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Don’t overlook the classics! These vanilla cupcakes are sweet and tender and full of vanilla flavor. Top them with your favorite frosting for the perfect treat.

Vanilla cupcake unwrapped on a white plate.

I know that everyone is all about flavored cakes and cupcakes: chocolate, lemon, strawberry, peanut butter…the list goes on.

But don’t overlook vanilla! 

If you don’t think vanilla cupcakes are anything special, then you don’t know what you’re missing. If you use really good vanilla and know how to make a super tender cake, you are in for a real treat!

So don’t sleep on this vanilla cupcake recipe. I can promise it’ll make you ask for vanilla cupcakes all of the time.

Several vanilla cupcakes topped with vanilla frosting on a white platter.


Don’t let anyone tell you that vanilla is “boring.” That probably just means they haven’t had a good vanilla cake or cupcake before! 

The truth is that vanilla cupcakes are a classic, and when they are done right they can be really flavorful on their own or make a great slate for pairing with your favorite frostings and fillings (see “frosting and filling ideas” below).

These vanilla cupcakes are tender, moist, and packed FULL of vanilla flavor thanks to both a vanilla bean (or vanilla bean paste) and vanilla extract. They will totally make you rethink how you see vanilla!

Butter and sugar creamed together in a white mixing bowl.


If you’ve made my funfetti cupcakes, this recipe might look familiar to you. That’s because they’re really similar! 

The funfetti version obviously includes sprinkles, while the vanilla version includes two different types of vanilla! 

Ingredients you’ll need

This vanilla cupcake recipe is simple, but that just means that all of the ingredients are important! 

Cake flour: Cake flour makes for a super tender crumb. I really like Swan’s Down cake flour, but you can also use my cake flour substitute if you don’t have any on hand. Make sure you also know how to measure flour properly before starting.

Baking powder: Baking powder is our leavening for this cupcake recipe.

Kosher salt: I usually use kosher salt in this recipe, although I have also used fine sea salt. Check out my guide on the types of salt for more info.

Base for vanilla cupcake batter in a white mixing bowl.

Whole milk: I prefer to use whole milk in this recipe, but you could probably use a non-dairy milk substitute just fine.

Vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste: Is there anything better than seeing little flecks of vanilla bean in a recipe? If you don’t have vanilla beans, feel free to use your favorite vanilla bean paste in this recipe instead.

Vanilla extract: We want tons of vanilla flavor in these cupcakes, but let’s be real: vanilla beans can be pretty expensive. So I like to use one vanilla bean or a bit of paste for those gorgeous vanilla bean flecks and combine it with vanilla extract to boost that flavor.

Make sure to use a really good quality vanilla extract in these cupcakes, though. Don’t use artificial vanilla here! 

Beaten egg whites in a white mixing bowl.

Unsalted butter: Make sure your butter is at room temperature before you get started. Learn how to bring butter and eggs to room temperature

Granulated sugar: Granulated sugar gives us the sweetness we need in these cupcakes. They’re just sweet enough to balance well with a sweeter frosting.

Egg whites: For this recipe, we are just going to use the whites of the eggs, not the yolk. Beating the egg whites and folding them into the batter helps to lighten the batter and make for a tender cupcake.

Vanilla cupcake batter in a white mixing bowl.

Making this recipe

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes, so line two standard cupcake pans with paper liners.

To prep the dry ingredients, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

To prep the wet ingredients, whisk the milk and vanillas together in a measuring cup.

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined after each addition.

Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.

Vanilla cupcake batter in a cupcake pan, ready to go in the oven.

Stir ¼ of the egg whites into the batter. This helps to lighten the batter so we can fold in the rest of the whites. 

Gently fold in the remaining whipped egg whites, one half at a time, by cutting the spatula down the middle to the bottom of the bowl, then sweeping it around, up and over. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat until no streaks of egg whites remain.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake tins and bake for 18-24 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before decorating.

Vanilla cupcakes set on a white cake stand.


These classic vanilla cupcakes make a great base for adding all of your favorite fillings and frostings. These cupcakes bake up just the perfect height for topping with a beautiful swirl of frosting.

Some of my favorite classic frostings include my homemade buttercream frosting, homemade chocolate frosting, and strawberry frosting.

But don’t be afraid to get creative with your frosting flavors! The lemon-lime frosting from my lemon-lime cupcakes or the nutella frosting from my banana nutella cupcakes are two great examples. Cinnamon frosting would also be delicious!

Unwrapped vanilla cupcake cut in half on a white plate.

And don’t forget about filling your cupcakes! Some of my favorite fillings include:

You can also use any flavor of frosting as a cupcake filling as well.

Two vanilla cupcakes set next to vanilla beans on a white plate. One of the cupcakes is frosted with vanilla frosting, the other is left unfrosted.


Store undecorated vanilla cupcakes at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a day before frosting. You can also freeze them, tightly wrapped in a zip-top freezer bag, for up to 2 months before decorating.

Store decorated cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you are using a buttercream frosting and your house is not too warm, you can store them at room temperature for up to a day.

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Classic Vanilla Cupcakes

By: Jamie
4.75 from 12 ratings
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Don’t overlook the classics! These vanilla cupcakes are sweet and tender and full of vanilla flavor. Top them with your favorite frosting for the perfect treat.


  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 4 large egg whites room temperature


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center. Line two standard cupcake pans with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. 
  • In a measuring cup, combine the milk, vanilla seeds or paste, and vanilla extract.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed for 3 minutes, or until the butter and sugar are very light and fluffy. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beating on low speed. Beat in half of the milk mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until well incorporated. Add the rest of the milk, beating until the batter is fully incorporated and smooth, then add the last of the dry ingredients, beating until the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Add the egg whites to a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. 
  • Gently stir ¼ of the whipped egg whites into the cupcake batter with a rubber spatula until no streaks of egg whites remain. This will help lighten up the batter. Gently fold in the remaining whipped egg whites, one half at a time, by cutting the spatula down the middle to the bottom of the bowl, then sweeping it around, up and over. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat until no streaks of egg whites remain.
  • Use a large scoop or ¼-cup measure to distribute the batter between the 24 muffin wells, filling each well 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 18-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack completely before topping with desired frosting and decorating.



Serving: 1unfrosted cupcake, Calories: 154kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium: 98mg, Potassium: 41mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 14g, Vitamin A: 196IU, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 0.2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Rebecca Newman says:

    The vanilla cupcakes are the absolute very best I have tasted in awhile. The cake is firm yet light and airy. yet doesn’t fall apart. It’s not crumbly.

    1. Jamie says:

      So glad to hear that, Rebecca! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your feedback. Happy baking!

  2. Dena Fox says:

    How much egg white in the carton can I use?

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Dena – I haven’t attempted this recipe with egg whites from a carton, so I can’t speak to the volume you would need. I would check on the carton to see if there is an equivalency chart to use.

  3. Dinaz says:

    I absolutely love your Funfetti cake. Can this be made into a 3 layer cake?

    1. Jamie says:

      Hi Dinaz – I haven’t attempted to make it into a layer cake, but I am sure it would work. I would do either 2 9-inch layers or 3 8-inch layers, although I can’t speak to how much time they would need to bake. I usually find that 9-inch cakes need to bake for around 30 minutes, but I would start checking after about 20 minutes just to be safe. If you give it a try, I’d love to hear how it goes. Happy baking!

  4. Lindsay Harkins says:

    I’m curious about the amount of milk if I were to add strawberry puree. Do you think I should decrease the liquid?

    1. Jamie says:

      I would definitely decrease it a bit. Sometimes I use strawberry preserves instead of puree to keep the frosting from getting to runny.