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Crazy for Crust

Sep 24

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

They might be plain vanilla, but these Vanilla Cupcakes are perfect, and are perfectly complimented with the vanilla buttercream and whipped cream filling.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes - the best homemade ones I've ever had, and super vanilla-y! And they can be made gluten free or dairy free easily!

I know. A plain vanilla cupcake? Like…what?

If we’re being 100% honest with each other…I prefer a vanilla cupcake. A simple, rich vanilla cupcake and a super vanilla-y frosting. I’ll take this kind of cupcake over chocolate, peanut butter, or any other flavor.

As crazy as I like to bake, as much as I love to make rich food, there’s something about the simple flavor of vanilla. I love it! And these Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes totally deliver.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes - the best homemade ones I've ever had, and super vanilla-y! | | #cupcake

As you probably know, last weekend was my birthday. I was out of town (at the Duncan Hines Test Kitchen, so much more on that coming soon) so the family and I celebrated my birthday early. I had a full fake birthday, complete with presents, a movie, and dinner.

And cupcakes.

Of course, Jordan wanted to make me some cupcakes. Mel, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure about helping her do that. So we compromised – I made the cupcakes and frosting and then they decorated them for me. I left out the sprinkles, candies, and mini marshmallows and left for the gym, certain my kitchen floor would be a myriad of colors when I returned.

{It wasn’t – my husband remembered to sweep!}

birthday photo

Now, I just had to include this photo. One, because it shows how Jordan decorated my cupcake. And two, because this photo speaks volumes about my life right now. Can you see what I mean?

I’m blowing out the candles on my birthday cupcake, and I’m holding my phone. #imaddicted #iphoneanonymousneeded

Also…I need a prop cabinet in the worst way. #OMG #prophoarder {Why yes, that is a used Biscoff coffee cup from my trip to SF. Everyone keeps used coffee cups for props, right?}

{And, BTW, have you tried out the Picmonkey effects for people? Normally I just edit food photos. Man, I’m editing every single photo of me from now on.}

These Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes are just that – perfect. Normally I avoid homemade vanilla cupcakes because they’re always to dry, tough, delicate, hard, etc. Box mixes are just so easy – and they’re always perfect. But, since I don’t have a vanilla cupcake recipe here, I wanted to try my hand at it.

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes - the best homemade ones I've ever had, and super vanilla-y! | | #cupcake

A few notes about the recipe:

  • It uses all-purpose flour. Many recipes call for cake flour. That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to buy special flour. This makes these easier, and more accessible for the regular home cook.
  • But, it does include unsalted butter. All the recipes I looked at specified unsalted. I normally use salted butter, because it’s what I’ve always bought and eaten. However, if every single cupcake recipe I find uses unsalted, then I better go with the masses!
  • In the past I’ve used butter in cupcakes and they’ve been dry and tough. Oil often makes them too weak to stand up to a load of frosting. So I remembered a tip (from, I believe, my friend Sally) to use melted butter. It made a huge difference!
  • The cupcakes make about 14. So…sorry you have to use two pans. But they’re worth it. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Let’s talk vanilla. Extract is easiest, I know. Vanilla beans are the best – but at $8 a pop, they really aren’t doable for me (and I never remember to order them online). Instead, I use Vanilla Bean Paste. I love the vanilla flavor it puts into things, and you still get those little black dots all over the cupcake and frosting from the beans.

The frosting is my favorite too – a pure vanilla frosting. I whip butter with powdered sugar, add more vanilla bean paste, and some heavy cream to get it to the texture I like for frosting. It’s all sweet and vanilla-y and perfect! This frosting would be awesome on chocolate cupcakes too. And the cupcakes would be awesome with chocolate frosting, or even caramel frosting!

I also filled these with a simple whipped cream, sweetened with powdered sugar and, you guessed it, more vanilla bean paste. I cannot get enough of that stuff! The filling is a total option, but if you want to add a little something extra, go for it.

These really are triple vanilla cupcakes – and totally perfect! They’re tender without collapsing, they’re soft and not dry, and they stand up to a huge dollop of frosting (because really, is there any other way to frost?)

