Classic Vanilla Butter Cupcakes

Vanilla Butter Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

The first year we were married, Mike made me a cake for my birthday. We’d only been married for about 1 month, so I think he was still trying to impress me with what a good husband he was. He made a spice cake from a Betty Crocker mix (my favorite!) with spice icing. I’m pretty sure it’s the only cake he’s ever made and he was so proud of himself. The cake turned out wonderfully, and he went to work the following Monday and told his coworkers he made a cake  – “from scratch”. As it turns out, he had no idea that making a cake from a box mix is not, in fact, baking it from scratch. When his coworkers realized this, everyone had a big laugh, and he hasn’t made me another cake since.

Vanilla Butter Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I’m not one to put down cake mixes (that Betty Crocker spice cake is seriously my favorite!), but when a “from scratch” cake turns out as good as these cupcakes, there really is no reason to start with a boxed mix. These cupcakes are light and fluffy with a great vanilla flavor. The cake isn’t as sweet as you’d expect, which makes it a perfect balance to the vanilla buttercream icing. The combination of vanilla cupcakes with vanilla icing was wonderful. Mike couldn’t get enough of these, and neither could I. This is an all-around classic vanilla cake recipe that can be made as a layer cake, a sheet cake, or cupcakes. I’m sure I’ll be returning to this recipe again and again.

Vanilla Butter Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Vanilla Butter Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting


4 large eggs (separated)
3 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup milk (room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3 sticks unsalted butter
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
~4 Tbsp heavy whipping cream (or milk)


For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line approximately 30 cupcake tins with cupcake liners. (You may have to bake them in two batches). While eggs are still cold, separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. Cover the two bowls and allow the eggs to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.

In a clean bowl using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined. Be careful not over-mix or deflate the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake tins. Bake in preheated oven for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a center cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan.

For the frosting: Cream the butter bowl of an electric mixer. Beat in the sugar and vanilla. Add the cream a Tablespoon at a time and beat until icing is a spreadable consistency.

adapted from Sweetapolita

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  1. My stomach is grumbling…! It's almost 11 and I'm trying to decide if I should make these to surprise the kids in the morning :o)

  2. How cute are those pictures!! Nice work! I really want to eat one of those right now, without going to the effort of making them!

  3. That is so nice that he did that! I'd love if my husband baked for me from a box mix or from scratch:-) Delicious cupcakes!

  4. megan- betty crocker spice cake is my favorite too!! we gotta crack the code on that one! and thank you for the vanilla cupcake recipe- I am always looking to improve on my cupcake recipes and these look delicious

  5. These look lovely Megan. Love them! And with them being so easy to make, there is really no need to resort to mix.

  6. beautiful cupcakes! my husband tried to make me a cake for our dating anniversary about 3 months before we got married. that was more than 2 yrs ago…and it was a terrible experience for him and he's never tried baking on his own since then. poor guy! but i love that they try 🙂

  7. These look beautiful and so delicious!

  8. Nothing beats the flavors of a classic cupcake – looks wonderful Megan!

  9. You're right, most of the time there is no reason to bake from a box…except in those few instances when space or time or effort is limited! Your husband is so sweet, though, to make you the cake, box or no. And these non-box cupcakes look amazing!

  10. They look delicious and I certainly would love to give these a try!

  11. YUM!! And what a sweet husband 🙂 How cute.

  12. I want to just lick that frosting off that cupcake and then eat the cake before I grab another! 😀 Sweet story too!

  13. These look delicious — vanilla is my kind of cupcake 🙂

  14. These look great. Do you think that you could add lemon extract to make them into lemon cupcakes? Do you omit the vanilla? I am not sure on the rule for this but my daughter has requested lemon cupcakes for her birthday. Thanks!

  15. Sally – I haven't tried it, but after a quick google search I'm guessing you could replace the vanilla extract with lemon extract and it would be fine. good luck and let me know how it turns out. 🙂

  16. These are so sweet! As in totally precious!

  17. How sweet! I'm always on the lookout for tried and true cake and icing recipes-love these!

  18. i made this last night but did it in a cake pan, so not cupcakes,but a full cake. its an amazing butter cake recipe. tastes like a super yummy sugar cookie cake

  19. My favorite cupcake EVER!

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