthday cake. Is your buttermilk cake a “yellow” cake? And have you ever made it with chocolate frosting?

    - Molly Nichols on May 4, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Molly, the cake is a pale yellow. Does that count? 🙂 And you can definitely use chocolate frosting here if you prefer. Happy birthday to your daughter!

      - Jenn on May 5, 2017 Reply
  • What are your suggestions for high altitude adjustments?

    - Jenny on April 13, 2017 Reply
    • Hi Jenny, I don’t have any experience baking at high altitudes, but these tips should be helpful. Hope you enjoy the cupcakes!

      - Jenn on April 13, 2017 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi – My daughter and I made these cupcakes and loved them. Can we use these same buttermilk cupcake ingredients and make a cake?

    - Jennifer G. on April 9, 2017 Reply
    • Definitely– this works beautifully as a layer cake– just divide the batter into two 9-inch cake pans (buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper) and bake for 30-35 minutes.

      - Jenn on April 9, 2017 Reply
  • This recipe is the perfect example of why you should learn to bake using a scale instead of measuring by cups. So you want to half this recipe? Quick, whats half of 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour? But it’s simple to half 340 grams. Life would be so much simpler if more sites presented recipes like Jenn does!

    - abg on December 10, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I baked these cupcakes for the very first time last night and they were delicious!
    The only thing I did different was combine all the dry ingredients together, then I added the butter until it was a sand like texture, then I added my wet ingredients. Either way it’s a great recipe and a great base for any cupcake?
    “Happy Baking”!

    - Bonnie on October 19, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Have just made these cupcakes will they keep uniced in an airtight tin for 2 days? They seem alright but contain a lot of sugar was 400grammes correct?

    - Christine Shawcroft on September 22, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Christine, Yes, they should keep fine and 400 g is correct. Hope you enjoy them!

      - Jenn on September 23, 2016 Reply
  • This looks amazing and am going to make them this weekend for a baby shower! Would it work to substitute lemon juice instead of vanilla for the icing? And filling the cupcakes with a bit of lemon curd? Or would these flavors not work well together? I’m a novice 🙂

    - mollie on September 12, 2016 Reply
    • Yes Mollie, both the lemon juice and the lemon curd should work– hope you enjoy!

      - Jenn on September 13, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hello Jenn,
    I will be making my daughter’s first birthday cake this week-end and have decided to use your vanilla buttermilk cupcake recipe which sounds great. I will be making it x1.5 and using three 9″ pans and adding food coloring for a pink and orange cake 🙂 I noticed there is no baking powder in your ingredients and I am used to always seeing that ingredient in cake recipes so I wanted to check with you before I make a cake fail…! Thank you in advance!

    - Arianna on July 14, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Arianna, Sounds like it will be a pretty cake! This recipe doesn’t require baking powder because it contains buttermilk which helps with the leavening. Happy 1st birthday to your daughter!

      - Jenn on July 15, 2016 Reply
  • Jenn,

    Do you think I could halve this recipe? All of the ingredients would seem to divide well except the flour — any thoughts on that? Thank you!!

    - alisa on July 2, 2016 Reply
    • Sure, this could be halved. For the flour you would need 1 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Hope that helps!

      - Jenn on July 3, 2016 Reply
  • Can a 2 layer cake be made with this recipe?

    - Karen on May 22, 2016 Reply
    • Definitely– Just divide the batter into two 9-inch cake pans (buttered and lined with buttered parchment paper) and bake for 30-35 minutes. Enjoy!

      - Jenn on May 23, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi,

    Will be making these cupcakes for a friend’s birthday tomorrow. However i will be using a 6 muffin pan and baking in batches. Do we need to refrigerate the batter between the batches?
    Please let me know

    Thanks!
    Sri

    - Sri on May 19, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sri, If you’re making the batches back-to-back without much lag time in between, you don’t need to refrigerate the batter.

      - Jenn on May 19, 2016 Reply
      • Thanks for the awesome recipe.Made a princess pullapart cupcake cake with these cupcakes and they were a hit!
        This recipe sure is a keeper. Thanks once again!

        - Sri on May 21, 2016 Reply
  • What is the substitute for liquid buttermilk? The only available ingredient in my place is powdered buttermilk. Thanks 🙂

    - Sunshine on May 3, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Sunshine, you can make your own buttermilk: Just add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice or white vinegar to regular milk and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

      - Jenn on May 3, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These cupcakes are amazing! I baked 3 batches for my elementary club kids for our party tomorrow. Can’t wait to surprise them with these yummy treats. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

    - Brenda Young on April 19, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These cupcakes are excellent! Moist, flavorful and light. I diced up some strawberries and added to the batter before baking for some strawberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. They were out of this world amazing.