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes - the best homemade ones I've ever had, and super vanilla-y! | | #cupcake

My mouth is watering for more. Vanilla is one of my favorite flavors…especially in Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes!

**Update: these cupcakes can be made Gluten-Free using Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour and gluten free baking powder. They can be made dairy free (omitting frosting) by substituting vegetable oil and almond milk for the butter and buttermilk. If you’re making them dairy-free and are skipping frosting, sprinkle some sprinkles on top before baking to add some fun to the cupcake!**

Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: About 14 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or combine 3/4 cup milk + 1 teaspoon white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes)

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter extract

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with liners (makes 12-15).
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. Add melted butter to a large bowl and mix in sugar with a hand mixer for 30 seconds until thick and yellow. Add eggs one at at time, beating after each addition. Beat in vanilla bean paste.
  4. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Donโ€™t over mix! Divide batter among liners, filling 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. (Mine took less than 20, so check at 15!) Cool completely before frosting!
  5. To make the filling: beat heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Whisk in both extracts.
  6. To make the frosting: Beat butter until creamy. Beat in salt and 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until itโ€™s all added.
  7. Beat in vanilla bean paste and 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream. Add more cream as needed for desired consistency.
  8. To fill cupcakes: you can either fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip and poke it into the center of the cupcake to fill, or you can carefully cut out a hole in the center and fill with a spoon.
  9. Frost cupcakes by placing frosting in a pastry bag. I like the 1M tip, it gives pretty swirls. Add sprinkles for fun!
  10. Note: you can make the frosting the day before, but let it come to room temperature before using.
  11. Find vanilla bean paste on amazon, or at stores like William's-Sonoma or Sur la Table.


To make these cupcakes Gluten-Free: substitute Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Flour for the all purpose.

To make these cupcakes dairy-free: substitute vegetable oil for the butter and almond milk for the buttermilk. Omit the frosting and sprinkle some sprinkles on the cupcake batter before baking.

The Perfect Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

Mint Chip Milkshake Cupcakes

mint-chocolate-milkshake-cupcakes (3 of 7)w

Almond Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting

almond-cupcakes-caramel-frosting (2 of 4)w

The BEST Chocolate Cupcakes

best-chocolate-cupcakes (7 of 9)

Sweets from friends:
Root Beer Float Cupcakes by Dip it in Chocolate
Seven Layer Bar Cupcakes by The Domestic Rebel
Original Karamelgebรคck Creme Cupcakes by Java Cupcake
Monster Cookie Dough Cupcakes by Something Swanky

169 comments on “Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

  1. I made these last sunday and they were terrific! They were gone by the next day. My family loved them. I had never heard of vanilla bean paste and it was my first time using it. I loved it. Definitely going to be using it more.


    • Dorothy Kern replied on January 6th, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      It totally makes the cupcake! Glad you enjoyed them!! Thanks for reading!


  2. I can’t wait to make these for my son’s first birthday! I do have a quick question for you…if I were to make this into a cake (rather than cupcakes), would I have to change anything in the recipe? I imagine I would have to adjust the cooking time, but I was wondering if I would need to change anything else.


    • Dorothy Kern replied on January 10th, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      I think it would work okay, with adjusted baking time. But it only makes about 12-14 cupcakes, so it’s not a full 9×13 cake. It’s probably more of one 9″ round (possibly would fit good in a 9″ round by 3″ high or a 9″ square). Let me know how it turns out!


  3. I made these yesterday and they were the perfect cake for my Boston cream pie cupcakes! The only thing I changed was substituting some of the AP flour with cake flour. (I just like the taste and texture it gives.) Thanks for a great basic recipe!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on January 14th, 2014 at 6:37 am

      Awesome! I’m glad you liked them Ashley!


    • Cassie replied on February 16th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      How is everyone storing these cupcakes? I wanted to make them a day ahead for my daughter’s baptism but wanted to know if they would store good refrigerated. Thanks in advance for your help!


      • Dorothy Kern replied on February 16th, 2014 at 7:16 pm

        You can chill them over night loosely covered or in a Tupperware container. You can make the cupcakes and frosting ahead of time and frost before serving if you’re worried about storing frosted cupcakes. Just make sure to let the frosting come to room temperature before frosting (and you may need to add a touch more cream to smooth it out). They can both also be frozen (unfrosted) if needed! Enjoy!

