Tender vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream frosting is an easy recipe suitable for any occasion.
This vanilla cupcake recipe is my favorite simple treat. Nothing beats a plain, classic vanilla cake. Right?
Often times I prefer the simple over complex layers of flavors. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy flavorful desserts. But there are times when you really just want a basic cupcake recipe.
This where delicious vanilla cupcakes come into play. They are soft, spongy, and loaded with vanilla flavor. It will be hard to stop at just one!
I’ve added oil and buttermilk to give the cupcakes the very best texture. They came out so much better than I could have imagined.
This recipe is part of cake month. I have officially decided to do this during the month of July, my birthday month. Who knows if I’ll continue this each year. But, there are quite a few amazing cakes happening right now and I can’t wait for you to try them.
Why this recipe works
- Butter and oil are used to give the cupcakes fabulous buttery flavor along with moisture.
- Cake flour is what keeps the cake’s crumb so delicate and tender.
- Buttermilk paired with the butter and oil ensure the cupcakes come out incredibly soft and spongy.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more details.
The best vanilla cupcake recipe
I’m truly obsessed with these vanilla cupcakes right now. Not only do they taste fantastic and have an amazing texture, but they’re also so pretty. The beauty is in the simplicity.
I added some silver and white sprinkles. This made them look sophisticated enough to be served at a wedding or anniversary party. You could add more colorful sprinkles depending on the occasion.
But, I promise, no matter the occasion, these cupcakes will be a smashing hit with those who try them.
Vanilla cupcake ingredients
As I mentioned before, these cupcakes are an elevated version of my basic vanilla cake. They contain oil and buttermilk so they are even more tender than the cake. If you’ve made that cake and liked it, then you are in for a real treat with these cupcakes. Let’s see what goes in them…
- Oil: Use a flavorless oil like canola or vegetable oil for the best results.
- Butter: Unsalted sweet cream butter is what I tested the recipe with and it’s fantastic.
- Sugar: Regular granulated sugar for sweetness.
- Eggs: The eggs help hold the cupcakes together as well as add richness.
- Vanilla: I used homemade vanilla extract but any high-quality pure vanilla will work. Vanilla bean paste is also a great option if you want more flavor.
- Flour: Cake flour will be your best friend with this recipe. Its low protein content keeps gluten development to a minimum. This ensures a soft, supple cake texture.
- Leavening: Baking powder and baking soda are both used in the recipe so the cupcakes rise tall and fluffy.
- Salt: Just a little salt is added to balance the flavors.
- Buttermilk: This is key! Use full-fat buttermilk. The low-fat kind or regular milk simply won’t provide the best results.
To bake these cupcakes you’ll need:
- Muffin Pan: This recipe yields 30 cupcakes so you’ll need three regular muffin pans lined with cupcake liners.
- Mixing bowl: These Pyrex glass bowls are my favorite.
- Mixer: A stand mixer is what I use most but a handheld electric mixer will also work just fine.
The printable recipe card with full ingredient amounts and instructions can be found at the bottom of this post.
How to make vanilla cupcakes
It’s very easy to make these homemade vanilla cupcakes from scratch. It takes just a few minutes to whip up the batter and they bake in about 15 minutes. The frosting is my simple vanilla buttercream with a few small adjustments so it’s supple and creamy.
Step 1: Preheat the oven and prep ingredients
Before you begin, make sure to let the eggs, buttermilk, and butter come to room temperature. Set them out about 1 hour before you plan to make the cupcakes.
When all of the ingredients are at room temperature, they’ll blend together easily. This creates a smooth emulsified batter.
Set the oven to 350 degrees F and let it preheat before making the cupcakes. It takes roughly 30 minutes for the oven temperature to stabilize at the correct setting so plan accordingly.
Attach the paddle attachment to your stand mixer or fit the handheld mixer with beaters. Line the muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
Step 2: Combine the wet ingredients
Remember, the butter, eggs, and buttermilk must be room temperature before you begin!
Add the oil, butter, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer. Or to a large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Beat them on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. The mixture should appear noticeably lighter in color and fuller in volume. This takes about 5 minutes to achieve.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix for about 20 seconds after each addition so it’s fully incorporated. Then mix in the vanilla extract.
Don’t add the buttermilk yet. That is alternated with the dry ingredients in the next few steps.
Step 3: Combine the dry ingredients
In a separate bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a wire whisk to stir everything together well.
I like to also sift the ingredients after I’ve mixed them. This adds air to the flour and ensures the leavening is evenly distributed.
Step 4: Combine the wet and dry ingredients
Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until the flour is moistened. Then add the buttermilk followed by the remaining flour. Mix on low speed until all the flour is incorporated.
Take care not to over mix! Stop mixing as soon as no visible streaks of dry flour remain in the batter.
Step 5: Bake the cupcakes
Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way full and bake for 12-15 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out with only a few moist crumbs attached. This is how you know the cupcakes are perfectly baked.
I like to bake 1 pan at a time because I feel like the heat is distributed more evenly this way.
Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove them and set them on a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 6: Frost the cupcakes
Once the cupcakes are completely cool, frost them with vanilla buttercream. I have an entire post dedicated to making American buttercream. Head over to see my best tips and tricks before whipping up your own.
The frosting on today’s recipe is a slightly modified version but the steps and technique are exactly the same.
I hope you make these perfect vanilla cupcakes and enjoy them as much as I do!
What frosting flavors pair well with vanilla cupcakes?
I’ve included vanilla frosting with the recipe but there are many frosting flavors that pair well with vanilla cupcakes. My chocolate buttercream, raspberry frosting, coconut buttercream, and Nutella frosting are some really great options.
Tips for making this easy vanilla cupcake recipe
- Use quality ingredients! It’s important to choose the best ingredients possible. High-quality flour, butter, vanilla, etc. will make all the difference in the end results.
- Properly measure the flour. Don’t scoop the flour directly out of the bag with the measuring cup. Since flour compacts, this method will add too much flour to the recipe.
- Don’t overmix the batter. Over mixing will cause gluten to develop and this is why cupcakes come out dense.
If you like cupcakes, you’ll love these easy cupcake recipes:
For the cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°Line three 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
- In a large bowl, beat the oil, butter, and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 20 seconds after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
- Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add half to the butter mixture. Beat on low speed until the flour is almost fully incorporated. Add the buttermilk followed by the remaining flour mixture and beat on low until just combined. Take care not to over mix.
- Fill each muffin cup ¾ of the way full. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with few moist crumbs attached. Take care to not over-bake.
- Cool for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.
- Make the frosting
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy and pale in color, about 5 minutes.
- Add half the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the remaining confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed just until the sugar has fully moistened, then turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and salt. Turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add 3 tablespoons of the heavy cream. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat until the cream is well incorporated, about 3-5 minutes. (After 2 minutes stop and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl then continue mixing.)
- Check the consistency of the frosting and add more cream, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, if needed. The frosting should be soft and spreadable but not so loose that it doesn’t hold its shape.
Make ahead tips
- The cupcakes can be made 1 day in advance before frosting. Cover and refrigerate each overnight. Frost the cupcakes the next day.
- Or the cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and frost as desired.
- Keep frosted cupcakes covered and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.
- Frosting will keep for up to 2 weeks stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. You must let the buttercream come to room temperature by setting it out on the counter for a couple hours, then beat it with an electric mixer if needed.
- Or the frosting can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to use, place in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. Let stand at room temperature to soften before use.