Celebrate any occasion with these fluffy and moist vanilla cupcakes. These are simple, easy, and a guaranteed favorite every time.
Why it works
I am sharing my favorite vanilla cupcakes recipe with smooth and creamy vanilla buttercream frosting. Plus, a lemon curd I’ve made many times in the past on the blog that I just can’t get enough of and tasty white chocolate bark.
I’ve used these vanilla cupcakes as a base for almost every non-chocolate cupcake I have on the blog, including my blackberry lime cupcakes and cookies and cream cupcakes. I will change one thing here or there, but it is this cupcake recipe that I am basing it on.
It’s my workhorse and I know exactly how these cupcakes should turn out. If I am in a new kitchen, these will be the first thing I make to test out the oven. It’s one of the very few recipes I have memorized.
What goes in them
These delicious cupcakes require just a few key ingredients to make them perfect. Here are a few of the key ingredients and everything you would need to know about them.
- Flour - The type of flour you use in a cupcake can be very important. Some prefer the higher protein of all-purpose flour, while others prefer something with lower protein and more tender like cake flour. I tend to use and recommend cake flour in my vanilla cupcakes, but I have made them with all-purpose flour and they're still very good.
- Butter - Butter is an essential to make these cupcakes flavorful and have an incredible texture. You need to always make sure to use softened butter, and always make sure it is unsalted so we can control the amount of salt in the cupcakes.
- Sugar - I like to use regular granulated sugar, but super fine sugar also works exceptionally well here. If you are dedicated to the best cupcakes, you can use vanilla sugar, which I make by leaving used vanilla bean pods in my granulated sugar for at least a day or two.
- Buttermilk - This adds tanginess and helps to tenderize the cupcakes, which in turn also helps keep them moist. If you don't have buttermilk, you can easily make homemade buttermilk.
- Vanilla - I use a mix of vanilla bean and vanilla extract. You can use just one type, I go into more detail about vanilla below.
How to get moist and fluffy cupcakes
A lot of people often find they just can't get the same light, fluffy vanilla cupcakes you find in bakeries. It is impossible to say definitvely what goes wrong for each and every baker with this issue, but here are the parts that make these cupcakes the best, and what you can do to make sure your cupcakes bake up as nicely as they should.
- Sour cream - adds lightness and moisture to the cupcakes in a big way. Yogurt can also work and gives the same moisture, but you won't get the same amount of lightness in the crumb as with sour cream.
- Cake flour - delicate cake flour has a lower protein level which gives you a tenderness you don't get in all-purpose flour which helps make the cupcakes nice and fluffy.
- Unsalted butter - not only gives the cupcakes an amazing flavor, but it also helps make the cupcakes fluffy when beaten with sugar. Just make sure your butter is completely softened to room temperature.
What to Look Our for
- Incorrect measuring - it's easy to add too much flour if you don't measure it properly. I recommend quickly fluffing your flour, then using a spoon to add your flour to your measuring cup and sweeping off the excess with the flat part of a knife. You can also measure out your flour in grams for the perfect amount of flour every time.
- Over (or under) mixing - You can easily over mix your final batter when you add the flour. To prevent this, I actually always mix in the flour with a spoon - even if I am using a stand mixer to make my batter. You can also undermix your butter and sugar together... and under mix when beating in your eggs. Make sure when doing this portion of the batter, you whip it well to incorporate more air!
How to make cupcakes without butter
I do sometimes get asked what you can do to substitute the butter. Normally, I will always recommend butter unless you are making certain cupcake flavors. Saying that, you can definitely replace the butter with oil. The type of oil you want to use depends on what you want your cupcake to taste like. A neutral oil will work in most cases and be a wonderful substitute.
If you are looking to add a more herbal element to your cupcakes and really step out the box, you can experiment with extra virgin olive oil. I only recommend doing this only if you are familiar with baking with olive oil.
What vanilla to use
I use a mix of vanilla extract and a vanilla bean pod to get the right amount of vanilla. The reason I use both is that I can’t justify using one vanilla bean for the cake and one for the buttercream. It just gets too expensive so I use a bit of both.
Of course, you can also opt to use vanilla extract alone - I just prefer seeing all those delicious flecks of vanilla! If you have any vanilla bean paste, that will also work.
Rodelle also has a product called "Baker's Extract" which is a blend of vanilla and other flavors that give you a vanilla extract taste, but without the higher cost of pure vanilla extract.
My only main note is that I strongly do not recommend using imitation vanilla extract.
Cause I can never get enough of them either! My double chocolate cupcakes are a favorite for me. These caramel apple cupcakes are just incredible. My Mermaid cupcakes are a reader favorite along with my Nutella and chocolate cupcakes. For spring you can't beat these blueberry lemon cupcakes or my adorable Easter cupcakes. These pumpkin spice latte cupcakes are anything but basic for fall.
- 5 egg yolks room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice about 4 – 5 lemons
- Zest of 4 lemons
- ½ cup unsalted butter cut in cubes
- 10 oz white chocolate
- 3 – 4 tablespoons sprinkles plus more sprinkles for sprinkling on the cupcakes
- 1 ½ cups cake flour can also use unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ vanilla bean pod beans scraped out
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk room temperature
- ¼ cup sour cream
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
- ¾ cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 ½ - 3 cups powdered sugar
- ½ vanilla bean pod beans scraped out
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 2 -3 tablespoons heavy cream
- In a large metal bowl or saucepan, beat the eggs and sugar together until light in color. Add the lemon juice and zest to the egg mixture and beat well until combined.
- Place over a small saucepan filled with one inch of simmering water so that your bowl or saucepan does not directly touch the water.
- Continue to beat the egg mixture until it become thick , light yellow, and you can leave a trail on the back of a spoon that’s been dipped in the mixture.
- Remove from heat and add the butter, stir until the butter is completely combined into the mixture.
- Put the curd through a fine mesh strainer to remove any cooked bits and the zest. Store in an airtight jar and refrigerate until completely chilled. Note: if you are making these cupcakes in one day, take about ⅔ cups of the curd and place in a ziplock bag. Spread out the curd in the bag and lay flat to chill. That will speed up the process. To use, simply push the curd into one section of the ziplock bag and cut the corner to create a makeshift piping bag! The curd can be make up to a week in advance.
- Using the same small saucepan with simmering water (you may need to add a bit more water to the pan) and a clean bowl or large saucepan, add your white chocolate. Stir the mixture until the white chocolate is completely melted. Add in the sprinkles and stir to combine.
- Pour the white chocolate onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread out until roughly ¼ inch thick using an offset spatula. Allow to harden at room temperature as you make the cupcakes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
- Beat the butter, sugar, and beans from the vanilla bean pod until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well (at least a minute) between each addition. Add in the vanilla extract and beat well.
- Add the buttermilk to the sour cream and mix. Alternate between adding the flour and buttermilk mixture to the batter. Begin and end with the flour. The flour should be added in three additions, while the buttermilk should be added in two additions.
- Evenly divide the batter among the cupcake liners and bake for about 12 – 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted and the cake springs back when gently pushed. Turn the pan halfway between baking.
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack as you make the buttercream.
- Beat the butter until smooth. Add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, beating well between each addition.
- Add the salt, vanilla beans from the vanilla bean pod, vanilla extract, and heavy cream.
- Beat until just combined. Note: I like to beat on low, or by hand for a few minutes at the end to remove any air that may have incorporated into the buttercream.
- Remove the centers of the cupcakes and fill with the lemon curd.
- Fit a piping bag with your favorite tip and fill with the buttercream. Pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes.
- Cut up shards of the bark and place on the cupcakes. Top the frosting with more sprinkles, if desired.