  4. I usually add cream cheese to my frosting. I am wondering if you find its easier to decorate the cupcakes with frosting that doesn’t have cream cheese added. I often find the frosting “melts” on me as I am decorating the cupcakes and wonder if its because of the cheese. I should just try without it but its so good I don’t ever leave it out ๐Ÿ™‚


    • Laura replied on February 1st, 2014 at 6:57 am

      Make sure that the cupcakes are COMPLETELY cooled before frosting. If the cupcake is warm, the butter in the frosting will melt right off the cupcake.


  5. I have been looking for a new cupcake recipe because my last few batches with my old tried and true have just come out ho-hum. Can’t wait to try this one. Just a question: can this recipe be used in a bundt pan? I am sure the time would have to be adjusted, but I am looking for a lighter cake. Most bundt cakes are denser, like pound cakes. Just a question. Thanks!


  6. My kids and I are going to make these today then write on my blog about it thanks so much for sharing this easy recipe!!


  7. Can i substitute the vanilla paste with vanilla essence or vanilla powder? If so what will be the measurement? Thanks!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on February 7th, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      I have substituted vanilla extract in the same measurement with success. I’ve never used essence or powder. You can also scrape a vanilla bean into the batter if you have one!


  8. Can I use vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean paste ? Would it make a difference ?


    • Dorothy Kern replied on February 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Yes you can! It just won’t have the little black specks. ๐Ÿ™‚


  9. I was looking for a cupcake recipe (from scratch) to make for a baby shower. I researched a lot of recipes and decided on yours. I like your blog and your realism– I don’t have cake flour lying around either. I like that you used things anyone would have in their kitchen. They turned out amazing! Mine made about 18 cupcakes, 2/3 full. I baked them for 16 minutes and voila! Perfect delicious moist vanilla cupcakes. I couldn’t find vanilla paste so I splurged and purchased PURE vanilla extract. All my research states to get the best of the best ingredients and I guess I can spend a few more dollars and not buy the imitation extract. Eek! I used 1 T plus 1 tsp of vanilla extract. My eggs were room temperature as well. Thank you! I will make these again.


    • Dorothy Kern replied on February 15th, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Yay! I’m so glad you liked them Alisha! Yes, if you can, always splurge for the pure vanilla extract. If you happen to belong to Costco (or know someone who does) they sell large bottles of it for the price of one jar of the expensive stuff. That’s what I use! Thanks for letting me know you like them!


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  11. I made these cupcakes just for fun. I followed the directions and everything however they tasted a little odd. Maybe that is how they are spose to taste. But not my thing.
    If you are looking for regular cupcakes I would not advise making these, however if you want to try something new than forsure try these ๐Ÿ™‚


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  14. Just tried this recipe two.days ago and I must say it was the absolute best cupcake recipe ever!
    The bf could not stop with the compliments. This will now be our household regular. Thank you!


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  16. These cupcakes were GREAT! I’ve been looking for a good “go-to” vanilla cupcake recipe for a long time and I think I found it! The cupcakes rose up nicely and were delicious and fluffy! They were super simple to make as well. I did use Mexican vanilla in mine which added a slightly different flavor but we loved it. Will be looking at more of your recipes for sure! Thanks!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on April 23rd, 2014 at 10:35 am

      I’m so glad you liked them Megan!! ๐Ÿ™‚


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  18. I really want to try this recipe but my oven doesn’t have a temperature adjuster so what method should i use? And sorry for the grammar error English isn’t my mother tongue language.


    • Dorothy Kern replied on May 9th, 2014 at 6:52 am

      Are you trying to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius? I believe 350F is the same as about 176C, but you should do a quick google search to confirm!