    - Wendy on April 3, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this but used lemon instead of vanilla flavoring and was very pleased with the results. Very moist cupcake and lovely frosting. Pinning it as my main cupcake base recipe to change it up and get creative.

    - Candace on March 25, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These cupcakes were amazing!!

    - Natalie on March 22, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Absolutely hit it outta the park!! These were a huge hit in my house.
    I served this w/ chocolate cream cheese frosting. Thanks again for another AMAZING recipe 🙂

    - Amy on March 3, 2016 Reply
  • Can I use milk instead of buttermilk? Will it affect the outcome?

    - Diana on February 21, 2016 Reply
    • Hi Diana, Unfortunately, the cake won’t rise without the buttermilk. If you don’t have any, you could always make your own by adding lemon juice or vinegar to the milk. Here’s how.

      - Jenn on February 21, 2016 Reply
      • 5 stars

        Thanks Jen!

        I made the recipe exactly as you wrote it for my son’s first birthday. Everyone loved them!

        A few notes. I ended up with 20 cupcakes instead of 24. I also halved the amount of frosting and still had enough frosting for another batch of cupcakes. I also sprinkled coconut flakes on top of each cupcake.

        - Diana on February 23, 2016 Reply
        • Thanks for the feedback, Diana. So glad everyone enjoyed them!

          - Jenn on February 24, 2016 Reply
  • Hi!
    can I use cake flour instead?
    Great site thanks! ,

    - evelisse on February 10, 2016 Reply
    • I wouldn’t use cake flour with this recipe. Sorry!

      - Jenn on February 11, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    These were absolutely delicious, made exactly as Jenn wrote.

    - Sara Kahn on January 27, 2016 Reply
    • Glad you enjoyed them, Sara!

      - Jenn on January 27, 2016 Reply
  • Hello – I made your Lemon Buttermilk Pound cake all summer (at least 4-5 times!) and it was spectacular.

    I need a yellow/vanilla/butter cake recipe for my son’s 2nd birthday party so I came to your site since the lemon buttermilk pound cake worked so well for me. I notice an earlier commenter mentioned a vanilla birthday cake. I don’t think I saw that on your website. Please advise. Thanks!

    - April on December 14, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Hi Jenn! Do you think these would work well as “mini cupcakes”? If so, how long do you think I should bake them for? Thanks so much!

    - Natalia on December 13, 2015 Reply
    • Yes Natalia, I think you could make mini versions of these. I’d start checking them for doneness after about 10 minutes.

      - Jenn on December 14, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I have used this recipe twice as the yellow cake for a traditional Doberge Cake. It was absolutely delicious both times! The vanilla birthday cake is great too. I’ve always had trouble keeping my cakes moist, but I haven’t had problems with these recipes.

    - Mallory on November 19, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    These cupcakes are good, and easy to make! One thing, is that they are a bit heavy with the butter. Not really a fan of the taste of butter, and I could taste it in the cupcake a little bit.

    - Erika on October 7, 2015 Reply
  • Hello, What is the best way to freeze these cupcakes? I need to bake ahead for a large party. Thanks.

    - Lynne on August 15, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Lynne, I would let the cupcakes cool completely, then wrap them (individually) in plastic wrap, then in foil. The frosting doesn’t freeze well, so definitely wait until they are defrosted to ice them.

      - Jenn on August 19, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I made this for my son’s 3rd birthday last week. Added a few sprinkles on top of the icing for color. I made them the night before so I had to refrigerate them overnight. Took them out to get to room temp about 2 hours before serving.
    Everyone loved them. Very yummy and moist. Thanks for another great recipe Jenn!

    - T.A. on May 26, 2015 Reply
  • Hello, I’m wanting to make this cake for my son’s second birthday but we live in a very hot country so I tend to make my icing with crisco so it doesn’t melt. Am I able to substitute crisco for butter?

    Many thanks

    Samantha

    - Samantha on May 11, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Samantha, Yes, that’s fine — or you might try substituting just part of the butter with Crisco so you get a little butter flavor.

      - Jenn on May 11, 2015 Reply
  • 5 stars

    I don’t bake and usually buy cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday…but this year she wanted to bake them from scratch. We made these and they were so delicious and easy! You might just make a baker out of me 🙂

    - Carol on May 9, 2015 Reply
  • 4 stars

    Charming and delicious, just a note; my mom taught me to ‘make’ buttermilk out of whole milk and lemon juice. It works fine with this recipe.

    - Margot C on May 6, 2015 Reply
  • I don’t have mixer, can I make this with wooden spoon and Ballon whisk?

    - mala on April 28, 2015 Reply
    • Hi Mala, Your arm might get sore but yes 🙂

      - Jenn on April 28, 2015 Reply

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