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Vanilla Cupcakes

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Made with buttermilk and topped with cream cheese frosting, these are the most luscious vanilla cupcakes. 

When my kids were little, I started a baking business specializing in cakes and cupcakes, mostly for children’s parties. Before I began, I spent weeks testing every type of cake recipe under the sun, often baking into the middle of the night. Michael would wake up in the morning to find the kitchen overflowing with all flavors of cakes and cupcakes. He thought I’d lost my mind—little did he know I was just discovering my passion for developing recipes, which was the motivation for starting my blog. These are the vanilla cupcakes that won me over. They are wonderful topped with cream cheese frosting or rich chocolate buttercream.

If you’d like to make the recipe as a layer cake, it works beautifully; simply divide the batter into two 8-inch cake pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The recipe also works in a 9×13-in cake pan, baked for 30 minutes. (Note: This recipe was updated with new instructions in May 2022. To see the original recipe, click here.)

What you’ll need to make vanilla Cupcakes

vanilla cupcake ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla.

eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla ready to whisk

Whisk well and set aside. The mixture will start to look curdled as it sits; that’s okay.

whisked buttermilk mixture

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in electric mixer

Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine.

mixed dry ingredient mixture

Add the soft butter and half of the buttermilk mixture.

adding butter and half of buttermilk mixture

Mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute.

moistened vanilla cupcake batter

With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture,

adding remaining buttermilk mixture

Increase the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.

pale and creamy vanilla cupcake batter

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pans, filling the cups almost full.

vanilla cupcakes ready to bake

Bake for 20 to 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.

vanilla cupcakes cooling on rack

Frost the cooled cupcakes with icing and store in an airtight container until ready to serve.

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

Made with buttermilk and topped with cream cheese frosting, 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

  • 1 cup buttermilk (see note)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Heaping ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
  • Cream cheese frosting or rich chocolate buttercream

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and set an oven rack in the middle position. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Lightly grease the top of the muffin pans with butter so the cupcake tops don't stick.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside. (Note that the mixture will start to look curdled as it sits; that's okay.)
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. Add the soft butter and half of the buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until moistened but still a little crumbly, about 1 minute. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the remaining buttermilk mixture, then increase the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The batter should look pale and creamy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, making sure the batter is evenly mixed.
  4. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin pans, filling the cups almost full. Bake for 20 to 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. Frost the cupcakes and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. The cupcakes are best served fresh on the day they are made, but they will keep nicely for up to 2 days.
  5. Note: If you’d like to make your own buttermilk, check out the easy method here.
  6. 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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Comments

  • I think i have got confused – has this recipe recently changed the instructions? I seem to remember beating butter and sugar for five minutes, then adding eggs before buttermilk etc – I have this vanilla cupcake recipe down as one of my favourite recipes of yours, but have I got it confused with one of your other cake recipes? Thanks!

    • — LP on June 2, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi LP, You’re not crazy – I recently updated the recipe to use a different method which makes the cupcakes fluffier (I mention the update in the second paragraph and include a link to the original recipe, but it’s easy to miss!). If you’d prefer to make the old recipe, you can find it here.

      • — Jenn on June 2, 2022
      • Reply
      • Thank you! Almost as soon as I posted this I found where you had put that in the page 😁 many thanks – I’ll try out the tweaked one as well soon which I’m sure is just as delicious!

        • — LP on June 3, 2022
        • Reply
  • these cupcakes changed my life 😍😍😍. wish i could put 6 stars

    • — airyawn on May 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe is so amazing and mouth watering and very good

    • — Scarlet on April 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • This recipe is so amazing

    • — Scarlet on April 23, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn’s recipes are ALWAYS a big hit. My son requested vanilla cupcakes for his birthday and loved these. The icing is delicious. Theses cupcakes are moist and flavorful, but best served the same day. Even refrigerated in an airtight container, they do not stay moist and fresh. I would definitely take them to a pot luck or serve them to guests, but they must be made the same day. Thanks Jenn!