  19. If I am in a pinch with only extract, how much should I use for the cake? Thank you!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on May 16th, 2014 at 4:48 am

      I use equal amounts for both! ๐Ÿ™‚


  20. do you need to use vanilla paste


  21. LOVE this recipe! The only thing I changed was the whipped cream. I thought it didn’t go well, so instead I added a vanilla PASTRY cream! YUM!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on June 12th, 2014 at 6:54 am

      That sounds amazing Taylor!! LOVE it. I need to put pastry cream on my bucket list. ๐Ÿ™‚


  22. was looking for an improved vanilla cupcake recipe today and found this one
    doubled the recipe and used one split vanilla bean
    not sure where others went wrong, but i had absolutely fantastic results – so delicious! this will be my go-to recipe from now on.
    thanks so much!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on June 28th, 2014 at 7:46 am

      I’m so glad you liked them Deanna! Thanks so much!


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  24. I have made these before and they are incredible. It helps that this is the FIRST result when you Google “Best Vanilla Cupcakes”. I have some in the oven now. It’s 11:00 at night and I NEED A CUPCAKE THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on July 28th, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      I’m so glad you like them! And knowing it comes up first on google? Makes me teary. ๐Ÿ™‚ #foodbloggersdream Thanks for reading!


  25. I’ve never posted a comment on a blog…normally just a stalker. But, these deserve a million comments and shares and KUDOS! Amazing! I made them last night and they are PERFECT. My new favorite go-to cupcake!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on August 1st, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad you liked them Stephanie. :):)


  26. Hi Dorothy, I made these and they were a hit..I have now had a request for a birthday cake using the same recipe…Would it work do you think?
    Nanette , Australia


    • Dorothy Kern replied on August 13th, 2014 at 6:42 am

      You read my mind Nanette! I have been itching to do a cake with that cupcake recipe. I’m going to add it to my baking list for next week!!


      • Nanette replied on August 14th, 2014 at 12:56 am

        Oh Thank you so much Dorothy…will be waiting to hear all about the results ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Hi how long does the frosting holds its shape at room temperature?thanks.i love the cupcake they are moist.


  28. Hi how long does the frosting holds its shape at room temperature? I love the cupcake they are moist!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on August 18th, 2014 at 12:59 pm

      It should hold up pretty good unless it’s warm. I wouldn’t leave them out overnight though – but for an hour or so before serving would be perfect.


  29. Okay, so it is half past 12 at night, and I am baking these cupcakes! And I must say, these are by far the best vanilla cupcakes I’ve ever made ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks so much for the recipe, I’m going to make them for my mom’s 50th birthday next week ๐Ÿ˜€


    • Dorothy Kern replied on August 21st, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad you like them. I love them too. Happy Birthday to your mom!


  30. i dnt no what i did mines didnt came out rite and my mixter was realy watery where did i go wrong?


    • Dorothy Kern replied on August 27th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      The batter is more liquidy than a box mix or a recipe that uses softened butter (the melted butter makes them thinner). But they should bake up just fine. Did they bake up ok?


      • shida 101 replied on August 27th, 2014 at 6:32 pm

        no they didnt they were like tough and tasted funny n they didnt raise for like a half hour

        • Dorothy Kern replied on August 28th, 2014 at 6:58 am

          Is your baking powder fresh? That would cause the cupcakes to not rise. Check the expiration date on it. The only other thing could be the addition of too much milk? Other than that I’m sorry, I’m not sure what could have happened. I’ve made these successfully several times.

          • shida 101 replied on August 28th, 2014 at 7:09 am

            ok will try again thnkyou

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  32. i’m just confused about the butter…… 1 stick it’s not really clear, can you tell me how many grams


    • Dorothy Kern replied on September 18th, 2014 at 6:33 am

      Sorry, I don’t use grams. Google told me that 1 stick of butter (4 ounces) is 227 grams, but you may want to double check that.


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  35. I just baked these tonight. I will start with what I liked: the ease of recipe, moisture & color. Not to mention your pics are beautiful! But something seems to be off? I didn’t like the texture- I enjoy a more “airy” cupcake with rise. I don’t know if I needed more salt or vanilla than the recipe called, but these tasted quite bland to me. I’m sure they make a great base for other flavored cupcakes, but unfortunately this wasn’t “perfect vanilla”.ย 


    • Dorothy Kern replied on October 2nd, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Well, they are less airy, but that’s how I prefer my cupcakes. Did you use vanilla bean paste as called for? That usually gives the punch of vanilla that’s needed.


