Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes

5 from 7 votes

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

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vanilla cupcake with frosting and sprinkles in teal wrapper on white mini cake stand

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.

vanilla cupcake with frosting and sprinkles in teal wrapper on white mini cake stand

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!}

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.

vanilla cupcake with frosting and sprinkles in teal wrapper on white mini cake stand

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. 🙂
  • 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?)

vanilla cupcake with frosting and sprinkles in teal wrapper on white mini cake stand cut in half

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

5 from 7 votes
Serving Size


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
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with liners (makes 12-15).
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • 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.
  • Add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, starting and ending with the flour. Don’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!
  • To make the filling: beat heavy cream and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Whisk in both extracts.
  • To make the frosting: Beat butter until creamy. Beat in salt and 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until it’s all added.
  • Beat in vanilla bean paste and 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream. Add more cream as needed for desired consistency.
  • 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.
  • Frost cupcakes by placing frosting in a pastry bag. I like the 1M tip, it gives pretty swirls. Add sprinkles for fun!
  • Note: you can make the frosting the day before, but let it come to room temperature before using.
  • Find vanilla bean paste on amazon, or at stores like William's-Sonoma or Sur la Table.

Nutritional information not guaranteed to be accurate

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Sweets from friends:
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185 CommentsLeave a comment or review

  1. These cupcakes were delicious. I will definitely be making them again.  It would be great if the butter was in grams as we don’t have ‘sticks’ in Australia.

  2. How do you change up this vanilla cupcake recipe to use for the “east triple coconut cupcak” recipe? I don’t want to waste ingredients by having it bomb! Thanks!