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This is the ultimate vanilla cupcake recipe, and the only one you’ll ever need: it’s tender, flavorful, well-behaved, and made with oil so it stays at peak freshness for days.

an ultimate vanilla cupcake with whipped buttercream frosting
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Why we love this recipe

Simple, well-executed cupcakes are practically a basic life skill. They solve so many problems and improve so many celebrations. I’ve long had a favorite chocolate cupcake recipe that turns out perfect cupcakes every time, and I finally adapted it into a vanilla version, too. These cupcakes are:

  • Quick, easy, reliable, and made in one bowl
  • Remarkably light and tender
  • Full of delicate vanilla flavor
  • Flexible — fill and top them as you wish
  • Make-ahead friendly

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Whole milk provides just the right balance of liquid and fat, but if you need to make these cupcakes dairy-free, you can use your favorite plant-based milk instead.
  • A little bit of sour cream provides acidity, which keeps the crumb very light and tender. For a dairy-free version, you can use a plant-based sour cream or swap in an additional 1/2 cup of your plant-based milk plus one tablespoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar. You won’t taste it.
  • A generous amount of pure vanilla extract flavors these cupcakes beautifully.
  • A combination of baking soda and baking powder creates just the right, even rise, gentle browning, and combination with the sour cream. As in all baked goods, don’t confuse them or alter the ratio.
  • This recipe uses safflower oil instead of butter to keep the cupcakes beautifully soft and at peak freshness for a longer period of time. They have plenty of great flavor even without butter thanks to a careful balance of ingredients. Safflower oil is my high-smoke-point, neutral-tasting oil of choice, but you can swap in another oil with similar properties, such as canola, sunflower, peanut, corn, or vegetable oil blend.
an ultimate vanilla cupcake with a bite taken out of it and whipped buttercream frosting

How to make it

Here’s an overview of what you’ll do to make a perfect batch of ultimate vanilla cupcakes. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. First you’ll mix together the dry ingredients.
  2. Add the wet ingredients.
  3. Mix just until well-combined.
  4. Bake for 18 minutes in the center of a 350°F oven and let cool completely before frosting. That’s it!
ultimate vanilla cupcakes with whipped chocolate frosting on a cooling rack

Expert tips and FAQs

How should I frost them?

These cupcakes are extremely flexible. I’ve pictured them here with whipped buttercream frosting for an ultimate vanilla vibe and with whipped chocolate frosting for another classic combination, but they work well with pretty much any fillings and toppings you like.

Can I make this recipe in advance? What about leftovers?

You can. Since they’re made with oil instead of butter and have a nice, soft crumb, these cupcakes will stay nice and tender for several days. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to about 48 hours — leftovers will be fine, if not at peak freshness, for a week.

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ultimate vanilla cupcakes with whipped buttercream frosting on a cooling rack

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an ultimate vanilla cupcake with whipped buttercream frosting
5 from 3 votes

Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake Recipe

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This is the ultimate vanilla cupcake recipe, and the only one you'll ever need: it's tender, flavorful, well-behaved, and made with oil so it stays at peak freshness for days. It's pictured here with whipped buttercream frosting for that ultimate vanilla vibe.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Total: 28 minutes
Servings: 12
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Ingredients 

  • ¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup (120 grams) sour cream
  • ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the center. Line one standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (or a large mixing bowl and a hand-held electric mixer), mix sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed until well-combined.
  • Add egg, sour cream, milk, oil, and vanilla extract.
  • Mix on medium speed just until batter is smooth and all ingredients are incorporated.
  • Divide batter among muffin cups.
  • Bake cupcakes for about 18 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
  • Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Notes

  1. Whole milk provides just the right balance of liquid and fat, but if you need to make these cupcakes dairy-free, you can use your favorite plant-based milk instead.
  2. A little bit of sour cream provides acidity, which keeps the crumb very light and tender. For a dairy-free version, you can use a plant-based sour cream or swap in an additional 1/2 cup of your plant-based milk plus one tablespoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar. You won't taste it.
  3. A combination of baking soda and baking powder creates just the right, even rise, gentle browning, and combination with the sour cream. As in all baked goods, don't confuse them or alter the ratio.
  4. This recipe uses safflower oil instead of butter to keep the cupcakes beautifully soft and at peak freshness for a longer period of time. They have plenty of great flavor even without butter thanks to a careful balance of ingredients. Safflower oil is my high-smoke-point, neutral-tasting oil of choice, but you can swap in another oil with similar properties, such as canola, sunflower, peanut, corn, or vegetable oil blend.
  5. These cupcakes are extremely flexible. I've pictured them here with whipped buttercream frosting for an ultimate vanilla vibe and with whipped chocolate frosting for another classic combination, but they work well with pretty much any fillings and toppings you like.
  6. Since they're made with oil instead of butter and have a nice, soft crumb, these cupcakes will stay nice and tender for several days. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to about 48 hours — leftovers will be fine, if not at peak freshness, for a week.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcal, Carbohydrates: 25.9g, Protein: 2.3g, Fat: 8g, Fiber: 1.1g

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

Additional Info

Course: Cakes
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
Subscribe to Umami Girl's email updates, and follow along on Instagram.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

5 from 3 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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