  36. These were delicious! I always make these complicated, fancy cupcakes, but my father in law prefers vanilla everything. And this recipe made me really appreciate how amazing a plain vanilla cupcake can be! And it still felt fancy, with the vanilla specks and the filling.

    My only suggestion… piping the filling in didn’t work very well because the cupcakes very pretty dense (in a wonderful way). Next time I would “core” the cupcakes and then add the filling. I added vanilla paste and a little vanilla extract and thought the flavor was great. I didn’t have butter extract, so I added almond to the frosting. Also, the frosting tasted really salty at first, but after sitting a few hours, it was the perfect compliment to the cupcakes.ย 

    Thanks for the recipe!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on October 13th, 2014 at 7:04 am

      Great tip Tony! Thank you!


  37. Does your vanilla bean paste give an equivalent to vanilla beans? I know Amazon and specialty/Williams Sonoma stores sell the paste, but since vanilla beans are at any supermarket, I just don’t want to buy a whole jar of paste and waste it if I don’t have to! Otherwise I have double strength Madagascar vanilla extract from the spice store that would be an intense vanilla flavor if I subbed Tbsp for Tbsp…


    • Dorothy Kern replied on October 20th, 2014 at 6:53 am

      I sub the paste and extract exact. I’d say one vanilla bean for these. Although, the paste is way cheaper than the beans, even with shipping!! ๐Ÿ™‚


  38. I have to say THESE ARE THE BEST!!! I made these cupcakes yesterday and they are Delicious! They are perfect! I love the texture ๐Ÿ™‚ ย so very fluffy and moist.


    • Dorothy Kern replied on November 16th, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      I’m so glad you like them Ann!!


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  40. WOW! I normally do not like cupcakes, but these blew me away. I halved the batch and subsituted mayo for the half egg that I was missing and they were amazing! Great recipe Dorothy!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on January 13th, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      I’m so glad!! I’m not normally a cupcake person either but I love these too. And great tip about the subbing for the egg!!


  41. These were really lovely. I have been craving vanilla cupcakes for ages but was always so disappointed when I made them. These were the perfect thing. I made them without the cream filling though and I thought they were perfect without it. Thanks so much.ย 


    • Dorothy Kern replied on February 11th, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed them!


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  45. What if you don’t have white vinegar to make the buttermilk can you use Apple cider vinegar?ย 


    • Dorothy Kern replied on March 21st, 2015 at 11:55 am

      I’ve never tried it Petyon, but I assume it would work. It might add a flavor to the milk, but I’m not sure. Let me know if it works out!


  46. I tried this recipe (works as a great base) but omitted the vanilla paste and reduced some sugar and flour to add cocoa powder and monin peppermint syrup. This chocolate mint version was great! I also liked the fact that it used melted butter instead of room temp – it meant I was able to make these on the spare of the moment. I used 110 gram of butter as I am in the UK.


  47. Robin Sidewitz Reply

    Can I double this recipe? I need to make 60 cupcakes. I made these for my daughter’s wedding and they were outstanding. I’m thinking I doubled it back then (I think) but I just read that some recipes don’t do well by doubling. Feeling nervous. Help!!


  48. Robin Sidewitz Reply

    Can this recipe be doubled? I need to make 60 cupcakes. I made these cupcakes for my daughter’s wedding last year and they were outstanding! I think I doubled it but recently read that some recipes shouldn’t be doubled. Now I’m nervous. Help!!


  49. Robin Sidewitz Reply

    Can this recipe be doubled? I made these cupcakes last summer for my daughter’s wedding and they were outstanding! I think I doubled it but recently read that some recipes don’t do well when doubled. Now I’m nervous. Help!


    • Dorothy Kern replied on May 2nd, 2016 at 6:30 am

      Yes! I’ve done it before. I’m so glad you enjoyed them!


  50. Hi – I made these cupcakes last week for a school party and they were a huge hit!! Just wondering if I want to use this recipe for a layer cake, what size pan should I use for 2 layers? Thanks for this amazing recipe!!


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