    • — Snowbound on March 24, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn’s vanilla cupcakes are the best!! The only changes I made were to the frosting. (I’m not a fan of the heavy butter flavor in my frosting.) I cut the butter to 1 stick, added the rest of the box of confectioner’s sugar, as well as 1 to 2 tablespoons of milk. The result was lighter, both in texture and whiteness. I then piped the frosting onto the cupcakes. Yummy.

    • — JJ on February 4, 2022
    • Reply
  • Thank you for your consistently successful & delicious recipes! I have both your cookbooks plus a huge binder dedicated to all your recipes that I’ve printed! These vanilla cupcakes should be perfect for the birthday celebration we’re planning for a 6 year old. I want to make them ahead, freeze them, & frost them on the day of the party. Questions:
    (1) Should the paper liners be greased or oiled before filling (for easy removal)?
    (2) Do I have to wrap each individual cupcake SEPARATELY, one at a time, before freezing?
    (3) After thawing the cupcakes, & before icing them, would it bring a more light, moist &
    freshly baked taste if the cupcakes were reheated slightly, cooled, & then frosted?
    I greatly appreciate your guidance!

    • — Toni on November 6, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Toni, Thanks so much for your nice words about the recipes and support of the cookbooks! To answer your questions:
      1. No, you should treat the top of the cupcake pan, but the liners don’t need to be treated.
      2. Yes, for best results, I would wrap each cupcake before freezing.
      3. No, I don’t think you need to reheat and cool them before frosting.
      Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on November 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • Beautiful cupcakes – thanks, Jenn!
    Made them twice, once for the family and once for church, and they turned out moist and flavoursome both times. (For icing, used King Arthur quick buttercream recipe as I needed pink and white rosettes). Also substituted buttermilk with a blend of milk and sour cream.
    For those who live in the UK, I would say that this recipe comes very close to the Fiona Cairns cupcakes you can buy from Waitrose. (Especially if brushed with a simple syrup before icing).
    We noticed the sponge has quite a fine, close grain and is fairly dense (in a good way) – which was a change for us as we are used to very light, highly-leavened, and often very powdery-dry cupcakes which are available in our supermarkets (UK). These seem to get softer and more buttery with time, too (a couple of days), which is a unique bonus.

    I would be grateful for your advice on whether this texture (fine, close grain, fairly dense, yet crumb separates easily and melts on tongue) sounds about right? I am never sure whether I am making correct compensation for UK flour, or whether to add an extra spoon or two.

    Thanks very much again!

    • — Savanna Faith on October 4, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed them, Savanna! Yes, the texture you’ve described sounds right for these, so I don’t think any changes are necessary. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on October 8, 2021
      • Reply
  • My family may disown me for saying this, but I am not a huge fan of chocolate cupcakes. They love your chocolate cupcake recipe, but this one is my favorite. I ate more than one when we made these and plan to make these for my upcoming birthday. The frosting part of the recipe makes way too much for our family, so we adjusted it to fit our desires.

    • — Autumn on September 22, 2021
    • Reply
  • The taste itself is pretty mediocre IMO. Most of the flavor comes from the frosting. But it’s soooo thick with cream cheese, butter and icing sugar that it makes me feel sick after. I gave it two stars because it’s really easy to make. I’d rather just get cupcakes in the bakery section at the grocery store…

    • — Dan on June 25, 2021
    • Reply
  • 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 jennifer@onceuponachef.com. 🙂

      • — 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
      • Can I make frosting ahead of time?

        • — Michelle barnard on July 22, 2021
        • Reply
        • Sure, I would refrigerate it and let it come to room temperature before spreading.

          • — Jenn on July 22, 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!

    • 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)!

  • Does it make 24 cupcakes in jumbo muffin tins or regular sized tins?

    • Regular-sized tins. 🙂

      • 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.

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

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